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Discovering his darker side: Scoring Book of Blood and The Broken
Interview with Guy Farley conducted through e-mail on 2nd September 2008
by Petr Kocanda

Q: The most interesting current project for me personally (both film and the score) is THE BROKEN, which seems to be finished for a few months already and still awaiting its release. When did you record this score and are you considering possible CD release? Could you, please, describe THE BROKEN score in terms of orchestration and thematic material? With such a rich history of great genre scores, were you influenced by works of any of genre specialists (Herrmann, Goldsmith, Young, Beltrami,...) while working on this one in particular or on any of your recent genre scores?
Guy Farley: As usual we never really know about definite film releases until they are released!! I wrote my score to The Broken between September to December 2007 in London. I had started writing as early as April 2007 after I had been to view some footage following daily filming. The look of the film was outstanding and I knew Sean Ellis, the director, would make something beautiful and interesting. I remember thinking that I would have taken the film on just seeing some of the dailies! Sean and I discussed the music, which was to be very different from 'Cashback', which I had scored for him in 2005. He wanted a new and original sound. He wanted an orchestral score because he loves the richness of a performed score, but he also wanted a very unusual sound, one he could not describe but felt he would know when he heard it. 
When they started filming I took some time to study avant garde composers of 20th century, like Penderecki, Xenakis, Ligeti, Stockhausen, Boulez, Varese, listening and reading unusual works and scores. This was a wonderful experience for me because music I had never been able to listen to and enjoy started affecting me and I found great beauty in works I could barely listen to 10 years before. I suppose it was part of the extraordinary journey of discovering music and how it affects you through the passage of time and one's own development. I loved listening to the works of these composers.
For the score it was a question of how to utilise a modern orchestra, inspired by the aforementioned, to create some sort of original sound, that ultimately would work to picture. The next problem was how to show these ideas, most of which were 'orchestral sound design', to the director. You may know that these days directors and producers want to hear demos of scores and in most cases every cue, the whole score. On the whole this can be done because computers and samplers have come so far that most musical instruments can be found and used to create good demos, but its difficult to show musical sound concepts which one can write on manuscript for an orchestra to play but which cannot be found or easily created as a demo!
This score took a long time to write and produce. It was a hard score for me to write because I had never written this genre of music before. It was all original to me. To give you an example of this, the opening scene of the film, (a montage of a girl gettng up in the morning and going across London to collect her car intercut with visions of a special hospital department, about 4 and a half minutes in length), I scored 8 times! At first, having received the locked film, I saw it as a very good looking thriller and I threw out all my 'avant garde' ideas in favour of presenting a well crafted rich sounding modern thriller score (no influences, just how I reacted to picture and what I felt). When I played my demo to the director he congratulated me on scoring the opening scene of his film and introducing the story but he then said that what I had written, as good as it was, was just predictable and unoriginal. 
So after 7 more attempts at looking at different ways to score this scene I returned to my April ideas and the whole final 4m30 cue is an extraordinary mixture of sound culminating in a long dissonant/consonant crescendo as our actress drives her car into the city. The cue opens with 24 violins playing their highest possible note, uneven, within which a section glisses down an octave and back up again. I recorded this and then dropped the mix into my computer where I re-pitched the whole piece 2 octaves lower. I then stacked the sound on the dominant and tonic above. The sound was unlike anything I had heard before (or the director for that matter!) because it was, after all, still the sound of 24 strings playing live and the sound of the room - only slowed right down where room noises, bow noises, chair noises became part of the sound. The recording process was filled with unusual sounds for me. 
I even told the orchestra that I wanted ambient noise in the sound. I used this in various ways throughout the score. I wrote pieces/ideas by hand for the orchestra and then after mixing, re-pitched the performances. It gives a strange, weird sonic quality which sat well with picture. Sean loved it and the score found its direction after a month of trying these ideas.
I think there are only 3 melodic cues in the whole score! The rest is what I call 'orchestral sound design' mixed with electronic ambience. The line up was strings, 2 piccolos/flutes, Oboe, Clarinet/Bass clarinet, Bassoon/Contra bassoon, 4 horns, 3 trombones, percussion, harp and piano, 2 voices.

 
 
Q: What is your opinion on temp tracks? Do you prefer seeing a film with the temp score and discovering director's vision of the music or do you prefer seeing the film without the temp and therefore be able to develop sound palete of particular scores completely by yourself? 
G. F.: Temp tracks - They work two ways. First, they are a good way for a director to find where he wants music and how he thinks it should be. It allows directors(often with limited musicianship) to point out instruments they like, emotions, pace, dynamic, peaks and troughs etc. This is where temp music is a good and a fast means of communication between director and composer. Second, is the huge problems that come form directors/producers/editors falling in love with temp music. Where a well know piece of outstanding music is used that simple cannot be 'beaten' in its affect of those who put it there.
Remember temp music lives for a few months while films are cut. People get used to it. It becomes a big problem when you, as composer, are effectivey asked to emulate or copy the temp. I fight against this all the way. I despise its limitations and control, its unoriginality and its comprimise. 
So, temp music works both ways. But, beware, its thin ice, tricky ground.
Personally I think a film should be edited without temp music so that it stands up 'unaided' by music. Then when the film is working you will see where and why music is needed. In this situaton I don't mind if they use temp music as a guide but I will usually only listen to it once. I don't want temp music to influence my score in any way. I am always satisfied when I accidentally hear a piece of temp music after I have written my cue and find how different they both are! After all temp music came from another composer usually scoring a completely different story and film!
I always put together my sound palete both before and after discussing the music with the director. Some directors really want to get into the make up of the score, the instruments etc and others would rather leave all that up to you preferring to react to the new original music when they hear it.
 
