An Interview with Michael Kamen by Rudy Koppl
Originally published in Soundtrack Magazine Vol.19/No.73/2000
Text reproduced by kind permission of the editor, Luc Van de Ven and Rudy Koppl
“Music is a very strong channel of energy and it makes you think more about what you’re feeling or it makes you feel more intensely, it makes you feel good, smarter, and it leads to more ideas.” The seed of musical inspiration for composer Michael Kamen? Perhaps, but it’s definitely his experiences from the world around him that form and inspire his musical journeys. Whether it’s a trip down the Amazon river, conducting symphonic music for Metallica or Pink Floyd, composing for ballet, working with Dylan or Pavarotti, finding gongs made of crystal to use for his new ‘Millennium Symphony’, the Anasazi Indians who lived a thousand years ago that influenced this, writing Oscar and Grammy nominated hit songs, or his brand new film scoring project to FREQUENCY, Kamen is definitely a man of many worlds.
Composer Michael Kamen has been scoring film for over 24 years, with more than 60 films to his credit, including BRAZIL, HIGHLANDER, the complete LETHAL WEAPON and DIE HARD series, ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES, THE LAST ACTION HERO, MR. HOLLAND’S OPUS and THE IRON GIANT, just to mention a few. When it comes to FREQUENCY, his latest musical adventure, the film’s subject matter fits the likeness of its composer perfectly. “We don’t have any evidence of people communicating through time via the Aurora Borealis, but who’s to say?” Kamen observes casually about the subject matter of his new project. Whether it’s his whimsical childish glee that’s revealed on the scoring stage, his deeply emotional approach to making music, the multiple projects he’s involved in, or just his philosophy to life and anl the magic that surrounds him, there is no doubt that composer Michael Kamen is one of a kind.
It’s February 3rd, Thursday afternoon at Scoring Stage M on the Paramount lot. At the podium with wand in hand is composer Michael Kamen. He looks to his right, directly at the recording booth and says sternly, “The triplets are all wrong,” then he casually turns to the orchestra and gestures at the scoring copy to the players, “Just look at those triplets,” he then smiles as a signal of reassurance to the players with all the confidence in the world. This being just one example of Kamen’s enduring respect and admiration for the musicians he works with. He suggests that they at least try the cue once to see if he’s correct. Halfway through it Kamen feels the vibe. It’s wrong and has to be changed. The cue halts erratically as Kamen, sardonically smiling with a mischievous look in his eyes, grabs his long roll of cue sheets and throws them over his left shoulder saying, “Let’s just forget this cue and go on.”
This was only one example of the fun that Michael Kamen has on a scoring stage. He’s a musical spirit passing through time at the speed of sound and is having the time of his life doing it. Days later, during the end of his mixing sessions for FREQUENCY, I travelled to Michael’s home studio in Encino, California where we talked about his approach to musical FREQUENCY.
I noticed when scoring FREQUENCY you were having a lot of fun with it and not taking yourself too seriously. Has that always been your approach on the scoring stage?
I guess what you’re seeing is the childish glee that comes from writing music, playing it, having the great orchestras of the world play it for you and getting to conduct as well. There have been times where it gets very fraught when the director and producer who have invested their lives and millions of dollars into their movie feel that I’m sitting there destroying it. It does get fraught in the studio, but I’m not about to do that because music is a source of pleasure for me and most of the time I like to give pleasure through music even when it’s a horrible, nasty piece of work. I’m still being entertained by these great musicians playing this music of mine and it’s always a pleasure.
What is the key to making a good score?
Really following the story, being a storyteller, telling the story of the character’s emotional lives and the emotional atmosphere of the film. If it’s successful and it integrates into the action that you’re seeing, into the actual physical makeup of the story, the music is another piece of the puzzle. It’s evocative if you come up with a great melody and have the opportunity to use it shamelessly, it can help guide emotions without ever being directly too manipulative, but it lets you know it’s O.K. to feel good or proper to feel really bad or scared. I think the amount of communication a film score does is the amount of merit that it can claim if it communicates either of the passions of fright or love or great romance, that’s what music does and it does this better than almost anything.
