34th Edition of the Goya Awards – Meeting with the composers nominated for the best original soundtrack

Yesterday, Friday, January 24, a special meeting was held in Malaga with the composers nominated for the best original soundtrack, in this 34th edition of the Goya Awards, which will be held in a few hours: Arturo Cardelús, Alberto Iglesias (absent due to illness), Pascal Gaigne, and Alejandro Amenábar; a meeting moderated by Luis Ivars (read news).


Reme Díaz attended this meeting, and offers us this special article, to tell us what was discussed there.


The celebration of the 34th Edition of the Goya Awards in Malaga today January 25, 2020 has come accompanied with a series of previous activities since last 13 and until January 24, which have allowed us to watch the projections of the nominated films, exhibitions and meetings with professionals of the sector like the one we enjoyed yesterday in the Auditorium of the Picasso Museum in Malaga with the composers nominated for the best original soundtrack.


The meeting began somewhat late because there was an incidence at the organizational level, among those attending the previous meeting with the directors and producers nominated for best Ibero-American film, people waiting in line in the rain and guests who also queued to get access. Finally, the auditorium was filled with admirers (many of them waiting to see especially Amenábar or Iglesias) and we were grateful to also reunite with some of the best of the Málaga music scene (Isabel Royán, Paloma Peñarrubia or Eneko Vadillo).


José Lebrero, Artistic Director of the Picasso Malaga Museum, made a brief introduction to the meeting, relating Picasso’s work to the cinema and recalling the close collaboration that the museum has been making with other events of the “Festival de Málaga. Cine en Español” since its beginning. He gave way to the presenter of the meeting, the composer and member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of Spain Luis Ivars, and the guest composers: Arturo Cardelús, Pascal Gaigne, and Alejandro Amenábar. Alberto Iglesias’ assistance was planned but, to the greater disappointment of the audience, the composer had pneumonia and could not finally go. The public regretted not being able to meet closely one of the most awarded and recognized Spanish composers inside and outside our country, definitely one of the great claims of the meeting that hours ago kept the composer among the participants of the event in its advertising on social networks.


Unlike the meetings we attend in other festivals such as MOSMA, its format was based on an introduction of the composers by Luis Ivars and a brief explanation of the compositions or a comment by the musicians, without a colloquium at the end with the public (due to the delay of the start for reasons beyond the control of the participants) or without that panel-discussion format that allows dialogue and exchange of impressions so enriching in these events. However, the feeling on stage was distended and we enjoyed the comments and experiences of the composers.

Arturo Cardelús (nominated for the music created for “Buñuel en el laberinto de las tortugas” and who we already met in Malaga for being one of the guests of MOSMA 2019) was the first to intervene after the introduction of Luis Ivars, where he reflected on that new generation of young composers who have a lot to say in the music scene of Spanish cinema. After briefly describing the story told in the film (also nominated for the best animated film in this edition of the Goya Awards), he described how the creative process was with director Salvador Simó. The first thing was to know the main topic, according to Salvador, the friendship between Luis Buñuel and Ramón Acín. Already in his studio, Arturo chose to make two differentiated blocks, each in reference of the two characters: Buñuel representing the chaos, the surreal, the imagination and the uprooting and Acín the person in charge, with his feet on the ground and well seated in the society. Once he explained some technical questions about rhythms and harmonies, like if we were attending an interesting master class of musical composition, several clips of the film were projected to verify those nuances so differentiated between both blocks / characters in his soundtrack.


Pascal Gaigne (winner of the Goya for best original soundtrack for “Handía” in 2018 and nominated in 2017 for “El Olivo”) made us see the importance not only of music but of silences in cinema. “The infinite trench”, the film for which he is nominated in this edition, is a story of psychological torture and claustrophobia at a time in the history of Spain where the losers have to flee (a point in common with the story told by Amenábar) or held back to survive. In fact, the first piece of music doesn’t break in, strongly indeed, until the 30th minute of the film. Including so little music, and at very specific times to emphasize the strength of the story, helps convey that sense of “stretching the time” that the film tells.


Pascal acknowledges that when someone asks him how he composes a soundtrack he usually replies that he has no idea (who would say it!). When he thinks that over the years he has everything under control, he listens to the work of other composers and is amazed at what they have achieved, which makes him rethink and experiment. For example, in “The Inifinte trench / La trinchera infinita” he uses the Spanish guitar to get you to the land where the events take place (Andalusia) but also mixes orchestral music with electronic touches that help you achieve that choking and hopeless tone of the film.


Regarding to working with three directors, he jokes at the beginning commenting that “if it is difficult with one, imagine with three”, but laughingly he recognizes that surprisingly it was easier than expected because in fact a kind of democracy was formed with “absolute majorities” in which decisions were made by breaking up sometimes and giving up in another times, making the sessions with the directors very funny.


And from having three directors, we get to Alejandro Amenábar, who in “While at War / Mientras dure la guerra” acts as director and composer at the same time. Asked for this, and after thanking Luis for his assistance, Amenábar tells us that in his case, who guides him is his producer, Fernando Bovaira. In fact, he confesses that he was not sure whether to compose the music for this film but that he spent all the filming humming the main theme, so the team encouraged him to compose it, because he already had it in his head. He considers himself a very musical person, who needs music to tell stories, and thinks that life without music would be very sad. For this film he was inspired by compositions such as the “Concierto de Aranjuez” by Joaquín Rodrigo, or Falla, composers who had been forced into exile as Unamuno himself. In his arrangements what cost him most was to find Unamuno’s theme because, like in other occasions, he was discarding some pieces composed by him to achieve a better result in the film as a whole.


Luis Ivars closed the event again apologizing in the name of Alberto Iglesias for not being able to attend the meeting or even answer the phone due to his health issue, and yet he transferred to the public some ideas that the composer of “Pain & Glory / Dolor y gloria” had written to him. One of the characteristics that Iglesias comments on working with Almodóvar is the speed with which he edits his films, something that forces him to compose maybe with a maximum of two months. “Dolor y gloria” is a choral film where the composition is endowed with seven different themes. Although Almodóvar clarifies at the beginning of the process what are the limits he wants to reach with music, he finally depends more on the composer’s own creativity, and seeing where it takes him to better tell the story, without putting boundaries to that brilliant creativity that both have in their respective functions as director and composer. One of the clearest examples is the clip that we could see, with the themes “Geography” and “Anatomy”, where Iglesias first composed the theme with the voice of Almodóvar as a model and then the sequence was mounted very precisely so that the infographic and Antonio Banderas’ voice fit that original mix of instrumental music and descriptive sounds (tinnitus beeps, wheezing, etc.).


A masterpiece like all the ones that today compete for the Goya Award for the best original soundtrack, each with its own voice and different style, reflecting the varied musical landscape in Spanish cinema. The meeting was closed without questions due to lack of time, wishing all the composers good luck and thanking the audience for their assistance. Let’s see who is finally the winner, although, as they say, the nomination recognizing the work done is already a triumph for everyonb. Good luck Maestros!


Article by Reme Díaz