×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Rebel in the Rye’ Score Aims to Present Inner Conflict of Author J.D. Salinger

Bear McCreary seemed an odd choice for first-time feature director Danny Strong to pick as the composer for “Rebel in the Rye.”

McCreary’s Emmy-winning résumé includes scores for TV series such as “Da Vinci’s Demons,” “Outlander,” “Black Sails” and “The Walking Dead” — and for the dance feature “Step Up 3D.” So Strong could hardly be blamed for doubting that a composer for shows about zombies, pirates and demons could capture the emotional depth of the score he most wanted to emulate: that of the 1962 classic feature “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

But a connection was already there. “Mockingbird” composer Elmer Bernstein was McCreary’s mentor. And a  chance for McCreary to share the intimate, emotional style he studied under the Oscar-winning composer was a dream come true.

After his initial meeting with Strong, McCreary wrote a piece of music on spec and created a video of himself conducting an orchestra to sway the leery director. He followed up by scoring a handful of scenes as a test run. His hard work secured the job.

Ultimately, his test scenes were used as temp tracks, and the spec piece is featured in the film’s closing credits.

Written by Strong and set for a Sept. 15 release by IFC, “Rebel” explores the life of reclusive author J.D. Salinger, once a U.S. staff sergeant who served in five campaigns during World War II. After the enormous success of his 1951 novel “The Catcher in the Rye,” Salinger virtually disappeared from public view and lived a reclusive life in New Hampshire. He died in 2010.

McCreary worked closely with Strong for two months, discussing and exploring the emotional impact of an artist who went from having a driving need to create to struggling to create, and the score’s role in exploring Salinger’s psyche. “The film creates a version that peels back the layers,” McCreary says. “The score does the heavy lifting emotionally and lyrically.”

One method McCreary developed to represent Salinger’s creativity was to use two pianos, placed on each side of the orchestra. Like flying fingers across a typewriter, each pianist performed unique arpeggios that didn’t overlap.

The effect was a harmonic performance that couldn’t be physically produced by a single player. As Salinger’s inner demons arise, the dual pianists play in a fractured style, first sounding like broken glass and then disappearing from the score.

Although McCreary used few drums, he incorporated one percussive element: the clicking of typewriter keys. For this, he made a recording of each key being punched and wove the beats through the score.

He also turned to instruments from India for their intense and unusual sounds. “The ethnic percussion was so outside the language off the score, it provided a jolt of electricity,” he says.

Jazz also played a role, representing Salinger’s time in New York. A big band-inspired theme was worked into the film, and McCreary recorded renditions of period jazz as well as “Comin’ Thro’ the Rock,” a Scottish folk song featured in a montage.

More Artisans

  • Spider-Man Homecoming

    Film and TV Productions Are Using Drones for Scouting Locations, Lighting and More

    Since a ruling by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2014 that cleared the use of drones in film and TV production, the acquisition of footage by these unmanned flying machines has become de rigueur for aerial shooting in cases when cranes or aircraft are impractical or unsafe.  As such, drones have been greeted enthusiastically not [...]

  • MTV The Challenge

    How 'The Challenge' Relied on Global Crew to Pull Off Plane Game

    Thirty-three seasons into MTV’s “The Challenge,” the reality competition series has spawned a band of traveling producers and engineers who fly around the world to create one-of-a-kind games. This includes placing cameras, smoke elements and a puzzle inside a plane that was suspended more than 30 feet above water. Executive producer Justin Booth joined “The [...]

  • Chaz Ebert DePaul CHA Documentary Filmmaking

    Chicago Program Gives High School Girls Lessons in Documentary Filmmaking

    At the upcoming Cannes Film Festival, three of the projects screening in the Short Film Corner — “Birthday,” “Phenomenally Me” and “Without Dying” — will be products of the DePaul/CHA Documentary Filmmaking Program, a six-week course co-sponsored by the Chicago Housing Authority in which high school girls learn filmmaking from graduate students and faculty of [...]

  • Steven Spielberg55th Annual CAS Awards, Inside,

    Cinema Audio Society Sets 2020 Awards Show Three Weeks Earlier

    The Cinema Audio Society has moved its 2020 awards show ahead by three weeks to Jan. 25 due to the compression of the season. It will be held at the Intercontinental Los Angeles Downtown. The CAS Awards recognize sound mixing in film and television, outstanding products for production and post-production, as well as the recipient [...]

  • Rocketman Elton John Biopic

    'Rocketman' Production Team Took the Fantasy Route With the Elton John Biopic

    Paramount has high hopes for “Rocketman,” the Elton John biopic starring Taron Egerton as the legendary performer. