15 March 2007

Tyler BATES, 300 fois plus puissant - Entretien par Christine BLANC

Tyler BATES enchaîne les contrats à tour de bras depuis quelques temps. Il a déjà parcouru du chemin depuis que nous l'avions interrogé sur The Devil's Rejects pour Rob Zombie en 2005.
Les films pour lesquels il compose sont souvent caractérisés par une atmosphère dérangeante, violente voire horrifique: The Devil's Reject, Slither, Dawn of the Dead, 300,... Ses collaborations réussies avec des réalisateurs "chocs" comme Zac Snyder, James Gunn ou encore Rob Zombie lui ont permis d'évoluer musicalement et ainsi de trouver sa place dans le milieu de la musique de film. Il nous parle aujourd'hui de sa partition pour le très attendu 300. Et nous devrions le retrouver prochainement pour ses compositions à venir: Halloween 9 de Rob Zombie, Day Of The Dead, Resident Evil Extinction et Six Bullets from Now.

Please, Mister Tyler, how would you personally introduce yourself?
Tyler BATES- I love American and European films from the 70’s. ‘Klute’ is a personal favourite of mine. I have really gotten myself into reading Cormack McCarthy books. He manages to tell the darkest tales in the most beautiful voice.

May you tell me about your training?
I am musically self-taught. I have opened many books over time, but the majority of my musical training comes from playing in rock bands, producing records, and song-writing. I did learn to read music at an early age when I joined the school concert and marching band! Went on to play in several rock bands, recording records, and touring. This has had a great impact on my appreciation of the opportunity I have to make music for films.

What are your musical influences? Do you have any mentor?
I don’t have a mentor. I have loved all styles of music since childhood. I am truly fond of artists like Brian Eno, Georgy Ligeti, Krzysztof Penderecki, and Bernard Herrmann, to name a few.

How did you come to music?
My mother gave me an impassioned introduction to music from the time I was born. She would buy several albums each week in all genres of music. I was always drawn to music – listening to it, and reading the album liner notes. Strangely enough, the soundtracks for ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ and ‘Hair’ left an indelible impression on my mind. The arrangements interested me as much as I was touched by the raw emotion of those albums. I always paid attention to arrangements and production quality. I knew from very early on that music was my way of life.

Among all your scores, what are the ones you like the most?
I don’t much revel in my own work. By the time I deliver a score, I have corrected my mistakes in my head. Of course this occurs after it becomes too late to make adjustments to the music! Hindsight…I am fond of the score for “Dawn Of The Dead,” and of course “300.” There are others I feel pretty good about, but I suppose these come to mind because I was at the ‘300’ premiere last night. It was a lot of fun, but this morning came around too quickly. I am sure I am making little sense with my responses. (LOL)

When you compose for a film, where do you take your inspiration from? The story, the pictures, the characters?
I am most inspired by reading the films’ script, then ultimately, looking t the film and its characters. It is always my goal for the music to not only support the story, but to become an extension of the film itself. Once I have viewed actual film footage, I then consider tonal colours that will inherently work in support of the film’s style and attitude.

What is your relation to the films you score?
It is most important for me to allow a film to “steep” for a bit once I have seen it. This gives me an opportunity to contemplate the film on a technical level, but also presents the opportunity to form a unique feeling towards the film and it’s vibe. When I was a kid, each new album I put on my turntable felt unique unto itself. It was as though the music coloured my environment. This was very influential on how I open myself to music. I try to do the same with film. I ensconce myself in the world of each film I work on, which is a clear statement of why I could benefit from having my head shrunk, in consideration of the films I have created music for.

How did you come on the 300 project?
I scored “Dawn Of The Dead” for Zack Snyder in 2004. We had a great experience working together. When he began putting together his presentation in effort to get ‘300’ backed by a studio, he asked me to create music for the film. It began with an animatic Zack created by filming the actual pages of the Fran Miller graphic novel. Scott Glenn narrated the story of the ‘300’ backed by my music. Once Warner Bros signed the project, Zack did a live-action test shot to illustrate the exact filming style and content. I also scored this project, which really enabled me to further develop the sound of the film. We continued from there once filming began. It was a long haul, but a tremendous experience working with the entire group Zack enlisted to make the film.

How would you describe your score for 300?
I definitely think the score is abstract as it is traditional. It can be a bit of an acid trip at times, but the most important element seems to be inherent in the music throughout, and that is soul. Some film score journalists have gotten the impression that it is among the most aggressive of scores for an epic movie. This was not a conscious attempt on my part. I did what I thought the picture needed, and of course, everything I could do to help Zack express this story as acutely to his vision as possible.

What was your approach to the film?
Honestly, it was always both thematic and atmospheric. I find the atmospheric motifs to be thematic in their own way. There is a very specific “feeling” to the ambient aspect of the score. I was truly excited to finally score a film that asked for broad emotional music in equal measure to the abstract contingent.

How much time did you have to compose your score?
I cannot say exactly how much “writing time” I had on this film because there was always a great deal of catching up to do as the visual aspect of the film developed along the way. This required constantly revisiting the score and updating the music as it was informed by the newest images. There were also several “temp dubs” to prepare the film for various screenings. I mixed and delivered my score to each of these, which was rather time-consuming. That said, I probably wrote the music in five months.

Can you tell me about the conditions of recording of the score?
We recorded the orchestra in London, at Abby Road. My fixer, Isobel Griffiths, contracted a great orchestra of players from London. We did not have a large budget, so all of the orchestra and choir was recorded in three days total. The orchestra and choir lives side by side in this film with ambient sound design and individual musical colourists. I recorded the solo performances as I wrote the music. This enabled me to develop the performances to be as natural and substantive as possible. Much like making a record.

