Making Music for Nature Film
In my daily work I rarely keep art and science far apart. Science aims for total, detached objectivity, but I don´t think such a thing is possible for us humans, and certainly it is not something I can attain! Each observation of nature implies some emotional involvement, and for better or worse in all my productions those emotions end up coming to the surface in some way.
One aspect of this involvement is the music I compose for my videos. Reconstructing the anatomy of the sabertooths from the inside out is quite exciting, but the kind of emotion it stirrs in me is rather different from the one I experience when observing a violent clash between two imposing ibex males in the high mountians. As a result, videos showing such different contents require different, specific music, and I try to taylor make it or at least to choose from my existing compositions as wisely as I can.
In this clip from my video “Bringing the Sabertooths back to Life” you can listen to the more “electronic” sounds I used in many segments of that film, to convey a sense of how a careful technical study leads to exciting findings. In my wildlife videos I generally use more orchestral sounds to transmit the warm, direct emotions that you get when watching the dramas of animal life out in the wilderness:
Earlier this year I discovered Hans Zimmer’s masterclass on composing for film and decided to take it. Even from a quick look at the first lessons one feels exhilarated at the endless possibilities that music offers for enhancing and completing any film project. Mr. Zimmer is not only a genius, he efficiently and honestly transmits both the excitement and the tehcnical aspects of his craft.
As a first excercise while taking that course, I composed a piece of music for a short video about the behavior of the Spanish Ibex. Following Zimmer’s instructions, I started by composing a short, simple piano tune, as a core from which I would create all the variations that the story required. In that tune I tried to convey the basically sweet, harmless nature of the ibex, but it also contains a couple of chords with the potential of becoming more aggressive, as befits the powerful clashes of the males during the rut, or more mysterious, to reflect the vastness of what we don´t know abut the caprine mind.
In this other clip you can listen to some of the more “epic” sections of the soundtrack I composed for the ibex film:
Using brasses and timpani was a temptation I could not resist, but anyway I tried to dress the tune in warmer strings and even a playful harp to compensate for the in-your-face obviousness of the percussion. The big male ibex go at each other with devastating, almost murderous blows, yet the next moment they seem to behave as comrades, almost buddies. It is more complex than an all-out war, and so the music should also have something of that ambiguity.
Of course when you see Zimmer’s explanations it all appears so obvious, but for us mortals things are not nearly so simple! As I developed the themes my original piano piece seemed less and less adequate, and it constrained me unconfortably, but I decided to go ahead anyway. The result is far less elegant and effective than I dreamed when listening to the classes, but still a small step up the ladder from my previous compositions.
Learning from the best is deeply humbling but always exciting. Thanks to Mr. Zimmer and I promise to keep working hard as I progress through the course!