Our Father

Our Father follows the story of a young girl by the name of Jess. Her father, Amos, is a charlatan who poses as a religious healer. As the film develops it becomes clear that Jess suffers from an illness that reveals her father’s true helplessness. 

Having worked with Sami before, I knew his level of filmmaking and assumed a high standard for Our Father. And he did not disappoint. Not only did I consider the story compelling, but also powerfully emotional without those emotions bursting out of the screen. Not only in the writing but visually and technically, the film was impressive. The only issue with the music for Our Father, which became more of a positive challenge, was the time restraint for the music. Unfortunately, there was only a week to compose, record and deliver the music to Sami. I saw this as an opportunity to challenge myself and I learned some valuable lessons from the process. 

The film’s dialogue is quite minimal which presents a challenge to the actors to communicate emotions through subtle expressions, of course, they did an outstanding job. On watching the film for the first time, musically, I felt something haunting and almost dreamlike would sit beneath the acting and maybe enhance some of those subtle emotions to give them a new dimension or voice with which to reach the audience. Sami and I worked very closely on the music, with Sami giving regular, extremely helpful feedback on each cue I sent him. This way we achieved a score that melded into the film and into Jess’ story. We really wanted to pull the inner turmoil Jess was experiencing out and mirror it in the music. 

I had an idea while watching a scene in which Jess is watching her father give a service. Typically this scene in real life would involve love, admiration, respect for her father for offering his services to those in need. But Jess knows the truth about her father and so sees the evil and the falseness in what he is doing. I wanted to try to capture that contrast in the music for that scene by using an instrument that tends to be used for beautiful, heavenly, somewhat religious music, the harp, but to dirty it up with distortion and have it be played quite hard. This method worked well to represent the feelings Jess had and the irony of the situation. I used a similar technique with the vocoder, an instrument typically used in upbeat music such as funk and pop. Instead manipulating it into a haunting, dreamlike voice. Sami mentioned quite early on that he liked the idea of experimenting with some sound design elements in this score. We still felt it should be subtle but we included a few non-musical sounds that we think further added a voice to Jess’ unvoiced emotions. Inspiration was taken from composers such as Jóhann Jóhannsson, Trent Reznor and similar composers for the film. 

This film was a real privilege to work on. The cast and crew and everyone involved set a high standard that inspired me to find the perfect music for the film. 

Waiting For Dogot

Waiting For Dogot was a weird one, in a good way. First off it’s a comedy, granted a fairly dark one, but a comedy nonetheless, therefore it thrust me immediately out of my dark and ambient comfort zone. Or so I thought. 

The dark comedy film was made by Sami Abusamra and crew, I was asked to compose a piece of music that resembled Max Richter (a composer I happen to admire and draw inspiration from, Richter composed The Leftovers, Sleep, Black Mirror, and a lot of solo music). Richter’s style is very ethereal and beautiful, factors I try to include in my music. He also has a very minimalist style, his 8-hour solo album Sleep is comprised of extremely repetitive phrases, and long drone-like, pulsing ambiences. Minimalism is something I aspire to use effectively in my music and feel is an area Richter has mastery over. In Waiting For Dogot, Sami required two pieces, the first would play over a slow motion scene, and needed to be epic and heavenly and create feelings of euphoria, all to be used ironically and in an obvious tongue-in-cheek nature. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to compose something minimal, and I was excited to get started. The second piece was to be similar to the first but to create and suggest a feeling of unease. 

The film follows two mates, one of which is getting married, heading out on a trip planned by the best man. They are going to meet up with a girl that’s dressed as a dog to engage in (this is where the dark part comes in) sexual acts. Unfortunately, the girl they have arranged to meet doesn't show up, but coincidentally a French man in a dog suit does. Some awkward events occur and the trip ends in disappointment. 

The first piece of music was to come in and support the scene in which one of the characters gets out of the car in disappointment to have one last look for whom they are supposed to be meeting. The piece starts out sort of timid and tender, to produce feelings of sadness and dissatisfaction. But then in the distance, we see a figure emerging from the trees that resembles a person wearing a dog suit. The music at this point develops into a more heavenly, euphoric feeling to reflect the relief and excitement shown in the characters face. 

The piece gradually clarifies as the character turns to see the figure, this is when the violin comes in and creates the feeling of elation. I chose piano and violin for this piece as they created the desired feeling perfectly. 