Do you have any anecdotes about the process to tell us, funny or interesting things?
It was good fun. I am probably too tired to think of stories to tell.

How did you work with the crew ?
I don’t much like temp scores. They have become a necessity in modern times, especially in relation to films of this nature. It would be beyond difficult to edit the picture with only blue screen and no music. The problem for a composer is always that the longer the temp music lives in the picture, the more everyone becomes comfortable and ultimately fond of the temp. It is always my goal to write as much music as quickly as possible to replace the temp before “temp love” sets in. You have to be careful not to submit music that is not up to that standard because they will continue to use the temp until the score demo is stronger. Once a film tests for an audience, the temp becomes even more powerful an influence on what the director and studio want from the composer, especially if the music scores high points with a test audience. This is an issue all composers are faced with from time to time. Once “temp love” is present, it takes time to get people used to “original” music. The trouble ends up being that you win some battles and then you run out of time. This is generally when a composer is asked to do seriously consider the temp music. At the end of the day, one has to accept that film scoring is not a pure art form. I feel that you should approach the craft as artfully as possible, but the music itself is but a colour in the entire scope of a film. This is definitely the most frustrating aspect of scoring movies, but I understand it. I am fairly sure that most of the film score appreciators are not aware of the many caveats a composer faces in the process of creating the score for a big film; especially a film like ‘300,’ where there are so many contingencies that affect the musical requirement of the film.

Can you tell me about your relation to Zack Snyder, the director of 300?
I met Zack with “Dawn Of The Dead.” We have had a fantastic working relationship. He has since asked me to write the music for his next film, “Watchmen.”

What is your connection with the subjects of the film?
One cannot take ‘300’ as a literal expression of the current geopolitical landscape. Personally, I hope people ask themselves what they are willing to do for a cause they believe in effort to create a more harmonious planet. It would be nice if human life on Earth were not to be extinguished in the near future. In regards to ‘300,’ it is a graphic novel staged 2500 years ago. It is not a literal interpretation of historical events, or a commentary on modern-day Persian society. The lead vocalist of the score is Azam Ali, who is Persian. Ultimately Azam had a little trouble with the depiction of her ancestors in the film, but she clearly understands that this is not a commentary on Iranians. I deliberately avoided creating a “good guy-bad guy” sensibility about the score. I anticipate the audience of this film with understand its context, and appreciate the tremendous soul that Azam’s presence brings to the music.

For a new project, if you could choose a genre, a kind of story and a filmmaker, what would they be?
I am so happy to work with Zack Snyder. The scope of his film career will touch on nearly every human emotion and dynamic before his work is done. The possibility of being a part of that is as good as it gets. Would most-definitely welcome non-violent films. A drama would serve me well. I am currently in the finishing stages of “Day Of The Dead.”

Do you have any other projects to come?
I will begin working with Rob Zombie on his “Halloween” film, which is highly disturbing, from what I have seen thus far. I have a couple projects coming up afterwards; “Resident Evil:Extinction,” and “Six Bullets From Now,” with director Stephen Kay, whom I love working with.
Do you have a specific message to add?
Please go to see “300!”


La musique de 300 a été composée et produite par Tyler Bates, qui avait déjà collaboré avec Zack Snyder sur L'ARMÉE DES MORTS.
Snyder demanda une partition de grande ampleur célébrant l'héroïsme et le sacrifice des Spartiates. Bates créa un vaste paysage orchestral et choral, doté d'une palette tonale inusitée. Azam Ali, chanteur d'origine iranienne, apporte à la voix de Sparte et à la menace perse une fascinante touche d'exotisme et une présence envoûtante.

"Je me suis efforcé d'être fidèle à l'inspiration du film en exaltant la détermination, le sens du sacrifice et la soif de liberté des Spartiates", indique Bates. "Le principal challenge fut de tisser une trame musicale continue pour une œuvre visuellement très riche et très diverse. Il me fallut en soutenir la dimension épique et l'impact émotionnel en me montrant aussi inventif que le film lui-même."
Snyder ne tarit pas d'éloges sur son compositeur : "Sa partition confère une résonance mythologique à 300. Elle parachève notre travail visuel en donnant à ces images une force qu'elles n'auraient pu avoir par elles-mêmes."
Et le réalisateur de conclure : "Nous avons dû affronter quantité de défis en portant à l'écran l'œuvre de Frank Miller. Personne ne s'y est jamais dérobé. Des acteurs aux producteurs et à l'ensemble de l'équipe, tout le monde a toujours été à mes côtés et au service du film. 300 n'aurait jamais pu se faire sans leur concours. Ils ont tous été prodigieux."

Adapté du roman graphique de Frank Miller, 300 est un récit épique de la Bataille des Thermopyles, qui opposa en l'an - 480 le roi Léonidas et 300 soldats spartiates à Xerxès et l'immense armée perse. Face à un invincible ennemi, les 300 déployèrent jusqu'à leur dernier souffle un courage surhumain ; leur vaillance et leur héroïque sacrifice inspirèrent toute la Grèce à se dresser contre la Perse, posant ainsi les premières pierres de la démocratie.
Les Spartiates furent de redoutables guerriers, à qui l'on avait appris à ne jamais reculer devant l'ennemi, à ne jamais se rendre. Ils forment l'une des cultures les plus originales et les plus énigmatiques de l'Histoire.
"Ils demeurent à bien des égards un mystère", affirme Frank Miller, auteur du roman graphique "300" qui inspire ce film. "Ils sont sans doute le seul peuple qui ne vécut que pour se battre. La guerre était le fondement de toute leur civilisation. Le code d'honneur très strict dont ils se réclamaient forgea une classe de héros sans équivalent."

Merci à Isabelle TARDIEU - Warner Music

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