Composer Michael Brook Talks Scoring "The Fighter"
Fri, 17 Dec 2010 12:00:24
Composer Michael Brook adds a deep emotionality to The Fighter's more introspective moments.
His score slyly seeps into scenes, adding an ethereal sensibility to this visceral and vibrant modern classic. The music enhances the film's most somber and heartbreaking vignettes with a dark sensitivity that mirrors Micky Ward's [Mark Wahlberg] fight to become champion and Dickie Eklund's [Christian Bale] fight to become clean. Via his elegant score, Brook sonically captures the raw reality at the heart of these struggles.
Michael Brook sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about creating the music for The Fighter, his process, working on Country Strong and so much more.
When you're composing, do the characters or the script have a bigger impact on the music?
Typically, it's a combination of all those things. By the time I get involved, usually the director, editor and music editor have been thinking about it for awhile. There's a usually a general direction that's been decided on. Sometimes, it's been temped with my music. The direction is tweaked by what the specific scenes need and what the filmmakers would like to bring out or reflect in the score that perhaps isn't dialogue or on the screen.
How did you approach scoring The Fighter?
That was a slightly unusual situation in that there wasn't a lot of time. There's never a lot of time, but there was very little time for this. I think the emotion of the temp score was very good because they'd actually spent a year on it. They'd essentially done a very detailed and good road map. The goal was to honor that road map, which saved me a lot of time, but try to integrate it into the film much more, give it more consistency and give it the unique character that the film has. The goal was to emotionally steer where the temp had gone already, but do so in my musical style and a way that was true to the film. It's about trying to find the tone of a scene. There are shifts that happen within each scene too. It's interesting to map out a scene. It's interesting to structure the music hanging it on an emotional analysis of what happens throughout a scene.
Do the songs in the movie ever fact into what you do?
Only peripherally in the some of the cues, I would segue into a song so I had to be consistent tonally and mood-wise with whatever the transition to the song would be. Other than that, it wasn't really a big factor. A lot of the scenes with songs are where there's a lot of action and activity. Most of the score scenes are very internal. They're either static or physically tranquil, whereas most of the song scenes are not.
The score colors the film's more somber moments.
I think it does. The songs score the physical action you see on the screen. The path to the score in this film was quite different in many ways. It was targeted to what's going on inside that character's head at this moment. They may not be saying anything, but what are they thinking? The songs are much more about what they're doing.
You can touch on those emotions more by manipulating that wide palette of sonic textures.
I've always loved when music is a little more internal and it maybe wanders a little more than a clear narrative structure.
What spoke to you about The Fighter?
From the first 30 seconds, you get a sense that it is a great movie. The main things that struck me were the power of the performances and the fact that there are some brave choices made in terms of editing and how they decided to tell that true story. It didn't feel like a movie; It sort of felt like a hyper documentary. It might be because of the way they used the old video look for the fights, and quite a bit of the dialogue is naturally awkward the way people really do speak, as opposed to sounding like a script. Those were the things that drew me in. I also liked that Micky ultimately resolves it, but he's faced with a situation where he really has no good choices, which is often the way it is in real life. It's not as simple as you do the right thing and it all works out. It was a really special moment for me when you see the real guys at the end of the film.
How different was The Fighter from Country Strong in terms of music? They seem like polar opposites.
They're very different films. In The Fighter, we wanted to make the music feel slightly otherworldly and yet recognizable. There are acoustic instruments in there, but they're fairly modified so they don't sound the same so you might not recognize them. Because of a lot of the score was dealing with the internalities of what was going on, in Country Strong part of the difference was the context involved people who play country music on screen. There's a country vibe to the score. It's probably more directly connected to what you see on the screen. It's a little more straightforward. One person says this and the other person reacts, and the score reflects the reaction. As you said, they're probably at different ends of the spectrum in terms of film making.
Have you seen The Fighter?