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Composer Interview: Going To Town With David Buckley

posted Sep 27, 2010, 7:03 PM by Kaya Savas

I got a chance to once more ask Dave a few questions about his recent collaboration with Harry Gregson-Williams on the new Ben Affleck film The Town. David talks about the collaborative process, using electronics as an instrument and much more.

Kaya:

Hey David thanks again for answering some quick questions about The Town. I just finished my first listen and have to say it was fantastic.


David:

Hi Kaya. Glad you enjoyed it.


Kaya:

Now, you and Harry go ways back and you two are no strangers to the collaborative process. Was working together this time any different than in the past?


David:

Yes, Harry and I have worked together in the past, whether me as an additional composer on his projects or he a score producer on mine. What was different with The Town was that we co-wrote the score, meaning we both went through all the agonies and ecstasies that that entails!


Kaya:

How much time did you guys have to score this? Was it a scramble or were you able to breathe easy most of the time and have that rare luxury?


David:

However much time one has, it always seems stressful. We were fortunate to be left to our own devices at the start of the process and during this time we were able to play around with ideas. Compared to doing a TV show, for example, this is quite a luxury as the turnaround for this is insanely fast. So we did have time to try some options ­ some of which lasted and some of which now languish on the hard drive!


Kaya:

Looking at the CD we have around 42 minutes of score. In the end how much music did you two record total for the film? How hard is it to essentially downsize your work to fit on a CD release?


David:

I think we recorded about 60 odd minutes for the film. Maybe a little more. Presenting the music we composed and recorded for the film as a soundtrack album is a job in itself. Underscore that would have been the perfect compliment to the film is not every listener's dream track. So there was a certain amount of assembly needed and also a structure that would give the album a sense of growth and cohesion.


Kaya:

The score’s style is very electronic heavy as was to be expected. I always wondered how does a composer write for electronic music? For instance did you guys fool around with certain sounds until you found what worked then lay down instruments on top? I guess to simplify, what comes first? Electronics or live instrumentation?


David:

In a sense, the compliment of electronica with acoustic instruments is no different to the blending of woodwinds, brass, strings and percussion in a purely orchestral score. It would be a very pedestrian creative process to say, alright I’ve written my string parts, now I will do the brass. The elements are co-dependent and inextricably linked. Of course, whereas the techniques and styles of acoustic instruments have been pretty thoroughly explored over the last two thousand years, there is still un-chartered territory with electronic music. Therefore time is allocated to creating sounds, recording unfamiliar instruments and mangling them, but always in the knowledge that these are a component of a larger picture.


Kaya:

The score is very atmospheric and has that beautiful recurring piano theme, however there are moments that bring the sense of urban warfare to mind. Was the idea to approach this solely as a crime thriller or were there other ideas behind the score?


David:

If you’ve seen the film, you will realize that there is more to the story than bank heists; other themes also come into play. To the protagonists, robbing banks is a way of life, a trade passed down from father to son. What gives the film depth is seeing these rough and tough men of Charlestown cope with family, friendships, love and loss. These complex emotions informed us about where our music could go; the score is edgy and dark, but also lyrical and redemptive.


Kaya:

Looking at not just your own work here but film scoring as a whole. What do you believe makes a good film score?


David:

I still consider myself a relative newcomer to this game, so I don't feel over-qualified to make any sweeping comments in that respect. While I write, whether for TV or film, I do try and let my music be a counterpoint to the other artistic processes. We can't all be telling the same story in the same way all the time. There needs to be ebb and flow - give and take. To be able to achieve this fluidity and still write memorable music is surely a sign of good film music.


Kaya:

Looking up ahead we know Harry is busy at work on Tony Scott’s Unstoppable. Anything for you on the horizon we should be anticipating?


David:

The second season of The Good Wife (Tony Scott also) is now in full swing, so that will keep me occupied for the moment. And, clichéd though it may be, I might add there are one or two things in the pipeline! 


Kaya:

Well it’s always great to be able to pick your brain. All the best, and thanks again.


David:

Thanks Kaya a pleasure, and all the best to you.



Harry and David's score to The Town is now available digitally and on CD.
Check out my review of The Town here.
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