Your career as a composer involves working in many other musical arenas such as the symphony, ballet, opera, with rock groups, all kinds of musicians, and the fist goes on. Where does film scoring fit in here?
There’s only twelve notes. I use them all the time with a lot of different artists in very different cultures, but they’re still the same twelve notes and that’s the common link between one kind of music and the other. They are a language and I do speak a lot of musical languages very clearly and easily, but I don’t recognize them as different languages. They’re communicating different emotions. Film scoring is actually my ticket to the world. The films that I do are in some cases wildly popular bits of entertainment for the world or in some cases, like MR. HOLLAND’S OPUS, a little more serious than entertaining. Very entertaining, but equally meaningful because they’re about something. I think I’m a lot more consistent than my bio would make me appear, at the same time I’m as intrigued and interested in making music of any kind, as long as it’s evocative and it’s demonstrating the capacity to evoke emotion. Making music is my true love, whether it’s for film, ballet… A career as a film composer enables me to play on somebody else’s nickel with the world’s greatest orchestras and to hear my music translated almost instantly from the back of my mind to the front of the stage and into ‘Cinemas Near You’.
Recently I’ve been involved in four projects which really epitomize what I do. One is a film score for FREQUENCY. The author, Toby Emmerich, who was the Music Supervisor in DON JUAN DE MARCO, certainly wrote a script that took me by heart. To write that movie score, premiere a symphony in the same year, do my Metallica project with The San Francisco Symphony and Metallica, and also do a film like the IRON GIANT about social concerns and animation, are four achievements in the cusp of this millennium that I’m really fantastically proud of. They do epitomize everything I’m about, a marriage of cultures between rock and roll and symphonies, a film score or two, a hit record, and a symphony which is the epitome of a composer’s ambition.
You’ve scored just about every genre imaginable. Which genre defines your strength in scoring?
I haven’t done a western yet, not really. I think my best music is melodic and my best melodic music is in DON JUAN DE MARCO, BRAZIL, MONA LISA, BARON MUNCHAUSEN, and ROBIN HOOD. All these scores have great melodies. LETHAL WEAPON has a good tune, but it’s not a very melodic score. In DIE HARD I used Beethoven’s Ninth and will pay the price for it because I think it’s a bit of blasphemy, but I did a nice homage because I love and genuinely respect the real thing.
How did you get the opportunity to score FREQUENCY?
I think I was on the periphery of the project from the work I did in DON JUAN DE MARCO. Toby knows me personally from that. New Line is a company that I’ve known for roughly 22 years, since I first started in the business with Bob Shaye, who still runs New Line. His movie STUNTS was one of my very first if not the very first movie I scored. I did another film with Bob called POLYESTER, then DON JUAN, and now FREQUENCY.
When you scored FREQUENCY what were the first steps that you took?
I looked at the movie and tried to figure out what the energy was, what the vibe was, and what the melody was. The original take that they sent me had no music on it, which is always a blessing, but there were great sound effects or bizarre sounds concerning the Aurora Borealis and this warped sense of time that is the story. I was listening to the sound effects, wind sounds, ambient atmosphere noises, they all seemed like they could be written out as a score to me. At the end of the day I’d written a very melodic, very evocative, romantic, passionate film score, probably very old fashioned, but the film’s old fashioned and unusual.
The film was very strange and it was kind of unsettling emotionally. The notion of a boy being estranged from his father over a distance of thirty years and then communicating with him due to this Aurora that they used to indicate that there were radio disturbances in the magnetosphere was magical…
How did you meet director Gregory Hoblit?
He had a relationship with James Newton Howard, who is a friend of mine, and he asked him what he thought of me. He had listened to many film scores, so he asked James and James gave me an endorsement because he wasn’t available to do this film. So I have James to thank.
How did you work with Gregory in order to get the type of score he wanted for his film?
