An Interview with Marco Werba by John Mansell © 2008
Marco Werba completed his musical studies in Italy (piano, harmony) and abroad (he attended composition, orchestration and film music workshops at the Mannes College of Music in New York, USA and studied conducting at the “Academie de Musique de Guerande et des Pays de la Loire” in France. Werba has had direct contact or was music assistant to: Jerry Goldsmith, Stanley Meyers, Michael Nyman, John Scott, Georges Delerue and Francis Lai. In 1989, Marco Werba won the prestigious “Colonna Sonora” award for the original motion picture score “Zoo”; an italian production directed by Cristina Comencini (along with Ennio Morricone and Francis Lai, who received the “Colonna Sonora – Lifetime Achievement Award”). Werba was the Italian correspondent of the Belgian magazine “Soundtrack”, specializing in music for films and the creator of the International film music workshop “Music for Images”.
He collaborates with the choirs of the “Philharmonic Roman Academy” and the “Cappella Giulia” in the Vatican, both conducted by Pablo Colino. With the Vatican choir, he participated in several official events in the presence of the President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, the Nobel award winner Michael Gobaciov, the Holy father Pope John Paul II, and the world famous singers José Carreras and Monserrat Caballé. In 1986, Marco Werba was a guest of the Bielorussian Republic and has had the honour of having some of his compositions performed by the “Gomel City Symphony” and the “Minuet ensemble” of Svelogorsk. Werba has written several chamber music and symphonic compositions like “Cantus Superstium”, “Misterium”, “Guitar concert”, “Dead chamber’s adagio”, “Adagio for the Auschwitz victims”, “Mess in A major” and “Canto al vangelo”. This latter composition, dedicated to the Pope, was performed in his presence during a Celebration in 1999.
Where and when were you born?
I was born in Madrid, Spain July 27 1963.
What musical education did you undertake, and did you specialise in any particular field?
I did study piano and harmony in Italy, composition and film music at the Mannes College of Music in New York and conducting in France. As a teacher I created a summer workshop, here in Italy, to teach how to write a film score.
Do you conduct all of your music for film?
Not always. It depends if the orchestra that is going to perform the music already has a conductor or not. For example for the music of A DIO PIACENDO (God’s Will), the Pantheon orchestra had a regular conductor (Cristina Cimagalli). Usually for the recording sessions of a film score I use musians of a musical company, not a official orchestra. For the music of ZOO, I had a few musicians of the Santa Cecilia Orchestra (one of the best orchestras in Italy). I am not really satisfied with the musicians that usually perform film scores in the recording studios. The quality of the performance is not always the same. My dream is to work, one day, with the London Symphony Orchestra.
Was it always your intention to write music for film?
Yes, because since I was a child I loved Cinema. When I was 14/15 years old I directed a few Super 8 short films using film scores of well known composers (John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith). One day I saw a science fiction movie called LOGAN’S RUN, which I loved, and went to see it two more times. Suddenly I realized that there was a wonderful musical score written by Jerry Goldsmith, both symphonic and electronic. I then found the LP of the soundtrack and I started to study music thinking that one day I’ll become myself a film music composer!
What was your first scoring assignment and how did this come about?
My first film score assignment was ZOO, directed by Cristina Comencini with Asia Argento (at that time she was 13 years old!). I got the job because I sent to Cristina Comencini by mail a short adagio for strings called “the survivors”. She liked it and called me. She wanted to use classical music and a few original themes. I ended up writing 40 minutes of music and we used just a few minutes of a composition by Ravel (Ma Mere l’Oye) and one by Debussy (Jeux).
What has been the biggest orchestra you have worked with on a film score?
The biggest orchestra I used so far was the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra SIF 309, that I recorded in Sofia, with a Italian sound engineer called Marco Streccioni. I conducted the orchestra and I had just two recording sessions to record 45 minutes of music! So I didn’t have time to work on the quality of the performance but the artistic level of the orchestra was good. I just had a few problems of intonation with the cellos section. This film sore performed by the Bulgarian Orchestra has been written for the Italian historical picture AMORE E LIBERTA, MASANIELLO (Love and Freedom), about the tragic events that took place in Naples during the summer of 1680 (17th Century). The music is now available through the internet web site Hitunes or the CAM original film scores web site.
A number of your scores have been issued on Hexacord records, do you enjoy a special relationship with this soundtrack label?
