×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Recording the ‘Wolverine’ score

A look at Gregson-Williams in the studio

It’s a Tuesday afternoon in late March on the Newman Scoring Stage at 20th Century-Fox. Harry Gregson-Williams, looking a bit haggard after having been up most of the night finishing the music of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” stands before a 40-voice choir as they prepare to sing — in the strange-sounding Old Icelandic language — stanzas from an ancient Norse poem that will underscore the film’s dramatic opening.

“Let’s try one a little hushed,” Gregson-Williams tells them. “There’s supposed to be something inevitably tragic about it,” he adds. The lights dim, the red “recording” light is illuminated, and far behind the choir, the opening title sequence of “Wolverine” begins to play silently on the bigscreen.

The composer conducts the singers (20 men, 20 women) to a music track that was created in his studio but will, by the end of the day, be mostly replaced by a 78-piece orchestra. They complete a satisfactory take, and Gregson-Williams praises them — “You’ve got the spirit of it” — while also urging nuance in their performance: “Not too coarse. It should be really sweet; musically we are saying one thing while we are seeing another.”

Gregson-Williams, a veteran choral director from his days as an educator, conducts (with his hands, not a baton) expressively, with full, round gestures, leaning into the more dramatic moments. He moves one headphone off his ear so that he can hear the choir sing in the cavernous Fox stage while still listening to the backing track.

A few minutes later, the composer enters the booth where engineer Joel Iwataki has been monitoring recording levels while studio execs hover. He cautions director Gavin Hood that they are listening to a very rough mix. “Harry,” the animated Hood responds, “I’m not only not worried, I’m pleased and excited!”

Two hours later, the orchestra begins a 90-minute session to record cue 1M2, the 4½-minute “Logan Through Time,” which will incorporate the choral elements already recorded. After a rehearsal, Gregson-Williams addresses the strings: “Quite spiky, lots of rosin,” he says. “Everybody, crescendo through bar nine, big accent on bar 10.”

This time, the composer conducts with his pencil, moving around the podium as he gestures to each section depending on the musical emphasis required. The music is powerful, sometimes dissonant, a bit sad, as the viewer is introduced to Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and his brother (Liev Schreiber). The mood is mostly serious, as this is not only the final scoring session but also the all-important opening of the film.

During a break, director Hood talks about Gregson-Williams’ role in scoring “Wolverine”: “Harry’s challenge is to give us operatic scale, but also keep it intimate and human. Harry’s music has a kind of muscular confidence and strength that is very useful for the action, but he also has tremendous soul.”

Hood emerges from the booth at the end of the session, hugs the composer and thanks the orchestra with three words:

“It’s frigging brilliant!”

More Music

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Interscope Films Relaunches With Full Slate at Tribeca (EXCLUSIVE)

    The Interscope record label’s interest in film/music crossover isn’t exactly a secret: With hit companion albums for “A Star Is Born,” “Black Panther” and “La La Land,” they’ve seemed to own the soundtrack space at times in recent years. And the company hasn’t completely made a secret of its desire to move into film production. [...]

  • Madonna Releases "Medellín" Music Video: Watch

    Madonna Drops a Sexy and Surreal Video for 'Medellín'

    It’s no surprise that the elaborate “Madame X” concept surrounding Madonna’s forthcoming album of the same name is beginning to make more sense with the release of the video from the album’s first single. It elaborates on the album’s themes, which she previous aired in a series of Instagram clips (check them out for yourself [...]

  • This combination photo shows, from left,

    Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande Address Coachella Lip-Sync Controversy

    When Justin Bieber joined Ariana Grande on stage at the Coachella Festival Sunday night to perform his hit “Sorry,” there was little doubt in anyone’s mind about whether it was completely live, especially after both made a point of mentioning that he’d showed up with no intention of performing and there’d been no rehearsal. Fans [...]

  • Lizzo Coachella Valley Music and Arts

    Lizzo Joins Cardi B and Jennifer Lopez in Stripper Film 'Hustlers'

    After the release of her third album and a pair of high-profile Coachella performances, Lizzo announced today that she will be joining Cardi B and Jennifer Lopez in the stripper-themed film “Hustlers.” Based on a true story, the film focuses on strippers who band together to turn the tables on their wealthy Wall Street male [...]

  • Cameron Crowe, David Crosby in Park

    Cameron Crowe on Putting 'the Most Colorful Life Ever,' David Crosby's, on Screen

    Cameron Crowe jokes that David Crosby is following his career path. The star’s frankness and tell-it-like-it-is demeanor has resulted in Rolling Stone magazine’s invitation to set up the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s next act as a rock Dear Abby of sorts with his new column: “Ask Croz.” “Isn’t that great?” says Crowe, the Oscar-winning [...]

  • Childish Gambino 'Pharos" AR App Launches

    Childish Gambino Releases 'Pharos' AR App for Android Phones

    Childish Gambino is taking his “Pharos” multimedia franchise to a new platform: Donald Glover’s alter ego released a “Pharos” augmented reality (AR) app for Android phones Wednesday morning, with an iOS version forthcoming at a later time. The app allows users to open up an AR portal in their living room (or where ever else [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content