Atli Örvarsson Talks Scoring "The Eagle"
Thu, 10 Mar 2011 08:11:30
The Eagle Videos
"It was this big dig," says composer Atli Örvarsson of his work finding the right instruments for The Eagle score. "I looked all over the world. As a result, there are Irish bagpipes, Scottish bagpipes, Persian instruments, Celtic instruments, Western instruments and the list goes on and on."
Örvarsson's diligence scouring the world for the right sounds paid off, as his score for The Eagle is one of the most intriguing and intricate of the year. No style is off limits as the composer strikes a balance between various aesthetics from all over the world, creating something wholly original and impressively powerful.
While on his way to the UK premiere of the film, Atli Örvarsson spoke to ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino in this exclusive interview about searching the world for a myriad of sounds, creating the score for The Eagle, and so much more.
What styles, aesthetics, and feelings were you pulling from to create the music for The Eagle?
I always go back to what the director Kevin Macdonald said to me in the beginning. He wanted the music to feel and sound like it could be of the period and could come off the screen. As you can imagine, when you're dealing with the year 140 AD, you scratch your head a little bit and wonder where to begin because who knows what music sounded like back then? However, it's not really about that at the end of the day; it's about finding genuine real instruments and sounds. I went on this musical archaeological journey and started looking around. In Scotland, I found a bunch of musicians who have dedicated their lives to researching ancient Celtic music and figure out what kinds of instruments people were playing. They found these bronze horns and reconstructed this old Celtic war horn called "The Carnyx." We aimed to include all of these instruments that people played back in the early days. We started recording these, looking for these sounds. I found some Irish musicians who know the catalog of Irish music really well and we drew some elements from that. We took some old ancient tunes, arranged them, and made them our own. I found this guy with a Persian violin. We started thinking, "What's the juxtaposition between Rome and Celt?" From the very beginning, my idea was that Rome was more of an orchestra sound, whereas The Celts had more of a primitive sound. That wasn't quite enough. We wanted that exotic mysticism. At the time, the Roman Empire stretched way East, basically from Asia to Europe. To get more colors and things to play with, I started finding elements from farther East.
Is it a hybrid to a degree?
The idea was to find as much genuine, cool music as possible and merge it all with this Western film scoring orchestral tradition.
Do characters or the plot have a bigger impact on a film's music?
I'm not sure if I draw any distinction really. I think the music ideally represents all of the above. In this case, we're dealing with the Roman Empire in Scotland during 140 AD. Obviously, the geography and period almost become characters in and of themselves. At the same time, the themes belong to the characters. You could make the generalization that the themes are more character-driven, but the orchestration and colors in the music are more based on the region and the period.
Is there a certain intimacy to the music?
Oh yeah! I think I was able to channel some honesty in a lot of this music. A lot of it is because it's working with soloists who are playing music in their own musical environments. For example, I was working with Irish musicians or my sister sang this beautiful old Icelandic folk tune and we based stuff on that. There's so much genuine energy in these performances that they become very real. They work brilliantly with the more intimate moments. Then there are epic orchestral moments for the big battles. The scope is quite wide.
What's your favorite film score?