Animal, mineral mix in ‘Apes’ score

Eye on the Oscars: Song & Score

Patrick Doyle marched to the beat of his own drum when composing the score to “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” his dark, rousing work contrasting with that of his immediate “Apes” predecessor, Danny Elfman.

Whereas Elfman immersed audiences in explosive percussion, Doyle focused instead on emotional texture, and on creating a singular, powerful theme for Caesar, the ape around whom the story revolves.

“What was interesting was that the film has at least 45 minutes of near silence, so it was up to the music to maintain the story of Caesar, who didn’t have any words apart from the odd bit of sign language,” says the twice-Academy-nominated Doyle, who also composed “Thor.”

Because the film was shot using performance capture, Doyle often was compelled to completely rewrite and intensify his score once he saw the final edit featuring computer-rendered apes, rather than actors. “It was almost like a Broadway musical in that sense,” he says, “in that you think you’ve written it and then suddenly you invite an audience in, and you realize that things need to be changed.”

Various unusual elements were woven into the sonic tapestry — a melancholy sound that is heard from the beginning of the score, and many key moments created using an ostrich egg. (Doyle describes it as “haunting — something really primal.”)

Doyle took sounds of the apes’ cage doors slamming to create percussive rhythms, heard when the apes storm the streets of San Francisco. He asked his choir to make guttural noises, clicking with their tongues, turning those sounds into percussive elements.

And a cello was played so that it “made a sigh or groan, almost like a cry from the past, but also slightly menacing,” he says. “We wanted to create new sounds of this emerging world, sounds that seem organic, but not quite. It helps the audience know that something new is happening, but not something they should necessarily feel comfortable with.”

Eye on the Oscars: Song & Score
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