Sometimes a film composer, in order to impose his or her own personal stamp, will ignore the most apparent musical stylings dictated by a movie’s mise en scene.
Rather than execute a New Age sound that attempts to capture “The Kite Runner’s” onscreen drama, classically trained Spanish composer Alberto Iglesias wrote a straight-up sarangi-infused score, completely faithful to the story’s Afghanistan setting.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the pulse-pounding opening title sequence, which is layered with tabla drums and strings. The theme immediately establishes the tone for a story in which a former Kabul native returns to his war-torn homeland to rescue his orphaned Hazara nephew.
After nabbing an Oscar nom for 2005’s “The Constant Gardener,” a score that fused African tones with classical elements, Iglesias admits he’s developed a rep as the “National Geographic” composer.
“I’m not an Afghan or Middle Eastern composer,” admits Iglesias, who has often worked with Pedro Almodovar. “I didn’t have time to travel to Afghanistan, so I had to rely on my own Spanish culture in order to discover this sound which comes from the Far East.
“The culture (in Spain) was impressed by people who traveled from India and the Middle East,” he adds, “so in essence we all share the same thing.”
After being handed the assignment by helmer Marc Forster, Iglesias set about researching Afghani music, which the composer describes as a mix of both “Pakistani and Iranian elements.”
“I wanted a modern edge to the score,” Forster says, “like ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ in that it was classical for an epic, but with an ethnic tone.”
As such, there are those emotional moments, like in “Gardener,” when the composer trades in the Oud and the local woodwinds for more classical strings.
Yet while the rule of thumb for any composer is to write toward the characters’ feelings onscreen, Iglesias was inspired by something more apparent in “Kite.”
“I tried to listen to the dialect of the characters,” says Iglesias about the Dari-Pashtu language in “Kite,” “a lot of music comes from the sound of the language.”