It’s been a busy year for Spanish composer Alberto Iglesias; first, he scored Pedro Almodovar’s “The Skin I Live In,” a crazy modern opera stuffed full of sex, murder, rape, revenge — and plastic surgery, along with serious themes about the nature of identity and creation. Then he switched gears and scored the bleak spy thriller “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” directed by Tomas Alfredson.
“The films are so different and needed very different approaches and music,” says the 56-year-old twice-Oscar nominated composer (for “The Kite Runner” and “The Constant Gardener”). “Pedro’s is so over-the-top and theatrical, and has a strange structure, and with eloquent music it becomes even more theatrical — and he gave me total freedom.”
Iglesias, a frequent Almodovar collaborator (“Volver” won the European Film Award for original score), characterizes “Skin” as “a typical Pedro production, in that by the time he’s finished shooting, he’s also almost finished editing, and then he focuses completely on the music.”
To capture the film’s operatic persona, Iglesias combined traditional orchestral elements with synthesizers and driving electronic beats, “to create new textures and sounds,” and worked closely with the director at his Madrid studio.
“Pedro explains every single thing about the film and every character, and then wants to be surprised,” he adds, “and I think I did.”
Within just two weeks of completing that score, Iglesias was already at work on “Tinker.”
“At first I wasn’t sure I could do it,” he says, “but I loved Tomas’ last film, ‘Let the Right One In,’ so much that I had to do it.”
In contrast with “Skin,” Iglesias found himself plunged into a far more silent world and the slower tempos of a spy’s patient, secret life.
“So the music starts from that idea of silence, and then it has to grow gradually, like building blocks,” he says. “And the rhythms are far more contemplative than the ones I used in ‘Skin.’ ”
The composer sees a direct correlation between the two films’ very different energies and their directors.
“Pedro’s very Spanish — demanding, nervous and impatient, while Tomas is typically Swedish — laidback and relaxed,” he says. “He was content to wait until I felt inspired.”
That took a while. “First I met Tomas in London, and right away told him I found the script difficult to follow because of my English and the very complicated plot,” Iglesias says. “But he wasn’t concerned. There was no pressure. So I started playing with ideas and themes.”
After working on the score in Madrid, the composer returned to London to record the score (both were done at Air Studios), which features an orchestra without any brass. “It’s a different sound and just seemed to suit the story,” he says.
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From rising stars to Oscar winners, seven composers talk about the method to their musicality:
Henry Jackman | Alberto Iglesias | Dario Marianelli | Michael Giacchino | Abel Korzeniowski | Conrad Pope | Thomas Newman