I flew to L.A. from London after I’d seen the film and I spoke with him about it. He had just finished putting temp music with the film, I looked at that and I didn’t like it. I saw what he was trying to achieve and I said, “You can’t find temp music for this film – nobody’s made this score yet. This score exists in the category of science fiction, it exists in the category of drama, police story, and it exists in a very, very deep emotional story between a father and a son over thirty years’ distance. You are not going to find that in one score.” He agreed and I said, “The main thrust of this will be a melody that speaks for all the characters and to play the emotion. You’re telling the story, I can tell the emotional background to this story, and that will be fine.” Greg is a professional, he’s very giving, trusting, and allowed me to carryon the way I would have expected to carryon. You want to work with directors who are sure enough of their own work. Unless they want to write the music themselves, they are much better off bringing in somebody who does this on a regular basis and has opinions they can trust. I might wind up making a score that’s different from somebody else’s, but it will very well answer the questions that the film raises.
I had a few ideas that I discussed with Greg, and then I went on a boat up the Amazon for two weeks (with Bob Shaye, who ran the company). I actually came up with the melody down in Tobago. Then I went to Washington to premiere my symphony and Greg was on the East coast so he joined me to hear the symphony and meet with me for a day’s worth of dog and pony show, so I could play him my ideas for themes and get his opinions. That one day was such an enjoyable and refreshing experience because I hadn’t written the film score yet, but he said, “That’s a memorable tune. That tells an evocative story. It sounds like it can be turned into a useful device for the entire film.”) That was the most approval I needed from him. After I spent ten days working on the cues, Greg would come and listen to half of the movie at a time, to the cues as they were being written, and make a few suggestions here and there, but he always was urging me to use the melody and go for it, to try and extract the most emotional mileage that could be gotten.
Was finding the initial tone of this film easy or hard for you and what was the key to it?
Every once in a while you’re working on a film and you feel like you’re fishing. You’re going out to sea and you know there’s a billion fish out there. You’ve got the best line, the best bait, a good boat, it’s a nice day, but you can’t get a fish. You just keep throwing the line over and nothing comes up that you pay attention to and say, “Yea I like that,” or, “I even remember that.” There were several days when I was starting this film that I felt, “Christ, there’s no fish here.” Then one day I came up with this idea, it just took as long as it takes to play it. It took about thirty seconds and it suddenly fell out of my brain. I wrote it down, tried to play it, and came up with a nice chord combination or two. Then I knew I had the theme.
After you found the initial key to scoring FREQUENCY, how did you approach the rest of the score?
Just like any other score, a note at a time. That’s all you do, just look at the film, react to the story, react to the characters, and make a musical statement that reflects your feelings about the scene. You’re inside the movie by that time. Once you get the theme you’re connected. You either extrapolate or vary it, according to the whims of your discussions with the director. We did meet and spot the film. You go right through the film, it takes a couple of days, and you decide where the music’s going to be and what it’s supposed to achieve. Then you’re filling out a list that’s like a shopping list, and you’re then building the score based on your earlier construction of what it seemed like a score needed to do.
A composer’s score projects in so many different ways. Sometimes it’s based on a theme and other times themes are used to identify certain characters in the film.
I’m very much in the Peter and the Wolf school, the philosophy of every character having a theme and every situation having some kind of device that makes it memorable. In FREQUENCY there is a theme for the boy and his father, there is a theme for the bad guy, and there is a kind of pervasive language for the film.
One of the interesting things about this film is that I started it from the top to the bottom. Once I had come up with a theme that I trusted would serve as a model for every statement in the film, I just started at the beginning and made one cue at a time. Each cue that I made flowed out of the cue that just came. I think it helps unify a film that, on the surface in any case, has a few identification problems, where you’re not sure what year you’re looking at, which guy is that, are you back in time or are you forward in time, is this really happening or is this an imagination? The music helps very much to release the confusion, so you’re not confused unless we want you to be confused.
Did you score FREQUENCY purely from an intellectual or emotional reaction to what you saw on the screen?
I don’t believe in intellectual scoring, and I don’t believe in intellectual music. I think it’s a load of bullshit that was invented by some German academics at the turn of the century. Music is not an intellectual exercise, it can be made with a great deal of intellectual strength and quality, but it is not intellectual business. It’s made of emotion, it’s about feeling and it’s not about thinking. It should dismiss thinking from your mind; music allows you to feel. I always make music from an emotional point of view.
