Spanish composer Sergio Moure de Oteyza, an old friend of SoundTrackFest, recently chatted with Gorka Oteiza and offered this exclusive interview in which he talks about his work in the television series Six Sisters, how does he compose for documentaries with Isaac Kerlow, the edition of his music for the film Reliquias by Rosetta Records, his work in the short film Patria, and the release of his double compilation CD “Sergio Moure de Oteyza – Film Music Works (2005-2017)” with Karonte Distribuciones (from which you can find some excerpts below).
Hello Sergio! It’s been a little more than a year and a half since we did the last interview, in which we talked about your music for the ballet “Son” (read interview), and a few things have happened since then, right?
Hi there Gorka! Yes, time flies and fortunately projects have not stopped since then.
Well, then let’s start talking about the television series Six Sisters, a TV series that has been quite long and has kept you busy, right? How is it to work on a series of more than 200 episodes? How is music prepared for such a TV series?
Actually, there were almost 500 episodes, 496 exactly!
So many! Well… the reference in IMDB is 254 and that’s only half of the total…
Yes, yes, it hasn’t been updated, but in fact, there were many more episodes… 496!
In the end, that’s many hours of music, right? How do you approach a project of this magnitude, musically speaking?
In these cases, a thematic base is prepared with more or less 2 – 3 hours of music from which the whole soundtrack is derived, a base that marks the emotional tone that the series must have. Using those 2 – 3 hours of original music, editions and variations are made, but everything has to pivot on that music, otherwise, it would sound very unnatural.
Initially, we recorded an hour and a half of music, but then I was composing new themes for the series as it progressed. In the first episode, which is an hour and a half, we worked like a movie, synchronizing the music to the scenes and making music adapted to the images, but from the third or fourth episode and on, that way of working is not viable in a daily series, since you depend on editing, mixing and many other factors. So they asked me additional material as they needed it, for example, a theme for a specific scene or a character, and I was sending new music to them, so in the end, I finished composing a total of 5 or 6 hours of music.
And speaking about the tone, how did you decide the tone or style the music should follow? How did you find the right point that the story was demanding?
Being a series that is happening in 1913, at the beginning of the century, the tone was quite classical, orchestrally speaking. I used mostly strings section, piano, and some woodwind instruments, but harmonically and stylistically the music follows classical melodies. There are sweeter moments, dramatic moments, more roguish moments, and the music also had to reflect that. It is a daily television series where many things had to happen, and the music had to go according to it. The truth is that it was a great job and I enjoyed doing it a lot because apart from the underscore, I also had to make diegetic music (music that coexists with the characters and allows them to interact with it). There was a bar / café-concert where cuplé, habanera, and other music of that era was played for the characters, which I also had to compose.
Well, if you get to publish the music of Six Sisters, it would be nice to include all that diegetic music also, right?
I’m talking about it to a record company to see if I can get to publish a double CD with two hours of music. The soundtrack was recorded with the Gaos Symphony Orchestra of La Coruña, and the truth is that it was very good. That orchestra is composed of young musicians, who put a lot of effort and I am very happy with the result.
After the series Six Sisters, your next “big job”, the one that has been taking most of your time, has been composing for documentaries, right? If I’m not mistaken, you are collaborating with Isaac Kerlow in Asia. Tell us about your Asian adventure.
Documentaries with Isaac Kerlow began in 2008. He is a film director but has also been director of animation at Disney – United States. While he was in Los Angeles, he was proposed to be a resident artist for the University of Singapore and for Microsoft in Asia. Shortly after being there, Isaac came to La Coruña for work reasons and was introduced to me. We liked each other, we saw that we tuned in and that the ways of working we had were very similar and that’s when a good relationship began. We started our first collaboration together with the documentary People-Coral-Mentawai (2009) about the volcanoes in Sumatra, and then we continued making another 8-10 more documentaries; sometimes I forget the number (*laughs*).
Another documentary we also worked on was Mayon: The Volcano Princess (2010) that we recorded here with the Galicia Symphony Orchestra. Some documentaries are almost short films in terms of duration, since they are around 20 minutes long, while others usually last about 40 minutes, being like medium-length films. Now, for example, I am going to start a documentary with Isaac for television called Tsunami, which lasts an hour and a half and would be a full-length film, where we will work together until mid-January.
From what I can see you are reaching a point where you have done almost as many documentaries as movies, if not more…
The truth is that I have a few documentaries behind me and it is a genre that I like very much. Isaac works for the Earth Observatory of Singapore, which analyzes the geological phenomena of the area. He started making more scientific oriented documentaries, but now he has much more focus on human content. In this last documentary we are doing, we intend to talk with channels like National Geographic to give it more publicity, because the truth is that it has a very good quality and the subject is very interesting, not only for scientists, but for the general public.
