Director Gabriele Muccino was searching for a uniquely lonely sound for the score of Will Smith vehicle “Seven Pounds.” He found it on his brother’s iPod, which happened to contain a number of songs written by Venezuelan-born composer Angelo Milli.
Taken from the Mexican film “My Brother’s Wife,” the sounds were dissonant, mysterious — exactly what Muccino was looking for. He tracked down the 33-year-old Milli, who had until then worked mostly on Spanish-language movies, and invited him to score his first major Hollywood studio production.
“From the beginning, Muccino wanted to establish several layers,” says Milli, who splits his time between Miami and L.A. “It’s a beautiful story with a very twisted, deep character, so you need to create subtle dissonances. Plus there’s a love story in there, but not too up front. There were many fine lines to walk.”
To create a sense of mystery without actually writing a straight-up “mystery” soundtrack, Milli used techniques like backward instrumentation — recording piano tracks in reverse, then unreversing them as the score progresses and adding layers of backward electronica keyboards on top.
The score, which also features piano strings played with a bow and an appearance by the didgeridoo, is intended to maintain a subtle sense of unfamiliarity, evolving from electronica-tinged dissonance to a majestic climax, recorded with a 60-piece orchestra on the Warner Bros. scoring stage.
“That was the first time I had worked with an orchestra that size,” says Milli, who studied film scoring at the Berklee College of Music. “Before working on this film, I would get 15 or 20 musicians, mostly students, and mix their sounds with samples to make it sound like a live orchestra. With this, you can really tell the difference.”