At one time people came to me with these little thirty second commercials, and I have to say I’m really rotten at that because I don’t give a shit about Eastern Airlines’ flight to Chicago. I do care about orchestras, I do care about the characters in a story that bring some feelings I can meet, I do care about various producers and directors who I’m working with. But when you try to make music for somebody’s pair jeans or socks, forget it.
I noticed during your FREQUENCY sessions that you were attracted to some strange percussion instruments that were on the scoring stage…
There were some odd percussion instruments there, rub rods, some things that are consistent with L.A. There’s a man named Emil Richards who’s a wonderful percussionist, a great mallet player, and a great jazz player. He’s the guy in Hollywood who has all those fantastic percussion instruments for sound effects. He makes a career out of showing up on the scores. He’s a great percussionist who has equipment that dresses up a score. An orchestral score is a meal and he’s adding the salt and pepper, the margarine or the chervil. They’re exotic spices, they’re very specific, and they make all the difference in the world. Everything I’ve done in Hollywood is with Emil.
You were just playing your Millennium Symphony with The Washington Symphony, great stuff!
This is one where I made a symphony and then made up a film in order to make a symphony. The symphony tells a story, that’s why the gong was there. It’s called ‘The New Moon In The Old Moons Arms’, which is an Iroquois expression that describes the last phase of the crescent moon before it turns into a dark new moon. It’s the old moon, as a last stage of the crescent, that sheds light on the face of the new moon. The darkened face of the new moon to come is illuminated by the fading light of the old moon. It’s basically a glimpse of the future in the light of the past, and that’s what I named the title of my symphony. H was a Millennium commission where I went back a thousand years. The Anasazi Indians lived a thousand years ago in the canyons of the Southwest. They had a very vibrant, very mysteriously wonderful, very beautiful culture. They made those pueblo cliff dwellings in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. Absolutely breathtakingly beautiful and strange. The story is on the life of a composer in the 21st Century. I love the fact that music tells a story. Movies are only one form of music making, and they’re an important form for me, obviously my reputation has been secured in movies, but it’s been secured really in terms of making comic books about guns, LETHAL WEAPON and DIE HARD. I wasn’t allowed to play with guns as a kid, I wasn’t allowed to read comic books, so to make my reputation on comic books about guns is a bit dastardly.
I heard you say at the podium, “I’ve always wanted to score an episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE and now I have.” So you did feel like this was a feature film like THE TWILIGHT ZONE?
In many ways it is. THE TWILIGHT ZONE was distinguished by its weirdness, humor, wit, and intelligence. Rod Serling made a very distinct contribution to American society at that time. A lot of the statements that he made, under the guise of science fiction, were actually very antiwar, antinationalistic, very humanistic, and he could get away with it because it was science fiction. Most of the people who tried that stuff, in that period in the ‘60s, were told to leave. Rod Serling was able to do it and it was an early underground success for the old left wing hordes who had flipped out at senator Joseph McCarthy. This feeling has certainly become part of FREQUENCY.
After finishing FREQUENCY now, what are your plans?
I was going to get a good night’s sleep. I’ll be taking it easy for a couple of months. I’ll be doing an album for The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts based on Shakespeare sonnets. I’ve written a song with Bryan Ferry, Annie Lennox, and I’ll write some more. I’m mixing the CD for my symphony that will be released. And I’m preparing to start work, sometime in the next two months, on THE X-MEN, a very interesting film that director Bryan Singer (THE USUAL SUSPECTS) is making. That will be my next film.
WRITER / PRODUCER TOBY EMMERICH
For eight years Toby Emmerich has served as President of Music for New Line Cinema. He has been involved in producing soundtracks for both AUSTIN POWERS films, THE MASK, DON JUAN DEMARCO, DUMB AND DUMBER, MORTAL KOMBAT, SEVEN, as well as many others. FREQUENCY is Emmerich’s first screenplay and his entrance into the motion picture industry as a writer. He is definitely part of a new younger generation that is surfacing inside the film industry today. With a great sense of humor and a clever wit about him, Emmerich has faithfully stood by this project for years, overcoming a/l the odds. What was once an idea has now become a reality as FREQUENCY has finally been brought to film through the vision of director Gregory Hoblit and the music of composer Michael Kamen. After a day of scoring sessions with Michael Kamen, I travelled across town to West Hollywood to interview Toby, still hard at work in the New Line offices late in the evening. We discussed how the idea to FREQUENCY came about as well as his attraction to composer Michael Kamen and his vision of a film score to his first screenplay.
