Music for ‘Impossible’ catastrophic yet sensitive

Eye on the Oscars: Music

Creating music for a film about the tsunami that resulted in the deaths of some 230,000 people in 2004 can’t be easy. But that event and its aftermath were precisely what Spanish composer Fernando Velazquez had to tackle when scoring Juan Antonio Bayona’s “The Impossible.”

“It’s funny how tiny the line is between a melody that is telling something vital and music for a commercial, and we knew crossing this line was a danger,” Velazquez says. “We tried to be very careful, to be absolutely respectful for what we are telling.”

Velazquez, who had previously scored Bayona’s “The Orphanage” (2007), worked closely with the director on finding the right sound. “I love complicated music — I love Boulez — but that just didn’t address what was needed for this movie,” the composer said. “We needed to deconstruct.”

The goal was to find “something tender and simple but true,” and it came by way of the touching theme that pervades the film, variously, on cello, piano and full orchestra. “It’s in a way my reference,” Velazquez says. “People say it’s because I am a cello player, which I am. But it’s because it’s right. The theme is gentle, noble, tender. And the cello itself explains it better than my words.”

Velazquez’s biggest challenge, not surprisingly, was how to depict the tsunami itself. “It’s only the second wave that has music,” the composer explains, referring to the overwhelming sound of massed double basses. “We produced and recorded the music for the first wave. But we knew there was a chance we would drop it. You need to find a balance. It’s hard to make a decision about how much energy you put in certain sequences. That’s Juan Antonio’s intelligence. He’s obsessive in a very nice way, with absolutely everything.”

Eye on the Oscars: Music
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