Earlier this year, Native Instruments invited score composers working at the cutting edge of film to create a composition for The Red Balloon, live at Native Sessions LA.
Drum & Lace, Ian Hultquist, Xander Singh, and RYAT all worked together create a score from scratch, producing a haunting, yet charming musical work in sync with the classic French short. Native Instruments spoke to Drum & Lace (AKA. Sofia Hultquist) and Ian Hultquist about their approach to the project and work as composers of film scores.
How did you decide to make a score for the movie The Red Balloon?
D & L: Ian and I were looking for an iconic film to re-score a scene from, but had to keep a few elements in mind. The film had to be in the public domain, and we preferred one that didn’t have any dialog. The Red Balloon was on our list and it happened to check off both of those.
What gear/instruments did you use?
IH: The first instrument we started writing on was Una Corda. This has quickly become my favorite piano to write on, as it’s so inspiring and unique-sounding. We also utilized a lot of the Komplete instruments, namely Absynth and FM8, as those have a really interesting, organic quality to some of the patches that we really wanted to take advantage of.
How did all the collaborators come together?
D & L: Ian and I collaborate on a lot of scores and projects together, so it was easy for us to work together on this. We then wanted to pull in two other artists, and Xander Singh and RYAT seemed like a great fit.
What are your musical backgrounds?
D & L: I’ve been singing and playing music as long as I can remember. Ian and I actually met in college when we were both studying film scoring at Berklee College of Music many years ago. A few years after undergrad I went on to get a Masters in Music Tech (3D audio specifically) from NYU and have since been writing music and doing sound design-related work.
IH: The first instrument I actually picked up was the alto sax in my fifth grade jazz band, At Berklee in the Film Scoring program, I started to play more and more keyboards. Then that led me into starting up the band Passion Pit, where I dived fully into the synth world.
Do you think there is a natural progression from producer/musician to scoring?
D & L: There definitely can be, but I don’t think it’s as easy of a transition as most people think. In scoring, you’re often composing music that has to support someone else’s story, and if you’ve been used to writing and producing your own music (with your own narrative and rules), it can be humbling and hard to make that change.
Is there a specific movie score or composer that inspired you to compose?
D & L: I’ve always had a soft spot for Thomas Newman’s scores, ever since movies like The Player and American Beauty. Also, Mark Isham’s score to Crash at the time really helped cement the idea that scores can be something different than the orchestral classics. Oh and I’m forever and always inspired by everything that Cliff Martinez creates.
IH: John Williams is definitely one of the first composers who perked my ears up to film music. The scores that really inspire me are the ones that can combine the classical, electronic, and experimental worlds together. Johann Johansson’s score for Prisoners is one that really made me excited about what you can do within a score. There have also been some incredible TV scores lately like Max Richter’s for The Leftovers, and Jeff Russo on Fargo.
When we think of film composers, we envision big, beautiful studios or creative spaces with all the technology one could need. Is this still the reality or could you write scores in the hotel room on your laptop?
IH: Absolutely! Every note I wrote from 2012 till last fall was all on my laptop. I wouldn’t say it’s ideal, but it 100% can be done.
What future projects do you have coming up?
D & L: I’m currently finishing up my first solo feature-length documentary called Invisible Hands, while also co-scoring a documentary about Andre Leon Talley with Ian and the team behind The First Monday in May. I’ll also be releasing a remix EP of my track “Sunrise” on August 4th.
IH: Right now I am working on a really exciting new film called Assassination Nation. I also just had a documentary called Mommy Dead & Dearest premiere on HBO, and I recently just released my score to a beautiful documentary called Bronx Gothic on my label imprint, Little Twig Records.