Where did you get the idea to create FREQUENCY?
(Said slowly in a very deep voice): I was alone in a room… The original idea felt like a TWILIGHT ZONE episode. I hadn’t seen the episode at the time, but someone told me that there’s a TWILIGHT ZONE episode where a little girl picks up the phone and is talking to her dead grandmother.
The first germ of the idea was when I had an image of an old steamer trunk that two brothers, eight and ten, find in a closet behind a bunch of junk in the attic of their house. They open it up and inside is all their grandfather’s old stuff, World War I pictures, his uniform, things from a different era, including a really old, but beautiful vintage ham radio from the thirties. They plug it in the attic and they hook it up to a clothes line on the farm, then they start talking to this man who they discover is their grandfather, who died thirty years ago and they never knew him. He supposedly had a treasure that he brought home from Europe, German gold, and he tells them how to find it. Then I became interested on a separate track about doing a movie with cops and firemen. Policemen deal with the evil dark side of human nature, while firemen ultimate[y deal with danger. I thought, “What if it was a father and son talking to each other over the radio and one was a cop and one was a fireman? What if you could have those moments with your dad when he’s gone?” and “What if the person who’s going to have those moments never really knew their father?”
Ultimately it all boiled down to a story about a man who didn’t really get to know his father, who needs to know and hear from his father that he loves him.
At this point I needed to know what the engine was that was driving the story, so it was a question of, “What if the father had died in a fire and the son could change the course of history by telling him about it?” I was still looking for something else and a friend of mine who’s actually a talented screenwriter, Glen Brunswick, suggested, “What if you had a serial killer in this movie?” In the final draft the serial killer became the engine for the plot of the movie, but the theme and story is based on the father-son relationship.
Since you’ve been involved in film music for years at New Line, did you have any idea while you were writing this what kind of musical direction you wanted this film to go in?
I knew that I wanted a lot of source music from 1969 that would have been heard in New York in that time. I wanted music that felt authentic to that time because I knew those were signposts that would help orient you between 1969 and 1999, as the movie jumps back and forth. In terms of underscore, this was extremely important to me. Movies like HEAVEN CAN WAIT, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, GHOST, and FIELD OF DREAMS, are the kinds of movies I had in mind tonally, these magical, “what if?” movies. I’d worked with Michael Kamen on DON JUAN DEMARCO, which is one of my favorite films that I’ve worked on while I’ve been here at New Line. I thought Michael did a really brilliant job of underscoring that and bringing it all to life. He was always someone I was very keen on to do the score for FREQUENCY because in my heart I knew he could deliver that. As a writer you hand your baby over to the director and hope that your vision and his vision come together. His choosing Michael to do the score was just another indicator, in a long line of them, that showed me we were on the same page.
Do you think Michael’s score to FREQUENCY is meeting the challenge of what the screenplay has to offer here?
Yes, he just needs to make room on his shelf for an Oscar. The only thing he’s got to worry about is where he’s going to put it in that townhouse in London, whether he’s going to put it on the fireplace mantle or up above the water closet. I love it!
Do you think that scoring a film like FREQUENCY, which has time shifts with each eve, is a hard thing to materialize musically?
That’s why I think Michael wanted to do it. Michael’s a Renaissance man who has many interests and is involved in all kinds of creative things. I think this was part of the challenge for him, because the movie is very hard to pigeonhole and it doesn’t fit into any genre. Michael said something to the director that was right on the money, “The score to this movie has not been written.” I’m someone who generally is very guilty of temp love, but the temp score to this movie was horrible. All the temp music used here was beautiful and all the music I love. We had music from SPEED, FIELD OF DREAMS, SEARCHING FOR BOBBY FISHER, THE ASTRONAUT’S WIFE, but it was all square peg in round hole stuff. Nothing fit. We couldn’t get anything to fit. Now you sit on the scoring stage and you hear Michael’s music to picture, and you’re sailing, you’re soaring, you’re in the clouds. He was right – this score hadn’t been written, and what Michael’s done is totally unique unto the film.
