An interview with Marc Vaillo by John Mansell © 2011
Composer and Audiovisual Communication graduate by Universitat Pompeu Fabra, his work has been performed in the Palau de la Generalitat, Sala Metrònom and at the Centre for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB); amongst others. He was awarded the New Talent Pavillion at Milia98 (Cannes) with his graduation project (Infern, by Dante). He is head of production and member of the board of directors at l’Alternativa, Barcelona Independent Film Festival (alternativa.cccb.org). He also organises the Film Music Workshop, whose guests have included Spanish composers Roque Baños, Ángel Illarramendi, Manuel Balboa and internationals composers as Bruno Coulais and Patrick Doyle. He also teaches Digital Audio, Film Music and Interactive Communication at the University of Vic (Spain). He has composed the music for a number of awarded short films and documentaries; in 2005 he composed the soundtrack for his first feature thriller film THE UNINVITED GUEST (El Habitante Incierto), awarded in Sitges and Bilbao film festivals, and has collaborated in several films like FILMAX’S GISAKU (2006) and APARECIDOS (2008). Today he combines teaching with the film and concert hall music writing.
Your excellent score for AN EYE FOR AN EYE has just recently been released on compact disc by Quartet records in Spain, did you collaborate with the company in choosing what cues would be included ?
Well, in fact, I did the master myself (with the collaboration of my fabulous engineer José Vinader), choosing what music appears, duration, structure… I like to produce my own records.
Staying with AN EYE FOR AN EYE, this is a Television production, shown in episodes, when you scored the project did you work on it as you would do a movie, or did you score individual episodes separately?
There are two episodes in the production, so the process is the same as working in a feature film, the unique difference is the final duration: a movie about 150min length. For me the process is the same. Some music is repeated, some is new in every episode, according to the story.
You have worked on a number of documentaries, how does the scoring process differ, (if indeed it does) from when you score a movie etc?
I’ve scored a few documentaries and the main difference I see is that music approach is differently attached to the image. I think that is the opposite of animation movies. The music in documentaries can be more atmospheric, not that narrative as in fiction nor animation films. Another difference is the amount of music, normally less music is needed in documentaries.
I understand you have written the scores for some silent movies. This area of scoring must be somewhat different from working on films that have dialogue and sound effects etc, do you think it’s easier to work on a silent movie, or maybe more difficult because of the amount of music that maybe required?
I think it’s a distinct process. As you say, there’s no sound nor dialogues, so all the sound “space” have to be filled with music (and silence, of course). It’s more like writing for the concert hall, as programmatic music like in the 19th Century, you just have to follow film structure and mood, but melody, harmony, orchestration and textures, colour is free.
Another area of music you are involved with is writing for the concert hall. Do you conduct concerts of your music on a regular basis and are any of your orchestral/chamber works available on CD?
I am not a trained conductor. It’s true that I’ve conducted small ensembles for my compositions for silent films in live film concerts, but that’s all. In film music recordings I prefer to focus on what’s being recorded on tape and let a professional conductor to do the job. I have some close friends that are excellent film music conductors and I prefer to be in the recording booth during sessions for movies to concentrate on what’s being recorded. At the moment none of my concert music has been released commercially.
When you are asked to score a project, do you like to wait until that project or film is in its rough cut state or do you like to get involved as early as it is possible?
It depends on the project, but normally I like to have meetings with directors, even before the shooting. It may happen that new ideas come out, and I need to know their concept of the film we are going to do. And I like to read the script before, although I am very bad trying to imagine how the film would finally be. But it serves to me as a primal source of ideas, themes, and structure.
A director, friend of mine, asked me once to write some music before the shooting; unfortunately this is quite impossible in a film industry like Spain has.
What composers or artists would you say have had an influence upon the way in which you compose music?
I like Claude Debussy, Igor Stravinsky, Takemitsu Toru, Bartók Béla, Miklós Rozsa, Sergei Prokofiev, John Corigliano and James Newton Howard.
You scored your first feature film THE UNCERTAIN GUEST in 2005, how did you become involved on this particular project and what size orchestra did you use?
I became friend of director Guillem Morales when I scored his last short film UPSIDE DOWN. Then he called me when he did his first feature film THE UNCERTAIN GUEST. He called me again for his second feature JULIA’S EYES, but finally the producer’s chose to hire another composer, Fernando Velázquez, who, I must say, is a friend of mine.
On the score for AN EYE FOR AN EYE you utilised the Budapest Symphony Orchestra, have you any preference as to what orchestra is used on your film scores, and also do you have a preference for any one particular recording studio, or this governed by the budget you are allotted ?
That’s the norm. Normally the “budget is in charge”. If I got the money I’d like to record in London. Apart from that, I have a special relation with Hungary and Budapest, and I like the sound of musicians in that country: kind and friendly people and very good players. I am very pleased with the outcome.
What musical education did you receive?
I studied piano and music theory in the Conservatori Superior de Música del Liceu (Barcelona), and get some composition training with composer Gabriel Brncic in Phonos Foundation. I consider myself a self-taught composer.
Do you come from a family background that is musical?
My mother had a degree in music as a pianist, but never developed a career. I heard live music at home since I remember.
Is writing music for film something that you set out to do, or was this something that happened as your career developed?
While I was studying music, I also studied film (I am Audiovisual Communication graduate by Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona) and I thought it would be a nice idea to link both fields. As I am not an interpreter, I think life is more difficult in classical world than in film.
Do you orchestrate all of your own music?
I do. And I like to do it. Yet I think that is an essential part of the composition process, specially in film, where music colour is so important. For me, not orchestrating is like letting others to put colour in my own pictures.
What do you think is the function of music in film?
Both narrative and atmospheric. It’s to say, structural (with it you construct the film with the image, following it or creating a counterpoint, and explain the narration) and incidental, so you create moods and atmospheres when necessary.
Have you a set routine when scoring a picture, or does your schedule alter depending on the needs of the particular project?
Every project is so unique, so I have no routine. There are always similar processes (beginning with the idea, concept, structure, then writing main themes, then sketches of cues and instrumentation notes, and finishing cues and final orchestration at the end) but every project has it’s own life. Time is an important variable.
How much time were you given to score AN EYE FOR AN EYE?
I had a couple of months from the moment I received the final editing of the two episodes, but I was working with the script and meetings 3 months before. Then we had two days of recording and three weeks for editing and final mix in 5.1.
What do you do musically away from film and the concert hall?
Just listen to music and going to concerts, mainly classical music. I also teach digital audio at university.
Do you collect film music at all?
I am not a collector, but I like to buy music that I like. I might own about 300 CDs and the same on digital version more or less, mostly symphonic.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just finished a horror movie PARANORMAL XPERIENCE 3D that is released on 28th December 2011 in Spain, and before that I did ORSON WEST, another feature film, fiction but kind of documentary about the footprint of Orson Welles in Alicante (Spain) where he wanted to shoot a western in the sixties. This film still has no release date.