Q: I asked Mikael Carlsson about possibility of some more releases of your music and he mentioned that you are working together and discussing some more possible projects. Very interesting release might be your unused score for TSOTSI. Is Tsotsi one of the projects you might consider for possible release or are there some obstacles caused by production company you are aware of, which might prevent Tsotsi from being released?
G. F.: Mikael has now released 3 of my scores. I am sure we will continue to work together as long as he likes and believes in my work. 
'Tsotsi' was an unusual situation. Here I was asked by the producers to re-score an already very strong film. It was not the wish of the director whom I never met during the entire process. So I was scoring for the producers who simply wanted a more melodic, thematically memorable score with the use of Kwaito (South African Urban music) as part of it, other than the source music. But the film, in its strength, did not need to be made by the music. I wrote a very different score than the original. Mine was based around one main theme played by African flutes, Female African voice and orchestral strings. In fact most of my score was written around strings. I did write for African percussion/kalimba and unusual woodwind like the Bass Ocarina but these instruments sat around my thematic score led by voice and strings. 
My score, which is not on the film today for various political reasons, sat well in the film but I am not sure how it plays without it. (I haven't listened to it since I did it and nor have I sent it out) I have retained ownership of it and so possibly it could be released but I am sure if would have to be under a different title. I would have to look into this.
 
Q Have you already finished working on all your upcoming projects for this year (besides The Broken and Book of Blood also KNIFE EDGE and I KNOW YOU KNOW)? After Book of Blood are there any other upcoming projects you will be working on during the rest of this year? There are some rumors circulating that you signed to score Mick Davis' DYLAN - are you really attached to this project? Any chance that you might visit Prague again in near future? Which scores you recorded here so far? 
G. F.: I have completed, this year, Knife Edge, The Flock (USA version), I Know You Know, and Book of Blood. This week I am meeting with my agents to decide what project to do next! Which is exciting! Mick Davis's 'Dylan' is on hold for the moment. 
Prague? I love Prague. But today I got an email from my Prague Orchestral Contractor saying that Smecky Studios is up for sale! However I love the Dvorak Hall but its difficult to book it with short notice. I have conducted and recorded my scores for 'L'Amore e la Guerra' and 'Knife Edge' in Prague. 
 
 

Monochord from a European woodcut, c. 1650


Q: Speaking about BOOK OF BLOOD, Mikael Carlsson wrote very interesting description of score's orchestration that also includes Monochord. How did you discover this instrument? Are you using it as a rhytmical effect or more like a solo instrument? 
G. F.: I discovered the Monochord when I was writing the Indian music in 'Madre Teresa' and I was searching for instruments which could drone, other than the Tambura (traditional for drones). Sonia Slany who owns, plays and performs the monochord is married to a brilliant ethnic percussionist Paul Clarvis who was playing percussion in my score. It was his introduction and worked in such an original and undetectable way. I knew I would use it again but only in a certain way. In 'Book of Blood' my engineer Josh mic'd it with 9 microphones so we had it recorded in 5.1, room mics and stereo! 
I spoke to Sonia about writing for it before I started and used it for a 'character' sound within the score. It is primarily a drone producing instrument but with 50 strings it gives of the most amazing harmonics and resonances. In some cues we de-tuned some of the strings to make the sound even more eerie. The sound was fantastic in 5.1!
 
Q: Before you started working as a film composer, were you familiar with some film composers of the past that influenced you to become a composer or you were mostly influenced by classical music during your youth?
G. F.: My musical background was diverse in that I was brought up with the music of Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin, but also with Rock Operas of the 60's/70's and music from Elvis to Gershwin. I have my family to thank for that. I loved film music though. I loved how it made me feel and what it evoked, so I started listening to film music at an early age. In fact my first single was the theme to The Persuaders by John Barry. I remember being so excited buying the LPs for Barry's Bond Scores when they eventuall came out. But I also listened to and bought Mancini, Herrman and Maurice Jarre, Francois Lai and Michel Legrand.
I never stayed musically in one place, I always went through phases. From Prokoviev to Stan Getz, from Led Zepplin to Carl Orff. I searched for music which had the most profound affect on me. Music that, through its intense beauty and depth, could reduce me to tears. You only need listen to the melody appear in Ravel's 'Daphnis and Chloe' to appreciate this effect!
In 1992 I spent 3 days at Abbey Road with John Barry while he recorded his score for Attenborough's 'Chaplin'. This event had a profound impact on me, indeed life changing. It was an incredibly moving experience to witness this great film composer conduct the English Chamber Orchestra in front of a full size screen, to picture. No click tracks all conducted 'live' to film. A beautiful score and great experience for me. I remember being in the booth with Anthony Hopkins, Dickie Attenborough and Robert Downey Junior, yet entirely focused on John Barry and his 'sound' - I have a picture of JB and me on the conductors stand at that session.
 
 
 
Q: Do you have a personal favorite among your scores (both released and unreleased)? Or would you say there was one score that opened you the doors to more projects?
G. F.: I loved writing my score for Land of the Blind. I wrote the themes very quickly but it was the orchestration and eventual sound of the orchestra and what I did with it that I loved. I feel proud of it. But I always feel there is a cue or two in each score which touches me. If I had to take one score away with me it would probably be 'Modigliani' because there is so much in the whole score, thematically, instrumentally and emotionally.
 
 


Special thanks to Mikael Carlsson and especially to Guy Farley for being so generous with his time and patience.
If you want to submit some questions,contact me.

  
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All music and photos  Guy Farley.  This website 2008-2014 Petr Kocanda. This Web Page Created with PageBreeze Free HTML Editor