Fresh from winning a Composer of The Year Award 2009, Mira Calix is known for her innovative scores, often accompanied by unique visual displays. As part of a special commission for the BEV Film Festival this year she will be presenting an original score for the first ever feature-length animation. Subtle and beautiful, The Adventures of Price Achmed was directed by Lotte Reiniger in 1926. The trailblaizing Warp-signed composer/ musician shares the story so far…
CC: What was your reaction when you first saw The Adventures of Prince Achmed?
MC: I was really surprised at how fresh it looked. We’re quite used to seeing naive animation styles used today, so what struck me, is how little this films seems to have aged.
CC: Do you have a favourite part of the story?
MC: I think it’s probably the very end when all the characters are united in love and peaceful times, after all the war and drama.
CC: What were the first steps of writing your composition?
MC: Really, it was just watching the film several times, in silence and trying to get a feel for the mood and pace from the animation, and getting to grips with the direct action foretold in the subtitles.
CC: What are the main challenges involved in writing a score for a film? and what do you like about it?
MC: Syncronisation really is the biggest challenge, and the fact that the mood can change every few seconds. Also with no foley, or other other sound on this film, it meant that the whole thing can feel very two dimensional. It’s the big difference between a silent animation from 1926 and something new like WAll-e, which although without much dialogue, has a dense layer of sound design. my approach to this soundtrack was to create a simple and illustrative layer of sound design. it makes the narrative come alive for me.
I’m enjoying the storytelling. With music, you can choose which emotion to bring to the foreground.
CC: Do you feel that writing music for animation differs from writing music for a film which uses actors?
MC: Yes, very much so, particularly with Prince Achmed, as the characters have almost no facial expression, their movement is very simple, and therefore there is less subtlety than with live action. That’s not necessarily always true of contemporary animation, but it is of this particular film. The other big difference is what i’ve mentioned above, without creating the sound landscape on animation, there is no atmosphere, as in no definition of the space the narrative is taking place in, that’s why sound is so crucial to making an animated tale come alive.
CC: I imagine that the original composition you are writing might still be a work in progress at this stage? May we ask how its going?
MC: Its going well, I’ve been using a lot of my own existing material that I have been remixing and reworking. I’ve also been using very simple orchestration, a small palette of instruments, which I feel is in- keeping with the visual aesthetic, and of course the eastern and magical lands that we visit in the narrative. Themes and motifs re-appear throughout the film in the narrative and so I’ve done the same with the music. I’ve concentrated very much on the rhythm of the film, and the pacing of the tale. There’s a lot of tension and conflict in the film, times when I can really let go and make a noise.
Mira will perform her original score to The Adventures of Prince Achmed as part of the Birds Eye View Film Festival 2010, catch it at the BFI Southbank in NFT 1, 6th March, 6.30pm. Click here for further details
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