Yes, I have known Roberto Zamori of HEXACORD since 1988, when I had my first film music concert performing the theme of ZOO. Zamori loved the film score of IL CONTE DI MELISSA (another historical picture about the Italy of the 17th Century, starring John D’Aquino). He published the CD of IL CONTE DI MELISSA, ZOO (the complete film score) and IL DIARIO DI UN PRETE. The Hexacord Film music label will release in November my new film score of the up coming film DARKNESS SURROUNDS ROBERTA.
What composers would you say have influenced you the most?
John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith. I had the pleasure of meeting Jerry Goldsmith in Rome and to be his assistant during the recording sessions of LEVIATHAN. He has to have been one of the best film music composers. John Williams is probably one of the other composers I would rate very high on my list, he is so professional! He has also written several compositions for the concert-hall, which have been performed all over the world. There are many other composers working in film today that simple do not have the talent or the originality that Goldsmith and Williams posses. The music of THE OMEN and BASIC INSTINCT by Goldsmith and the music of THE FURY and MEMORIES OF A GEISHA are masterpieces. Christopher Young is probably one of the best of the new generation of film music composers working today.
Do you orchestrate all of your own music, or do you at times use an orchestrator?
I never used a orchestrator for a film score but if, in the future, I will work for a Hollywood production, I will love to collaborate with one or more orchestrators. When you have to use a symphonic orchestra of 80 musicians and you have three weeks to write all the music, you need to use orchestrators! I think that the only composers that never used orchestrators were Bernard Herrmann and Ennio Morricone.
How long do you normally get to score a movie; for example ZOO?
Normally film productions ask to the composer to write the music when the editing is almost complete and they give only three weeks to write, orchestrate and record the music. For the film ZOO I was involved from the pre-production before starting filming. So I had a lot of time to write the three main themes (ZOO, MARTINA’S THEME and RATTI’S THEME). When the editing was complete I started to calculate the timing of the sequences and to orchestrate the music.
When working on a project do you have a routine in which you progress, i.e. from start to end or maybe small cues first concentrating on larger cues later?
This is very good question. I usually try to write short musical ideas and themes that could have the right mood for the film. Then I start to develop the musical ideas until I got a musical theme that has it’s own personality and could become the main theme of the film or of the main character.
What is your opinion of the state of film music today worldwide?
The problem is always the same; money! The budget for the original film score is each time “smaller”. This is why I am trying to get in touch with film productions in Los Angeles. I think that in 2008 I will succeed to write the music of a American feature film but not yet a Hollywood production. I have two interesting independent American productions that want to collaborate with me.
How do you arrive at your musical solutions; by this I mean do you use piano, synth etc to work your ides through?
Yes, I start writing themes using the piano and then I orchestrate it using my MAC with a music software. The computer is useful for two reasons: you can make demos with digital samplings to let hear to directors how would be the orchestration of the music, and you can print the score and the single parts for the orchestra.
Have you ever had a score rejected, or indeed decided not to accept an assignment?
No, I had no scores rejected (fortunately!) but it happened that I didn’t collaborate with a director because I could not understand what kind of music he wanted or we didn’t have the same musical sensibility or he didn’t have talent but was just pretending something that couldn’t work with the film.
Have you given any concerts of your film music?
Yes but not so often. I usually perform film music piano concerts. Sometimes I made concerts with a string quartet, piano and voice or a chamber orchestra. In the concerts I usually do not perform only my compositions, but also film scores of Nino Rota, Ennio Morricone, Nicola Piovani, Michael Nyman, Andrew L. Webber, Francis Lai.
What films or projects have you been working on recently?
I wrote the music of another historical picture called ANITA, performed by a chamber orchestra and recorded at the Forum Music Village (the studio where Ennio Morricone records his film scores). I just finished to record the music of the thriller DARKNESS SURROUNDS ROBERTA, a co-production between Italy, Germany and United States. I wrote a theme for the up coming horror film THE OCEAN by Dante Tomaselli and I will write some of the music of COLOUR FROM THE DARK, from a novel by Lovecraft. (I also wrote a theme for the German horror film FEARMAKERS). In the new CD that the HEXACORD label will release there will be three film scores (Darkness surrounds Roberta, Fearmakers and The Ocean). The CD THE HORROR FILM WORLD OF MARCO WERBA should be ready by November 20.
We look forward to it’s release – many thanks to Maestro Marco Werba for his time and patience.