I think this takes a psychologist as well as a composer to plug into what’s going on in FREQUENCY.
One of the things that’s impressive about Michael is that he’s a storyteller. He has the natural ability to tell stories with notes of music, with chords and melodies. This movie and its story is very complicated. Lots of things are happening on many levels. When I’ve worked with Michael and certain directors, he quite often points out things in the film that the director and I hadn’t thought about in a while because we forgot that was a subtext. He has this radar, this emotional, intellectual, half brain / half heart, left side / right side; he picks up on so much nuance and all the different layering of storytelling, all the different conflicts, and perceptions from different characters in the film’s different points of view. He finds a way to embrace all that with his music. That’s part of the magic of what Michael does.
What do you find unique about Michael Kamen?
There’s a surprising number of really great composers working, but Michael remains unique and special to my ears and to me. If there’s something unique about Michael that made me particularly interested in him for this movie it’s two things, outside of being able to deliver and write incredible, emotional, exciting music, music that moves you in whatever direction he wants to, he also is so quick on his feet. He’s so facile on the scoring stage. The movie is so complex and Greg is so specific in terms of what he wants and is looking for, that I really thought he wanted a composer who would be fast enough on his feet to adjust what he was doing to exactly how Greg wanted it. Working with Greg as a writer and having seen what he likes to do and how demanding he is, I thought that Michael was uniquely qualified to meet that challenge, above and beyond all his creative geniuses.
DIRECTOR / PRODUCER GREGORY HOBLIT
Carefully choosing his next film project, director Gregory Hoblit has taken the challenge to bring New Line’s new science fiction thriller FREQUENCY to the big screen. After seeing his past accomplishments and now his new cinematic offering, Hoblit has taken his ability to direct intense drama to entirely another level. It’s hard enough to deal with a number of characters, shifting periods in time, and the twists and turns of multiple story lines that interweave into one idea with a final conclusion, but Hoblit has successfully done so and with the addition of composer Michael Kamen has tied all the roots of this story together with a musically emotional score that unifies the film. When mixing down at Skywalker Sound, during a break, Hoblit discussed his musical approach as a director and working with composer Michael Kamen.
When creating a motion picture, what do you want the score to do for your film?
I want it to find the emotional heart and reveal it musically. The score must get underneath the words, get underneath the picture, get underneath the sound effects, and Iight it up. Give it a life; give it a magic and majesty that only music can do.
What was your real challenge in directing FREQUENCY?
Giving clarity and logic to a very complicated story line and narrative. You can’t sit back and casually watch this movie; you will miss too many things. You will not catch the clues, and if you can’t do that then you will get lost.
How did you meet Michael Kamen?
By process of elimination. I’ve known and liked his music for a long time. This movie required a lot of things out of a composer, the ability to evoke two different periods and two very different moods in terms of the colors of those period’s, 1969 or 1999. Kind of a light, airy, romantic 1969, and a dark, brooding 1999. It has a very off-center romance between a father and a son reconnecting. There are chases, a mystery, spooky stuff, and funny stuff. [ remember showing it to a number of people one night; a friend of mine I’ve known for a long time came out of the theater and said, “What three composers are you going to hire for this?” I laughed and said, “Yes, that is a problem. I don’t know one guy who can do it all. Not that there aren’t, but it’s certainly going to be demanding of anyone person to be utterly comfortable with all the different requirements of this movie.” There began the process of listening to the music from an array of composers, all of them wonderful, and it struck me that Michael was the best fit.
What music had you heard of Michael’s that stuck in your mind before you hired him?
