14 Peaks on Netflix: Behind the Scenes with the Documentary’s Orchestral Score Composer
14 summits: nothing is impossible is Netflix’s latest blockbuster documentary, chronicling the journey of Nepalese mountaineer Nirmal ‘Nims’ Purja in his quest to climb the 14 world peaks of 8,000 meters in seven months, breaking one of the toughest mountaineering records .
The documentary has landed on netflix with epic images from Purja’s journey accompanied by a breathtaking orchestral score by the Anglo-Indian composer Nainita Desai. She previously scored the Oscar nominated film 2020 For Sama, and wrote for the big and small screen.
The score was recorded at Abbey Road Studio 1 in London by the London Contemporary Orchestra, under the direction of conductor Robert Ames. This is by far their first foray into the soundtracks, having previously played sheet music for video games, documentaries and films such as Phantom thread. The conductor, Galya Bisengalieva, plays the violin solos heard throughout the score.
These solo lines are associated with a rich and broad orchestral playing. “I knew the ropes would be a huge feature, as they could handle the vast landscapes of the area, but I could also bring it down to a single emotion, with privacy and warmth,” Desai explains.
Approaching the score, she admits that she was initially intimidated by the scale of the production and the stories told on screen. “The huge challenge I faced was to match the scale of the imagery with the music,” she says. “There are 14 mountains to climb here. The challenge is to represent the climbing of each mountain in a different way. ‘
The choice of instrumentation for the score was a bit easier. “I knew from the start that the sound palette would be symphonic,” she says. “I use the orchestra in a very contemporary and modern way to appeal to a universal audience, but also to bring out elements of cultural heritage. “
She has researched the sounds of landscapes and communities depicted on screen, in particular the sound universes and traditional music of Nepal. “I love doing research,” she says. “Writing the score for this film was like preparing my own mountain climb.
“You hear bits of plucked sheet music that are local to the area. The way the strings are played is hoarse and raw, to convey the local instrumentation you find in Nepalese music. ‘
It was the wilds and intricate human emotions central to Purja’s story that inspired Desai’s score. After all, Purja was constantly exploring the line between life and death while scaling these epic mountains. “It shows what it means to be human,” she said. “The music had to sum up the immense range of emotions and the experience he was having.”
14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible is available to watch on Netflix now.