Since Koyaanisqatsi and its
companion pieces Naqoyaqatsi and Powaqqatsi did not employ text, how did you view the role
of the music for these films?
did it reel by reel. Godfrey would show me an assemblage of images; the
editor hadnÕt really cut it, but I knew what the subject would be. For
example, it might be a whole section of clouds; I didnÕt know exactly how
it would be cut, but I knew the subject was clouds and it would be seven or
eight minutes long.
I was able to go far ahead of the process; I knew Godfrey would be shooting
the opening images at the Serra Pelada mine in Northern Brazil, and I wrote
10 minutes of music to fit Serra Pelada; then we recorded a demo of that,
and then went to Serra Pelada, and the cinematographer was listening to the
music when he was filming. I began to understand that the synchronization
of music and film can happen in many different ways, not necessarily the
way that we normally do it.
The process of synchronization is not necessarily a formula; itÕs a
process. If you stop using the formula and you go back to the process, very
interesting things can happen. As you know, films are types of work that
tend to honor the past rather than pursuing experimental concepts. That
doesnÕt mean you canÕt make beautiful films; Mishima: A Life in Four
which I did with Paul Schrader, was done as kind of a combination Ņ we
talked a lot about it, and then I proposed a way of working, then was able
to find a way to proceed. With Paul, I was able to find yet another way of
working, which actually made it a lot easier to do the The Hours later on, because Mishima, like The Hours, plays with time. I found a
way of playing with time with Mishima; I had to change it for The Hours, but as least I had an
your scores for films where the text or edited structure is front and
center, such as The
Hours or The
Truman Show, how do you see the musicÕs function in relation to that
text and imagery?
you have a story that takes place in three different decades. ItÕs kind of
the same story but told in three different ways, and when I saw the film I
realized that one way to do this story would be with three different pieces
for three kinds of scenes. But I chose to do the same theme in all three
places, and I felt that by doing that I could take a rope and yank the
movie together, because there was a centrifugal force to the story, it
seems to spin you out of the center. And I wanted to go back into the
thought the story was about how the barriers of time begin to disappear as
the continuity of subject and emotion becomes more outstanding. Using the
same theme for all three settings made you consider the emotional point of
view of the solid being crossing over.
mid-Õ90s saw you undertake a series of re-scorings of films by Jean
Cocteau, including La Belle et la Bte, in which you actually replaced the
original music with your own new composition.
wasnÕt really about replacing the original music, a beautiful score by
Georges Auric, which I admired. What I was interested in was, I knew that
people were making movies out of operas, but could I reverse the process?
Could I make an opera out of a movie? It was about redefining the
relationship between narrative and music. And very interesting things
happened which I had no idea would happen. In the film Orphe we look at it from the point
of view of Cocteau Ņ weÕre looking at it through a camera lens; youÕre
looking at what he wants you to see. When you take Orphe and turn it into an opera,
youÕre looking at a stage; then your eye is free to look over the whole
I tried to change that process by fitting the opera text into an existing
film. With Les Enfants Terribles, we created a tableaux of dance in which the
three sets of couples stack behind each other, each telling the same story,
and IÕm using the text from the film to tell the story.
things are all different ways of asking the question, How does music and
film and movement go together? If you ask that question without accepting a
formula, then you find a different answer.
any kind of music for film or for stage, isnÕt the key challenge in how not
to be too literal in oneÕs interpretation of the images and/or text?
now IÕm doing an opera about Kepler, and I did an opera aboutGandhi, and
someone said, Well, I liked the album, but you know Gandhi wasnÕt like
that. And I said, Yes, for one thing, he couldnÕt sing.
we talk about opera, or when we talk about film, weÕre talking about
poetry. Film is not history, film is poetry. Opera is not history, opera is
poetry. And the relationship of film and opera is extremely interesting,
because in both of those forms all of the elements are collaborationally
present Ņ text, image, movement and music. Those are the four elements Ņ
the air, fire, water and earth Ņ that film and opera share. When you put
them together, you have opera, and now we have film.