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'Harry Potter' composer on new monster movie

  • Story Highlights
  • Award-winning film-score composer Patrick Doyle on his latest work, "Igor"
  • Doyle on the process of writing a film score -- and how to create an iconic soundtrack
  • Doyle: "I give animation the same reverence I would give to William Shakespeare"
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By Pete Sorel-Cameron and Mairi Mackay
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Since receiving the Ivor Novello award for best film theme for his work on Kenneth Branagh's "Henry V" in 1989, Patrick Doyle's compositions have been a sought after commodity in the film world.

Composer Patrick Doyle, famous for his work on films like "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," talks about composing the score for the animated film "Igor."

Writing the music for a number of major blockbusters, Doyle has produced some well-known themes, including the music from "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" and "Calendar Girls."

"The Screening Room" (TSR) caught up with Doyle (PD), who worked on the upcoming animated feature "Igor," and started by asking him how he goes about composing the score for a feature film.

(PD): In the old days it was all done with pencils and rubbers, you know. What I normally do is write the main theme first. It used to be exhausting work, but nowadays machines transform it.

(TSR): Creatively how did you go about coming up with the themes?

(PD): When I originally presented the opening of this movie as a piece of music it was quite a dark thing, and I felt that it need more action in it so I gave it some rhythm. But Tony [director Anthony Leondis] described music from Bulgaria and said, "I'm looking for something that's got a slightly eastern feel."

So, he gave me lots and lots of music to listen to; some of it was by Bela Bartok, the Hungarian composer, and I remember he was one of the first composers I studied as a kid in school. He would use Hungarian folk music as his inspiration, as did Vaughn Williams and various other people. So, I was influenced by Bartok's music because Tony is a little fan of his. So, that's how I formed some of the thematic writing.

(TSR): How do you transfer this influence into a piece of music?

Doyle: So, that gave us an eastern feel, also there are wonderful what we call 'choral samples' that give us a darkness to the picture -- and the picture has wonderful Gothic moments in it; wonderful light moments and moments of comedy ... they certainly merge into, not melodramatic but definitely dark Gothic drama, so the choice of instrument is quite crucial.

(TSR): Do you have a favorite choice of instrument?

Doyle: I use a clarinet quite a lot because it is quite a versatile instrument. It can be very mournful, it can be very poignant, melancholy, it can also be quite comic. It's very agile and allows you to do all sorts of things. So, you're looking for members of the orchestra -- the instrumentalists -- that can give you agility as well as melancholy. The piano also features a lot.

(TSR): Tell us a little about Eva's theme.

(PD): Well, it's actually Eva and Igor's theme: Now, I've introduced a sort of piano concerto kind of thing, because Eva wants to be a performer. I can't tell you too much about it. This to me fitted her character. So, the piano features quite a lot. The piano can give you action, because it can give you some pounding and some drama. To help beef up the bass: in the orchestra, that could be cellos playing. Tony was eager to get something very moving, but the thing is I wasn't tied to this dreamer. The music has to be played for real, with real sincerity so that was the objective.

(TSR): Now, at what point in the production process are you brought in? And tell me a little bit about your process.

(PD): I was shown the picture last October. We met here in the production studios and went for a pub lunch, Tony and I, and I saw some of the drawings and early slides of it. I got immediately excited, and his enthusiasm was very infectious. He was fortunately a fan of my music and so right away we agreed that we should work together and it's been delightful.

In terms of process, one looks at the cartoons, one looks at how they are placed through the story. I've been writing the film in chronological order. Dr Schadenfreude is a tango because he does a double act, because he is always pulling on in a dance like way -- I thought a tango would be perfect. There are many, many themes going on. It's not sort of a monothematic score -- there is many, many themes. There is Heidi, there is Schadenfreude, there is a king, there is Igor, there is Eva, so its terrific. It's really a rich pallet for thematic material.

(TSR): What are some of the big differences between your other work -- things like "Harry Potter" and "Shakespeare" -- and your music for "Igor"?

(PD): I don't think there is a great deal of difference at all. I have a huge respect for animation; I've always been a massive fan of it. In fact, the first film I ever went to see a film by myself, as a 14-year old, was "Fantasia." I was always fascinated by that picture, because it's an homage to music and drama in the form of animation. So, I treat live action, whether it be "Shakespeare" or "Harry Potter," I treat it in exactly the same way. I give it the same respect, the same reverence as I would to William Shakespeare. It's all about character, it's all about heightening the drama and capturing character image.

(TSR): What are some of the particular challenges of working on an animated movie?

(PD): It has to be very precise, very exact. There are certain comic moments, but all the comedy is born out of playing the music seriously. If you are using pizzicato -- which is a plucking of strings -- in cellos and double basses over a nice dark chord in the brass then you can give a slightly cartoony quality to it, but in fact it is a dramatic device that is also used in heavyweight classical pieces. So, you're using those devices and introducing them into animation in a very traditional way -- not in a cheesy way.

(TSR): What's your favorite part of the production process?

(PD): Recording. You can't beat that moment. A friend said, "Being a composer is having the biggest toy in the world, the symphony orchestra." And that's what we all, my entire team, look forward to. The moment you sit down, that wonderful sound of the symphony orchestra tuning up.

(TSR): It must be nerve-wracking to sit down next to the director and show him what you've done.

(PD): Oh, it's very nerve-wracking. The very first time you sit down with the director that's the most important, that's the most nerve-wracking. I'm less nervous these days than I used to be, because the more experienced you are the more you listen to the director and the producer -- especially the director -- to what they're after and you do your homework.


(TSR): How do you make an iconic soundtrack?

Doyle: Well, you can't conjure it up. You strive to write the strongest thematic material and the material that matches the picture, and hopefully, if you write something that's memorable, that helps to lift the process, people will remember it. I certainly would hope to write something strong and that's a great asset to the process.

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