immagine lettere in liberta'LETTERS IN FREEDOM

I keep telling you the path made by the composer and his/her music until a movie is completed. This is based, again, on the most frequent questions asked by people interested in and curious about the relationship between music and cinema.

Two – Music that does not exist

…so now you have to start working.

You are in line with the director, economic agreements have been reached, you have already signed or are about to sign your contract…

So let’s put apart bureaucracy and focus on the film score.
You start thinking about what is going to happen in the next one month and a half, the time it takes before recording the music.

You directly contact the recording studio and the person from the music publishing in charge to follow you in this work. You make sure you have the sound engineer you want and some of the musicians you work with most frequently. The discussed budget is approximately agreed upon. The instrumental ensemble is yet to be defined and as the composition progresses, it gets more and more defined, so now you just consider a certain number of executors, the orhcestra shifts and the studio hours needed – the total hours including recording and mixing, the potential hire of special instruments, copying the scores.

You have the movie dvd, you have already watched it a couple of times on the Moviola with the director and the editor (but since the last time they have already changed the editing and will continue to cut, add and shift). I barely watch it again moving quickly among scenes. To me it is far more evocative remembering the movie watched the first or the second time, working on my memory rather than going crazy in front of the screen thinking that, watching it over and over again, something amazing will happen. You actually just curb your imagination.

About every two-three days the director contacts you to ask how it is going; maybe he/she would like to meet you and discuss, listen, check what you are doing. It is a strange time, chaotic, to a certain extent. You might also happen not to sleep and all your routine is turned inside out. The only reason for this is that there is no music but you know that it must be there within one month. Beautiful or ugly, whatever it takes.

When back in 1993 I wrote the score for “The tree of wooden clogs” by Ermanno Olmi, after watching with him the last edited version of the movie in his house in Asiago, as I was leaving he greeted me saying «the movie is in your hands». It gave me a jump!

Music that does not exist is amazing to me. In this limited gestation time, where there are no ideas and, if any, they move at the speed of light and they all seem to be the right one, every idea seems better than the other but after one minute you have already excluded them with no regret, this is a unique time, sometimes depressive, challenging, but in the end it is funny, exciting, and you like it.

Now it is important to underline that I am reporting my experience. Obviously the approach to  creation is a very subjective one and cannot be generalized. One follows his/her method, if any, and different things happen to everyone. When I talk about music ideas fast as lightining I am not thinking of a melody, a theme, or in particular to the music of a precise scene. A comprehensive mechanism stylistically embracing the whole architectural and dramaturgic music arch, which to me fits a specific movie, is automatically triggered and it gets more and more precise in my mind. I can think both in thematic terms, or vaguely on a music mood, then as I keep working, things come and define themselves with the weight and characteristics that seem adequate to me and fit only the movie I am working on. Once I find the weig ht, the sound – meant as the authentic voice of the movie, again in my opinion – I start hammering and forging  ideas, until I modify them through a last fundamental gaze: mine.   

Yes, it may seem strange, but I believe that style, above all applied to the images of a movie, does not always and necessarily come right away; from the initial input of an idea to its final version, the precise one where you find yourself, a true surgical work is made. This is what music composition is all about, in the end. No matter if it applies to a movie or to an uncommissioned track, to me it’s the same.

I had mentioned Ermanno Olmi’s movie, “The tree of wooden clogs”, shot in 1993. Here is a selection of some tracks from the movie score for you. Olmi is a great music lover and expert. The movie, inspired by Dino Buzzati’s evocative book, describes the fantastic atmosphere full of magic and suspension, strictness and absolute beauty of a Dolomites forest and of the tree spirits dwelling there. Animals talk, the Wind is a living being, the whole Wildlife surrounds humankid who cannot protect it and keep carelessly damaging it. It’s a great fairy tale, basically. Olmi gave me an input as he made me listen to a Bach adagio and a piece for boys’ voice and organ written by Benjamin Britten, a musician I love and I know very well. Olmi’s musical culture and these two poles allowed me to easily move with the language to be adopted, with no fear to explore melodic or dissonant territories. 

We spent a week in the recording studio, initially with quite a big orchestra, about fifty executors, then gradually reducing it. There was the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma Choir. They were different times, a different movie, everything was different.


Franco Piersanti