All these documentaries are very focused on the Southeast Asian region, and I imagine that their music will be set there too. Am I right?
Indeed! For the music I have been documenting a lot about the instruments of the area and the traditional music there. In fact, at this point I know the area quite well (*laughs*) and even went there once too!
Looking at your biography, we can see that you have also made more documentaries collaborating with different directors.
As a result of working with Isaac, I started to become more interested in the documentary genre and I have done others such as Railway to Heaven (2012, directed by Alexis Racionero), which is a documentary about a trip from China to Tibet, which I also enjoyed a lot because I had to make Asian-inspired music. Recently I’ve worked on The Unknown Battle (2017) directed by Paula Cons who was also the executive producer of the movie Dirty Wolves (2015), narrating the story of Wolfram mines and the Nazis in Spain during the Franco regime, during the Second World War.
The truth is that composing for documentaries is very rewarding since the topics are interesting and there is always a lot of place for music, so the music it can develop and convey ideas. It is a genre in which I find myself very comfortable.
At the moment I’m working on another very interesting documentary called Los Pasos de la Mariposa that deals with the figure of Norma Aleandro, a very famous Argentinean actress of cinema and theater. Its director is Carlos Duarte, who called me because he liked my job and told me he wanted us to do a project together. He is a director who also understands very well the role of music.
So you can say that I am currently quite involved composing for documentaries.
From what I see, if we blink, you will leave the world of cinema and you will dedicate yourself to documentaries…
(*laughs*) I don’t think so… but it is true that I like to compose for documentaries, since there are many images that must be described and accompanied with music, helping to their understanding, and that is a pleasant task. I am also a curious person and I like to learn and investigate new things, and documentaries favor this, since they describe situations different from those we live in, and they force you to read, learn and change your point of view for a moment.
Composers usually don’t like to be categorized in a genre. Are you afraid of being type-casted to documentaries?
Well, as you know, last year I composed the music for a contemporary dance ballet (called “Son”) that premiered in Galicia and that has made its debut in Madrid this year. It has been very successful and it seems to be scheduling more performances soon. So, as you can see, I do a little bit of everything, and I get jobs of all kinds, not just films and documentaries. I really like making music for dance and theater, and I also like to diversify.
Composers who make film music are mainly composers, and to develop our craft we have to expand a little bit our field of action and our field of vision.
Let’s talk now about your music for Reliquias (2011), which has been released recently by Rosetta Records, a score for a TV movie that hadn’t been edited previously. It is one of your few scores for movies that wasn’t already published, right? How did the idea of this edition happen?
The truth is that it was a great surprise because as you said, I’m lucky that practically all my soundtracks have been published by Karonte Distribuciones (except for Extinction that was edited by Varèse Sarabande).
“Reliquias” is a small TV movie from 2011 that I made for Galician Television and that was produced by Filmax. It is set in the medieval times, in a monastery where mysterious murders happen, and there is an investigation, and well… I will not tell you more (*laughs*). The story is very well written and it is a pity that it has not been released as a feature film, because it is a very good story.
When they proposed me the project I wanted to use medieval instruments for music and since there was very little budget, I convinced some friends to participate in the project. For example Ernesto Briceño who is a Venezuelan violinist who lives in Barcelona and with whom I have worked on some soundtracks, and who also conducted the symphony orchestra in the movie Unconscious; my first soundtrack. He helped me to put together a small string group where I played the Portuguese guitar and the mandolin, and we recorded everything in my studio. We also had the collaboration of the voice of Constanza Ribas, who also sang the tango of Unconscious. The truth is that I am very happy with the result.
That recording was used for the film and had very good reviews, because despite being made for a “TV movie” with low budget, it was very good. But in the end it was stored and forgotten in a drawer.
Earlier this year Antonio Piñera called me and told me he was starting up a record label, Rosetta Records, which was going to publish discontinued soundtracks or soundtracks that had not been released before, and asked me if I had any soundtrack that could fit and that I would like to publish.
I told him about “Reliquias”, he was very interested, I sent the score to him, he liked it, and the truth is that I am very excited to have this soundtrack released. They have also done a great job since the quality is very good, the design is great, and the comment by Antonio Pardo that comes in the booklet is very good and very well written.
So, the project that you mentioned before to edit the soundtrack for Six Sisters… Would it also be with Rosetta Records?
That’s it! After this first positive experience, we are talking and looking how we can edit the music of Six Sisters on a double CD. At first we thought that maybe the Spanish Television (TVE) would like to edit it, but talking to them they told us that they would not do it, and that both TVE and the production company have no problems if we I it with Rosetta, so I hope that the project gets green light soon.
