The Menu Composer Colin Stetson on Meshuggah Influences and That Twist – The Hollywood Reporter

Searchlight’s horror-comedy twist Scored entirely from its music (below).

That sound is courtesy of composer Colin Stetson, a background of woodwinds and a breathless appreciation for horror and tension. “There are certain things that I do with breathing and with breath comparisons to evoke a similar experiential response from the audience,” he says. The Hollywood Reporter. “Air is everything and therefore the manipulation of air, whether it is recorded through actual literal breathing and manipulated or projected through an instrument, does certain things.”

Breathing and manipulation are appropriately thematically linked menu, The latest project from director Mark Mylod and co-writers Seth Reese and Will Tracy is a part-hilarious, part-terrifying examination of hunger, elitism and the power of food. A secluded, exclusive Michelin-starred dining experience gone wrong, both kitchen staff and guests find themselves needing to catch their breath — and unpack their own relationships with power, class and more — in the film’s smooth 105 minutes.

menu Following Stetson’s remarkable work in one of the most acclaimed horror entries of 2018, Hereditary, and according to the composer, was similarly approached with a distinctive fashion against the narrative. And like that film, the score is a layered effort, holding back its turns – scary or comedic – until the time is right, while hiding the real truth of the film in its many layers of music.

This is a feat that Stetson can achieve using polyrhythms, or simultaneous combinations of contrasting rhythms. Their dualities ultimately serve to highlight the film’s appreciation for the delicious pleasures of fine dining and the unhappiness of the culture that surrounds it.

Before the release of the film, THR He spoke to the composer about how he approached the score as an instrument by leaning into the kitchen; how he used the element of surprise in both horror and comedy to balance the film’s multiple tones; Why didn’t they do character-driven ensembles even though the ensemble had multiple personalities; and the “math-y” influences that guide his score.

Keeping in mind how horror is woven into the opening narrative of the film and how it unfolds pacing-wise, how did you think about infusing the music with tension and dread for this score?

Hereditary Probably the most famous of any film I’ve ever made. That, from the beginning, there was no veil – no gradual parsing and meeting of fear and story. It was confirmed that we were entering this place of fear, unrest and ultimate destruction. In the beginning there is no secret. It is very different in this regard. In a certain sense the score is similar Hereditary In that it plays a part of the narrative menu – That plan has been running since the beginning of the film. But it mostly does this by motivating the audience and the diners. So in the moments where I start to introduce fear I’m using some subtle harmonic things and tongue-in-cheek gestures where I influence certain melodies in certain ways.

I found the film to be nudge-nudge, wink-wink throughout the opening, but it subtly and sometimes not-so-subtly delivers fear before a moment that, as in most films, questions all of that. , privacy, mystery is greatly enhanced and the cat is out of the bag. The way I see the whole film, as contained in the script itself, is that the music there isn’t really innocent, but it certainly subverts itself cleverly throughout the first act. And then there was that moment where I could really, as a composer, go apeshit. (laughs.) When I read it, I was really excited for good scripts, because I realized that I could hold everything back. I can have this whole other sound world that I have in reserve and when that moment hits, the floodgates open and I can let out a torrent.

All of these characters have the potential to be villains in their own right, but it’s not initially clear if there is a main “bad guy.” Is there a character or characters you’ve written to unravel moral truths and horrors from the story and your score?

There’s one character who gets more – it’s not the same as the themes – but they get more personal interaction with the themes. There are certain things that really relate to certain characters. Then there’s more of what I see as more of a “menu,” a plan set in motion in the first scene and going into the last scene. Most of the themes are really and then they interact with some character in a different way, that character is now secret or passed away at any given moment. And that’s the way I approach a lot of points. Hereditary Absolutely it is. The score is truly a project that comes into play. It’s been taunting everyone throughout the whole thing until it actually turns on its head and reveals that it’s been here the whole time. That said, there are certainly moments — certain elements, musically — that belong to certain people. But most of it belongs to the menu.

Some horror composers lean on the settings of their films for inspiration on how to convey fear and tension. Have you thought about it with the kitchen?

