Interview: Jan A.P. Kaczmarek Composer of "Get Low"
Wed, 11 Aug 2010 14:59:07
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"You'll have to know that you found me in a Polish forest," laughs Academy Award winning composer Jan A.P. Kaczmarek as he answers the phone.
Despite the remote nature of his locale at the moment, Jan's cell phone thankfully still works. It doesn't matter where in the world Jan is because his music always exerts a powerful effect. That especially holds true for his most recent cinematic composition, the score for Get Low. Jan conjures a tonal emotionality that mirrors the film's strangely funny plotline and complements the quirky characters of Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek and Bill Murray perfectly.
Jan A.P. Kaczmarek spoke to ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino about the score for Get Low and so much more in this exclusive interview.
When you're composing for a film, do the characters or the plot dictate the music?
It's both, but sometimes one of those elements is more emotionally engaging. My relationship with a picture is usually based on instinct. I attach myself to something that has, in my opinion, the essence of the picture and then I go. Obviously, I approach the movie from different directions, but the point of departure is sometimes character, plot or the general aura of the film. In the case of Get Low, characters were very strong so I departed from the characters. Then it went into the mystery of the story of Felix [Duvall].
Did you get closer to those characters by reading the script or watching the footage itself?
It was definitely by watching the film and living with it for a moment. The characters and the actors are so incredibly strong that it wasn't really difficult to feel connected to them. The challenge was to find the musical language—the tone and the instruments—which would not only connect but also add something to the picture. It was an exciting challenge too! In addition to capturing the taste of the United States' South, but it was also the element of mystery and the unknown which was necessary here.
Were there certain moods that you wanted to convey in particular?
First of all, I wanted it to be a little bit of a counterpoint to the comedic element. I thought I shouldn't play comedy; I should be the opposite. Such a great performance from Bill Murray could call for music that is much lighter. I thought it would be interesting not to follow that and give a counterpoint instead. I figured that creating this independent world of sound with elements of bluegrass would be the perfect environment for characters to move. Occasionally, I went straight to the point. For example, when Felix invites Mary to walk, they walk through the forest. For the only time, I'm engaging the symphony orchestra without any electronic or bluegrass elements. This was a moment that called for purity of approach.
The symphony certainly adds that purity.
It was nice to escape it and then go back into that darkness of Felix's story. It was an exciting opportunity to use electronics in addition to the orchestra. I really like to combine elements [such as those], but many movies that came my way where period pieces. That obviously doesn't allow me to use contemporary language. This is such a unique film, and I got to speak with a voice that wasn't so obvious. The music doesn't one-hundred percent bow to any genre or direction.
Music supplies the emotional undercurrent.
The main tone attached to Felix works fine with his character and it supports the development of his story. Musically, it creates the mystery but it also prepares the stage for solving the mystery.
You got to expand the musical palette and utilize so many different colors.
Yeah, you touched a very important point. Every ambitious composer is serious about experiencing a very different kind of environment and extending their range. I love challenge and adventure.
Have you seen Get Low yet?