The young composer Marco Valerio Antonini, winner of the Young Talent Award at the Krakow FMF 2018, was interviewed exclusively for SoundTrackFest by Gorka Oteiza during the festival, where he commented his participation in the awards, and how he approached the music that made him win the competition.
With over 80 entrants from 15 countries the level of this year’s competition was incredibly high, but Marco Managed to be selected by a jury led by Agnieszka Holland for “the sensitivity to cinematic tension and for writing music which creatively accompanies the narration rather than simply illustrating it”.
Marco, who was also the winner of the first edition of the Juan Gil Family Estates International Soundtrack Composition Prize in 2016 (follow link), has recently participated in the Los Angeles Live Score Film Festival (follow link).
You can watch the winner video for the Young Talent Award with his music here:
Marco, thank you very much for being here to talk about your experience for SoundTrackFest.
Yesterday you won the Young Talent Award here in Krakow. So tell me, how did you discover it and how did you decide to submit your work to this award?
I have been aware of the festival for many years, and also because one of the past winners, I think 2015, that is Antonio Di Iorio. He’s a friend of mine, Italian, and he lives in Los Angeles like I do, and so I knew that this was a very good competition for Film Music.
What I decided to do was to look into it this year because it was the second year after the USC program. I had more time to pay attention to the application and also because I saw that the clip, the video that they gave the participants to score, was about James Bond. And I am a fan of James Bond music. And in particular what I like about it is the evolution that there was from the old James Bond world of John Barry, all the way down to Thomas Newman in Spectre and a very modern style of scoring. So I thought, well, this can be a good opportunity to try to make a synthesis of all these different styles that have been characteristic of James Bond. They gave us only an orchestra and we could not use any electronics.
No samples, no…
No samples, no synths, no anything different than an orchestra. So, I said, well… I want to do a piece.
It has to be played at the gala so…
Yeah and also one of the most important parts of the contest is to show that you can prepare an orchestral score graphically in a proper way, so they prefer to have everything notated. So I said, let me do a piece that tries to combine the old style of James Bond from John Barry, with the new style of the latest films, the ones with Daniel Craig. So I tried to do this beginning which is … I’m trying to imitate the sound of pulsing scenes. They are characteristic of Spectre and Casino Royale as well. But using the orchestra instead of synths, and then in the end, going back to a little bit more of a “bond-y” theme that sounds like jazz.
Indeed. I think it was a perfect match for what we saw. Building the tension until the end when everything was like a “boom” everywhere… and then the music goes pushing, and pushing, and pushing the action forward.
Well, we were given a clip that technically is a gameplay clip. It’s not a cinematic but they cut it in a way that looked like a cinematic so I decided to score it like a scene from an action sequence, that’s not played but it’s just video. So I tried to, you know, score it hitting picture moments and cuts and changes in the action and things like that. For example, there’s these typical two-part form, where at the beginning you have these exploratory moments where they get the assignment for the mission. Then there’s when James Bond goes into the mission, which is in Istanbul, and we had a couple of chords that remind of Arabic music because that’s another typical thing of James Bond, if it’s in Venice you’ll hear something that’s very Italian. It’s a little bit old school.
Well, James Bond happens all over the world. Music usually tries to put bits of all the countries, so you can get that information in music.
Yeah, especially in this case. We go to Istanbul, but we go inside an underground place that might be everywhere.
Yeah, that’s true.
I thought the music should have the function of defining the geographical positions since it’s not on the screen. So I did that, and then a little suspense moment and then we go into the craziness of the action music. And again, the tools I used for the action music were at that point more old school because since we only have an orchestra, I tried to rely a lot on the strings, with very fast articulation, and those tools that were more proper of the John Barry way of scoring, but without that much of a jazz connotation. And also, because my background is not that.
In a three minute piece that you’ll listen in the concert, and then you move to the next one, it is funny how many things have been taken into consideration to build it and to create each section/part, really adding information to what is going on the screen. So… it is good to hear the process behind that from the creator…
Yes especially because this is a franchise that has so many… (I use a bad word but in a good way)… so many clichés that define what James Bond in music, that you cannot, in my opinion, do even in two minutes piece if you don’t take those into consideration. If you touch that kind of brand, you have to follow the style.
Indeed. You need to address those things. So you submitted your piece and then what?
We submitted, yes, it was a long process. I think I submitted around March and…
Did you submit only one piece?
Yes, it was only one piece.
No variations? Just one piece, with the score notated?
One piece, score and the video with the mockup of the score and the video, so it had to be mixed with dialogue, because they also evaluated how we mixed with dialogue. Everything was submitted in an anonymous form. So instead of the name we used four letters, two numbers code, so that there was no risk that if someone on the jury knows us, you get different treatment.
Not to favor anybody.
Exactly and they stayed anonymous to the end, because yesterday, many of the jury members were quite surprised that the guy that won it was me, because they only evaluated it on codes.
So we were notified via email that we were shortlisted to three finalists, and then I got this phone call. I remember I was in Los Angeles at the ASCAP awards. I was looking at the awards and then I went outside. I was in Hollywood and Highland, and the phone rings and it is a number +48 from Poland, and I said to myself, “I should pick this one up”… I’m pretty sure it was Agata on the phone saying that I had won. We kept it confidential until the official announcement.
Yeah, I know, but it’s strange because I saw on the website that it was going to be made public in April, and they didn’t. They changed their mind and decided to add more… Bond suspense to the thing, so that’s okay. (*laughs*)
Yes they did (*laughs*)
Okay so that’s perfect, that’s a good story for the theme. And then when you arrived in Poland, as a finalist, you had master classes, didn’t you?
Yes. The main points of entering the competition were two for me. The first one was to participate in these master classes. We had master classes with the most important composers, and one with Richard Bellis from ASCAP, which was a good comeback for me because I took his workshop in Los Angeles a couple years ago. And the other point was to have this piece performed by the Beethoven Academy Orchestra, which is nice for me because I am quite used to work with live instruments. I collaborate with composer Gordy Haab so I go very often to London to record in Abbey Road with the London Symphony, for Star Wars Battlefront mainly, but less often I work on a live situation. So having a piece that’s performed in concert, was more interesting than just recording, because you cannot pick up or stop or adjust the mix, so it has to sound good the way it is, and that was a challenge.
You have to make it work!
And it was very interesting for me. So that’s more or less the story behind the piece and the award.
Fantastic! So, Marco, I think that’s all for the moment. Thank you very much for your time and your inside information about the piece, and I hope we can do a full interview soon in the future.
I hope so. I have many interesting stories to share! (*laughs*)
Interview by Gorka Oteiza