I definitely thought about it and did it to some extent. I didn’t want it to be a novelty or too much. But there are literally glasses – a whole range of pitched glasses – that we’ve used in percussion and then sometimes in a more traditional way and other times in a less traditional way. One of my best friends and collaborators, Greg Fox, is an incredible metal drummer. He is one of the fastest, tightest players and can create maximum atmosphere by playing incredibly fast. So one thing we did was record him several times and then use that as a sound cloud. There are moments in particular ragas where this kind of lightning happens and it just grows and grows and grows. Instead of synths or effects or anything like that, it’s just several Greg Foxes over an array of water glasses. I always try to come up with unconventional ways to utilize the sound source. And then if I’m trying to do something a little bit more traditional, I try to figure out a backdoor to get into that trope, rather than going straight for the more well-trodden path, in utility.

So if it’s like suspended strings – even if I’m using strings in a way that I think is traditional – I usually try to start with a less obvious way to get that sound and function that it needs. in music. That was one of the things I did. I saw unorthodox ways of using things like glasses and pans and pots. There’s quite a bit in the score, but not necessarily in the places you’d think. Much of the rhythmic driving nature of the entire score is actually through the strings. There are a lot of very harshly plucked pizzicato strings. There are a lot of pizzicato piano strings, and not just plucked but struck. Mostly it happens at that moment I mentioned. Leading up to that moment is the delightful pomp and excitement of the score, which features plucked multi-rhythmic viola and violin strings. At that moment the character of the sound changes massively and when these pianos come in and it becomes more metallic, more aggressive and alarming.

The kitchen is a rhythmic place, but it can become chaotic when you overlay everything going on at the same time. I would argue that eating is similar – scraping, clanking, ting, biting, breathing. How did you think about your score in terms of creating melodies versus less melodic, or more naturally cacophonous sounds?

It’s a more polyrhythmic driving sound, and when its DNA is more — when I hit it against a wall and there are steady moments, to me, those steady moments really stick out and have a lot of weight. to them. Their kitchen for me: What would you listen to if you really just sat back and let it all come out? There is a repetitive rhythm, but it is not a basic rhythm. It is not four floors. It’s massively chaotic, but there are patterns. So to approximate – or to take the essence of it – and run it through a musical filter, what my mind did was to make this score the result of all these overlapping and dissonant and juxtaposed polynomials. It is very mathematical. But it doesn’t feel that way because it has that drive. I notice the Meshuggah band. Something I hear a lot about is more math-y, very complex metal. Hear this score and say, “Oh yes! That’s Meshuggah!” (laughs) I can definitely say that my immersion in that world, and in particular bands like that, is clearly in the DNA of this score. It’s a confluence of music rooted in heartbeat—a pulse of humanity, but at the same time, overriding rhythmic complexity to create a feeling of anxiety, contrast, and loftiness as it rolls toward something.

They’re all in play and you hear it, especially when you hear the music in the film, but then also the independent score on the record. Things that are always quieter on film are more exposed on record. Also, it’s the most traditional theme-forward score I’ve ever done. There is a kind of pretentiousness to the whole thing. It’s both [elitism of food] And its opposite. It is a celebration of a certain appreciation on an artistic and natural level. There are moments when I go really hard for this chef’s point of view, where you’re really playing up the dignity of a wonderful and natural kind of food. Its love. I think it could be a mixture of all things. It’s all very pretentious, but it’s true. All the things he says about food and I’m thinking of one scene in particular. These things are really amazing and profound. The experience of living beings and the ability to discuss and share and revise – all of that, there’s a glory that you can evoke because there’s this flamboyant element. Those themes coexist throughout this score.

You’re dealing with both a comedy and a horror narrative, which is genre-bending in terms of narrative delivery, both of which delight or surprise. How did you approach writing for both of those genres?

One thing about going hard in a rhythmic direction is that you have that light, bubbly sense that propels the score along. Due to the fact that these polyrhythms are superimposed, they can all defer to each other and they can cancel each other out. These rhythmic features act almost like train tracks when you switch them and then suddenly the train turns left. There you have a certain rhythm and the audience is projected onto that track and then with a little stroke of math, we’re thrown to the left. When I’m reading a script, I start looking at all the music — what’s going to work, what it needs, where things are going to be introduced, where certain things are going to happen and where there’s going to be a change. Its rhythmic aspect allows for all sorts of different things, including tension that allows for several sudden scary moments. But it builds on this perfect mechanism for many jokes. So it juxtaposes some things that add a bit more horror with lighter elements. The first act gives me all this joy and fun to play. Then later, I can use happy and fun and it has a different weight because now it’s funny. You ask that in the context of knowing what we know now. That moment becomes more absurd.

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