Changing subject, let’s talk about a project that you have recently scored, the short film Patria (2017) directed by Alejandro Lobo. Tell us how you get to the project and how you approach its music.
The truth is that it has a lot of music for a short film. Most shorts usually have a couple of themes and if anything else, another theme in the final credits (if they have one), but in this case, we are talking about a 15-minute short film that has music almost all the time, just over 10 minutes, so the music is quite present.
Alejandro Lobo contacted me, he told me that he liked my job and that he would like me to be part of his short film. He sent me the script, I liked it, and I told him to count on me. Then they shot it, they sent me a somewhat advanced montage and he told me how he wanted the music to be. The short is about an interrogation session that happens in a police station and the music is very present, accompanying and maintaining the tension all the time.
The experience was very good, since Alejandro is a very talented director and he knows what he wants. Doing a short film is very difficult, because you have very little time to tell the story and you have to be very precise, but I think that in this case, he passed the test with flying colors. I met him personally at the Festival of Córdoba (if my memory does not fail me), and the first impression was good. I hope I will collaborate with him on more occasions in the future.
We are getting close to the end of this interview and we will do so with a surprise that you have prepared for us for this Christmas, since a double compilation CD with a selection of your music is going to be edited. A double CD called “Sergio Moure de Oteyza – Film Music Works (2005-2017)”. How did the project start and how did you select the themes for the double CD?
This project has been “a gift” from Fernando Rosado – Karonte, the record label with which I have edited practically all my soundtracks since Unconscious in 2004. Fernando proposed me the idea of making a special compilation that would have a selection of music from my published soundtracks, and also some themes from other works that had not been edited (such as documentaries).
This compilation is like a brief stop, it is like looking back on all these years of work and then continuing on the road.
Although it seems that releasing a compilation is something easy because you rely on existing material, actually we have been working on it for almost a year, as it is a very careful edition, with a booklet of nearly 50 pages with comments on all my soundtracks and with a very extensive text about my music written by David Rodríguez.
In addition it includes a lot of music that had not been released before, such as a couple of themes from the film Here’s the deal (2013), which was not edited because there were only 20 minutes of music, or cues from some shorts like Iguana Hunter and Absent that I did with Guillermo Asensio that I liked, or documentaries with Isaac Kerlow as Mayon Volcano and Time Rojak. There are some oddities and a lot of things that had never been published and I think you will like it.
The album comes out first in a physical format – Digipack and will be available on large surfaces (such as FNAC and Corte Inglés for example) and then it will appear on all the main digital platforms: Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, etc…
The truth is that it looks very good and I am sure that the fans will be grateful for this edition, and even more now that Christmas arrives, since it seems like a perfect gift (*laughs*).
(*Laughs*) Yes, because if I’m not mistaken, the disc is already out on the street. Also, shortly I will be traveling to Madrid and La Coruña to promote the album. We are organizing some meetings/conferences to present the CD, where I will be accompanied by directors and friends to talk about our work together and my music.
That is a really good idea. And if you accompany those events with live music, like you playing the piano or the guitar, it would be fantastic!
(*Laughs*) I’ll think about it!
And talking about live music, do you have any concerts in sight? Any live events with your music soon? And for the rest of the projects that you’re working on, what is happening in the following months?
Talking about live music, I have a commission from the Galician Chamber Orchestra, a work that I have been composing for a few months now and that will be presented soon.
Talking about the rest of my works, first I have to finish several documentaries with which I am halfway through, and I also have some very cool film and television projects for the beginning of this year that I cannot talk about… yet (*laughs*).
In addition, at the moment I am also working on the movie La Jauría (2018) written and directed by Carlos Martín Ferrera, with whom I have already worked on a TV movie for TV3 some years ago that was called Código 60 (2011). La Jauría is a film shot in a month with a very small budget, but with high quality and I think it will be very well received.
On the other hand, there is the short Mouras (2018) by Olga Osorio, a very good director with whom I had previously worked on 2 other short films, shorts that had many awards, and who is having calls to start directing feature films. Mouras is a short that talks about the fairies of the forest, the spirits, which are called Mouras in Galician.
Well, I see that you won’t have time to get bored and you will end 2017 very busy and you will start 2018… even busier!
And let’s hope it continues that way! (*laughs*)
Thank you very much for your time Sergio, it’s been a pleasure to chat with you, as always. Let’s hope everything goes great in the release of this double CD, which will surely be very well received by fans of film music in particular and fans of music in general.
I hope so! Many thanks to you and to SoundTrackFest for the interview!
Interview by Gorka Oteiza