Of course there’s the DIE HARD scores and the LETHAL WEAPON series, also there’s DON JUAN DEMARCO, which I really felt was quite extraordinary, and then a movie that wasn’t successful and seemed to get lost in its good intentions because didn’t realize them very well, WHAT DREAMS MAY COME. He did a spectacular score for that. There were melodies in that which I thought were very beautiful. One of the things I really wanted in FREQUENCY was a beautiful melody. He is one of a handful of people who really can turn a melody.
What approach were you looking for when scoring FREQUENCY?
The music in this movie, like most of the movie itself, defied simple comprehension and simple answers. This film’s a gender bender and a mind bender. I came up against something that I wasn’t quite expecting when we began to assemble the movie up in Toronto. The first day’s dailies were coming in, then my editor began the process of putting music against it and he said, “This one’s hard, there’s going to be a lot of music in this movie and this is hard to figure out what works.”
PRIMAL FEAR and FALLEN were a snap. I put temp scores in those movies that were actually followed quite closely by the composers, James Newton Howard in PRIMAL FEAR and Tan Dun in FALLEN. In this case, the temp did not work well in large part because we couldn’t figure it out. It felt very fractured and disconnected.
No matter what the varied colors of this movie, the various moods, the action stuff, the sweet stuff, the soft stuff, the hard stuff, Michael’s music had to unify the movie. Instead of the movie splitting apart like atoms in the temp dub, it had to be quite the opposite, it had to become coherent as a unified whole. That was the goal.
Also, given the nature of this film, I was not thinking that a big synthesized score was going to be appropriate, that an orchestral sound would suit the movie best.
How did you communicate with Michael in order to get the score you wanted?
It was a little bit fractured because we were doing it over the holidays, he was away on a trip for part of it, and then very involved with finishing his ‘Millennium Symphony’. We were working in between all these other things he was doing, so we used the telephone and E-mail. Finally, about a week and half before the score was finally [aid down, I went out to his place and he played a lot of his thoughts on his synthesizer for me. I never heard the overall orchestration complete[y until I got on the scoring stage. I usually like to have more information than that before you record the score, because once you go on a scoring stage, the deal is done.
You put a lot of trust in Michael to come up with the right thing for your film.
Once I heard the melody, I knew [could trust its use throughout the movie. I knew it would absolutely work. There were other aspects of it, some of the action stuff, that I knew I was not going to know a whole lot about until I got on the stage. When I got to the stage I was absolutely pleased. The work was extraordinary, and some of it is really special,
Do you think Michael captured the drama and emotion of FREQUENCY with his score?
Absolutely! There are moments that he more than captured it, he just took it and lifted it to a completely different place and made it very, very special. Those conversations between the father and the son, there are a couple of them where my jaw was open and he just completely swept it up and took it to a different place.
What did you find unique about Michael Kamen?
His hair, you know? There just aren’t too many fifty year old guys walking around with long hair anymore. This guy just doesn’t know that the ‘60s are over, that hippies are a thing of the past. He just hasn’t figured that out!
A special note of thanks goes out to Jeff Sanderson of Chasen & Co., Gina Soliz of New Line Publicity, Sylvia Derochers of Bumble Ward & Assoc., Sandra Cortez of Robert Urband & Assoc., Michael’s Assistant Mikki Binas, Stephen McLaughlin, Joel Iwataki, assistants to Director Gregory Hoblit, Beverly Graf and Patricia Graf, and finally to the three creators who made the difference, writer / producer Toby Emmerich, director / producer Gregory Hoblit, and He Who Commands the Music of the Spheres, composer Michael Kamen.
Composer, Conductor: Michael Kamen
Where: Scoring Stage M at Paramount Studios, Hollywood, California
When: Wednesday February 2nd through Sunday the 6th
Orchestrated: By Michael Kamen with Robert Elhai, Brad Warnaar, Jonathan Sacks, and Blake Neely
Orchestra: 75 to 80 Pieces
Engineered: by Stephen McLaughlin and Joel Iwataki
Keyboard Player: Mike Lang
Composing Time: Approximately One Week Length of Score: A Little Over an Hour
Longest Cue: Bike Ride I Montage at 9:03
Shortest Cue: Old Bones at 0:14