Green Knight Composer Daniel Hart chats with Michael Abels – Watch


Each partition is its own adventure, regardless of the equipment you go with or the number of people who can accompany the trip.

As composer Daniel Hart tackles a double-digit number of films he’s worked on with director David Lowery, both have an even wider range of past experiences to draw on. For “A Ghost Story” in 2016, Hart estimated that about 80% of the music that was part of the final cut was their first collective try.

The score for “The Green Knight”, a product of their latest partnership, is a poetic blend of centuries-old historical traditions and modern approaches. It appeals to a variety of art forms, some ancient and others much more immediate to any listener today. It’s a potent blend, and unlike results from half a decade ago, it took more than a few tries to perfect it.

“Almost none of the early versions worked. So we were banging our heads against the wall for a while, ”Hart said. “I’m going to look back on the things I did five or six years ago and hear the flaws more than the successes. But after working on it for over a year, at least now I’ve listened back and I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished and maybe even prouder because it took us so much longer. to succeed.

Hart recently spoke to fellow songwriter Michael Abels – who wrote the scores for “Get Out” and “Us” and is Emmy nominated several times this year for his work on the HBO documentary series “Allen v. Farrow” – on the process of writing music for “The Green Knight”. In a high-profile conversation (which you can watch in full above), the two spoke at length about some of the specific challenges of writing choral music.

In order to keep “The Green Knight” medieval veneer, Hart gave himself a crash course in a bygone form of English. This was to better create the pieces of songs that run throughout the film, sung at various times by a small choir and soloists Emma Fring, Katinka Vindelev and Atheena Frizzell.

“I’ve done quite a bit of research online on Middle English poetry and wording, spelling, phrasing and pronunciation,” Hart said. “What really caught my ear when I started working on it, and listening to Middle English poetry recited by people who seem to know how to pronounce things – at least fairly correctly the way they might have been. pronounced seven to seven. – eight hundred years ago – these are all the Scandinavian influences on the language that have all but disappeared from the way we speak English and the way the British speak English.

For the memorable choral opening of “Get Out,” Abels turned to a language that offered the kind of inherent lyrical nature that he knew lends itself well to a vocal piece. He was also working in a linguistic area that was as much about how a listener treated him as it was about the meaning of the words themselves.

“Ghosts don’t talk to us and don’t say, ‘Hey, I’m a ghost. And here’s what you need to do. They speak to us in dreams and metaphors. So it was necessary to cover up what they were saying, ”Abels said. “What languages ​​did the slaves speak? Well, it turned out that Swahili was not the most common language they spoke. But Swahili is a very musical language… I thought, well, Swahili is going to work because people will know it’s an African language, and it’s going to deny them the right to understand what they’re saying. And since Swahili is musical, I knew I could write in Swahili despite knowing almost no words in Swahili.

Abels’ second collaboration with director Jordan Peele ultimately spawned “Anthem,” another distinct introduction to a choir-rooted film. It was so memorable for Hart that he realized retroactively that it had some sort of a guiding effect on some of the early music on “The Green Knight”.

“I was writing this line called ‘Shaped By Your Hands’. In the movie, it happens near the beginning, in this long section of music. The King delivers his speech just before the Green Knight shows up, ”Hart said. “These are vocalizations. It’s very evenly distributed eighth notes. And it’s the same kind of vocalizations as in “Anthem”, but it had been at least a few months since I had listened to “Anthem”. I didn’t have it in mind when I was writing this. It wasn’t until later that I came back and thought, “Oh, I borrowed something here. “

“Anthem” in particular, as Abels explained, is a fascinating example of the meaning that the human brain can assign to syllables that do not necessarily belong to an existing language.

“It occurred to me, there is no nonsense. The ear makes something mean at all times. A baby cries, from the first sound he makes, you have to understand what the baby is trying to say. Trying to make sense of vocal sound is a human need, and it’s wired, ”Abels said. “So I thought, well, these words must sound like they’re a language and there must be a rhyming pattern.” It’s emotionally meant to be dark and a little scary, so it can’t seem warm and friendly. All of these things you would think about have come to me.

Vocals are far from the only musical tool Hart had. He recorded the violin and viola parts himself to form a sort of uncluttered string ensemble. For “The Green Knight” he also used an instrument called the nyckelharpa, which made an appearance in Mark Korven’s score for another A24 film in recent years, “The Witch” by Robert Eggers.

“It’s a medieval Swedish string instrument… I thought the timbre it creates would be ideal for something like ‘The Green Knight’. So I had a guy build one for me from Wisconsin and then I learned to play it for that score, ”Hart said. “It appears all over the score and sounds a bit like an old rusty violin. It’s a bowed string instrument, but instead of putting your fingers on the strings, like you would on a violin or guitar, or most stringed instruments, you play these wooden keys on the side. It’s like a medieval keytar, essentially. The keys dig into the string wherever you play, so it has a very punchy nature.

One of the most notable pieces of music from “The Green Knight” is played during and after the fateful encounter with the sword-wielding character that gives the film its title. “One Year Therefore” not only features a mysterious percussion sound (above, Hart explains in less transcribable terms how this particular sound was born) but one of the most resonant synth melodies in the film.

“And I just had fun doing demos. I didn’t even have the movie yet. I just got the script. They were still editing the film at this point. I was just doing demos based on ideas that I thought would work for what I had read and seen when I visited the set earlier that year, ”Hart said. “I came up with something that I was really excited about it and I was like, ‘I should record this.’ Maybe a month later… I came back to it. And it wasn’t the same. I remembered everything I had done. And I looked at my notes, and it didn’t sound. same. And I messed around for several nights trying to come back to this stuff that I had recorded as a demo. I never found it. I got really close, but there was a ghost in the machine that night -the.

For more on the sonic influences on the score for “The Green Knight” (“The Shining” and the late Jóhann Jóhannsson make an appearance) and a deconstruction of the very idea of ​​”musical influences”, watch the full conversation between Hart and Abels above.

“The Green Knight” is currently available to watch in theaters and will be available to watch on PVOD wherever you rent movies starting Thursday, August 19th. Hart’s sheet music is available for pre-order through the official A24 store.

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