The second piece comes in towards the end of the film and is intended to create a feeling of discomfort and tension. For this piece I, focussed more on sound design and on creating a certain creepy feeling through dark drones and odd alien sounding vocal effects. 

Sami Abusamra and crew are extremely talented filmmakers, making very witty and intelligently humorous content which you can check out at http://samiabusamra.com/

Freedom

Films that have a strong, clear message are always the easiest to attach music to. Freedom was one of those films, instantly inspiring. The film covers the subject of choice, the idea being that real freedom is the ability to make your own choices and not be dictated to or controlled. 

With the theme and message of the film being so plain and unmistakable, I felt the music needed to stay out of the way of the dialogue, but also to augment the emotion shown in the dialogue. For that reason I chose to start the piece with a very light piano chord and a synth bed. However, I wanted to introduce a thematic melody early, something a viewer would grow comfortable with, and I felt strings worked perfectly to achieve an inspiring, uplifting feel for the film. I chose to introduce some staccato violin to develop a sense of intensity, to really give even more meaning and power to the words being spoken. 

Just under halfway through the film, the solo Stroh Violin comes in. This is a VST from Impact Soundworks which is free. I felt the tone and characteristics of the instrument set it apart from a regular violin. I wanted to use the Stroh as an audio representation of the people in the film straying from the traditional path of life, that sometimes the conventional way, isn't the ‘best’ way to live. The frame drum comes in just over half way, again to add more ardency and passion to the already fervent words. 

In terms of the placement of music, I wanted to have the music almost be its own piece, as well as the film be its own piece, and the two of them be independently strong pieces of art that play in parallel and enhance and improve each other. I didn’t want to have the music react to each person you see or each setting, but instead to move alongside the film, adding a sense of comfort and familiarity to the words. This film was released during the Trump/Clinton campaigns and I felt it needed to convey a message (that I agreed with) in a non-confrontational way.

The music starts to build to a climax as the voices in the film are summarising their message, laying down ideas they would like to see carried out in life, by themselves and others. I felt the music should naturally trail off at this point and leave the viewer with the piano that was introduced at the start, and the incredibly important words in the closing of the film. 

On a quick technical side note, this film was an opportunity for me to try out the new Steven Slate Verbsuite Classics Reverb. Which was used on pretty every instrument and added a sense of realism to the instruments that were unfortunately not recorded in the rooms Verbsuite models. 

It was a privilege to work on a film that dealt with a very current subject and a thought that I’m sure is on the minds of a lot of liberal people. 

This film was made by Blurred Pictures and I thank them for the opportunity. 

BYRJUNIN/THE BEGINNING

For since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. - Romans 1:20

This film was shot in Iceland, and as soon as I received the film, which was pretty much in its final version at that time, I was struck with inspiration. The imagery itself was enough to spark some early ideas. As I watched the film for the first few times I played around on a felt piano VST in an attempt to find notes/chords that fit with the picture. In those first shots, the images do most of the work in terms of drawing the viewer in, so I didn’t feel it was necessary to have busy music. The mixture of the electronic drones and pads with the single felt piano note, had the simplicity and ambience to enhance the images but to stay out the way of them. The music reflects the slow moving shots, the cold, icy images we’re seeing and suggests the film will be dark throughout. 

However, as the film approaches halfway, I wanted to create a feeling of breaking through, of entering into a euphoric, heavenly state. The camera actually physically goes between two large, cliff-like rocks around this section which felt like a perfect opportunity to introduce that heavenly feeling, of entering a new state. The music starts to morph from a darker, more minor tone to a brighter, major tone and brings a whole new feeling to the piece. 

As we start to see more green in the images I wanted to bring in some acoustic instruments to bring the viewer back down to Earth, almost in a way that says despite the ethereal, heavenly music, these images are of real places on Earth and that the beauty of them isn't imagined. So the intention was to introduce a sense of realism into the music to reflect the images. The synth pads and drones continue, but subtly, just adding a bed for the acoustic instruments to sit on. 

The film ends with the music returning to a darker tone. I wanted this to have the effect of making the viewer feel like the film could be an endless loop of dark to light to dark. The intention was to leave the viewer feeling slightly uneasy and to want to return to that feeling of euphoria and bliss. 

Jason Lee is a very talented travel film maker and this film was a privilege to work on.