The score of Surrogates – Interview with Richard Marvin

Richard Marvin has been involved in movies and television productions, most known by the music of war drama U-571 and the music from the celebrated series Six Feet Under (which brought him the BMI-award). The composer made his fourth collaboration with Jonathan Mostow, whose latest box office entry was Surrogates, starring Bruce Willis. We had the chance to ask him about the birth of their collaboration and the latest project.

Could you tell me a bit about your music education and what made you choose this career?

I have studied piano since age 5 and drums for several years. I attended Indian University where I studied piano, jazz piano, composition and electronic music from 1973-1978. I then moved to Los Angeles to persue being a sythesizer player inthe studios, which I did for 12-14 years. I studied orchestration with Dr. Albert Harris in L.A., and began composing for tv and film in 1992.

Why I choose this career? I fell in love with jazz in my late teens, early 20's and then fell in love with music for picture, when I moved to Los Angeles in 1978.

You have worked together with director Jonathan Mostow with the fourth time; could you tell us more about this partnership? How did you meet with him?

A friend of mine was the production designer on one of Jonathan's first movies, the Flight of Black Angel. Right around then, I was recoming tired of being a session musician and began writing and recording music demos in my home studio. My friend, the recording designer, gave one of these demo tapes to Jonathan, and he liked what he heard and hired me to score Flight of Black Angel

Jonathan and I have similar views on how music should work in a movie, which makes our work together very intuitive and extremely collaborative.

Your most recent film together is Surrogates, what can you tell us about the score? What was your first idea? How did you begin writing the score? How did you build up the mood and the instrumentation of this music?

I began getting ideas for the Surrogates score by sitting and improvising at the piano for two weeks. I then made some recordings of these piano pieces and gave them to Jonathan. He liked the idea of using piano extensively int he score. It became clear however, as I started putting some of these piano pieces up against picture, that we needed a broader palette of sound for the score, so I starting added orchestral instruments and percussion. The last step was adding electronic percussion and synth sounds.

What's your favorite moment of the birth of the music and why?

I wrote several demos for the opening, as the young cantor rides in the limo. One of these demos really captured the mood, emotion and scope of the movie. All the other cues int he movie evolved from that cue.

The film Surrogates is about the near future, where the humans interact only through robotic bodies that serve as surrogates, and the real humans live in isolation. The filmmakers present the future already on so many manners. How do you imagine it?

I see a future where, like the movie, humans become tired with technology, and more in touch with the real human elements of life.

To know more about Richard Marvin's work, please visit the composer's official website.


Special thanks to Melissa McNeil
April 10th, 2010.

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