Music For the Film Monster’s Ball
Composers Asche & Spencer discuss the Process…
In a fascinating open discussion alternating comments, the composers as well as the editors make comments on the hand in hand process of composing and editing the soundtrack for the film Monster’s Ball.
Marc Spencer said a lot of people don’t hear the music in films actually, that the score, the underscore, uh, because it should be very subtle, it shouldn’t be in your face. It should be in your subconscious, because once it is in your face, then you realize it and that’s a bad thing because in a sense you shouldn’t realize the camera and you shouldn’t realize the images. You should realized anything that…you just should ..all you should do is be part of the story.
Composer Thad Spencer said when we first read the script for the film and met, we had, varied ideas about what musical styles would work and what we wanted to do, but one theme that ran throughout all the ideas was that it had a very ambient texture, well, in pursuing that broad range of ideas, we decided that the best thing to do would be to limit our instrumentation, to actually use certain instruments and to only those instruments and not expand outside of those instruments, thus giving all the music a very minimal and all important feel.
Composer Richard Werbowenko said the majority of the instruments you hear are processed acoustic instruments (e.g. piano) or guitars, there are a lot of electric guitar textures that are put through different amplifiers, delays, reverbs, modulation effects to kinda create something that really has a long, kinda ‘drifty’ quality without it sounding the same.
Chris Beaty said we really stretched an event for what song we had… as far as we could stretch it and once you get it then, stretched like that, it’s hard to tell what they are.
I think the most complicated aspect of this was creating a style of music that didn’t draw a lot of attention to itself but gave a lot of meaning. ( movie clip shows Thorton saying “bye Pop” moving to get dressed.)
Having multiple composers was a real positive thing for the film. The three of us really bounced ideas off of each other.
If you were in a position where you were, got to a certain point on a piece of music and maybe wondering is this even any good, you could always draw one of the other composers into your room and ask “what do you think? is this horrible ? is this any good?
We all wrote different Ques we all -uh- helped each other perform and -uh- kinda conceptualized different Ques.
If there’s constant dialog between the people writing and uh, uh, true collaboration it works really well.
One of the designs of the music was to carry you through this and give you a sense of a persevering spirit, without necessarily saying every thing’s going to be o k and instead it was more something you could ride on through the whole film and it could help deliver you to a place that was more inside people and less about all the material things and crap that could happen to them.
The first place that you have to start is uh, you know, what is this scene saying, what is this scene really trying to emote, and whats the most subtle way to support what the scene is actually trying to express
Re-recording engineer Rick Asche said what I noticed here more than anything else and I was very happy about was that the music sorta played the over all theme of what the scene or that arc of scenes was doing so that we as a viewer actually got to understand a much bigger and broader picture of what’s going on with these characters.
If I’m totally reaching to music all the time then the music just becomes like emotional finger painting, as opposed to something that can hold water.
Overall I saw the film was very quite for me. I saw a lot of silences a lot breathing room in the film so the music only would come in, uh , in certain places, which would elevate and interrupt those silences in a very beautiful and emotional and magical way.
A lot of the music was written before the images were available to us, based on the script that we read, and, I’m really glad that we went about it that way, in that we weren’t always reaching to what was on the screen all the time, instead, it was the over all emotion that we got from reading the script.
When you don’t have to worry about an edit schedule or a specific timing, so your just allowed to write music very freely based on what you feel emotionally is gonna be happening in different parts of the film and then that music is simply delivered to the editor and director and they can sift through it and find what they like.
So it’s sort of hand in hand process between composer filmmaker and editor
Composer Matt Chesse’ said I started out with a bunch of their music that I, you know, that I laid it throughout the film, then I laid the film on them and let them absorb the mood with their score worked in there, but a lot of places were open for interpretation.
There’s a point at the end of the film where Latesha (Halle Berre’s character) comes into the kitchen and shes just found out that Hank (Billy Bob Thornton’s character) had a hand in executing her husband but we don’t know how upset she is
(All three together) you see the cameras doing this kinda slow pan thing (there we go) here we go , wait because he doesn’t even…starts to.. here we go, here we go… starts to creep in now…
Needed to support this tension, we didn’t want to point anybody…. in any particular direction
as to how they should feel.
All watching together again someone mutters “it’s cool” then plays guitar “maybe something like that?”
The end of the film gives people some resolve and the score definitely does that too. To the point that the end it’s a very simple melody. It’s giving you that little bit of hope, that little bit of resolve.
It’s important for us to come at that moment very artfully.
It was an opportunity for emotions in the film to stretch a little bit and so, it was also an opportunity for the music in the film to stretch a little bit.
The music in the score incorporates so much poetry on it’s own.
And that was,you know, that was our goal all along so you wouldn’t walk out of there singing the Monster’s Ball melody, but that you would, you know, remember the mood you got from it.
Directed by | Jon Baugh
Joel C. High
Vine St Studio
Asche & Spencer
Soundtrack available on | Lions Gate Records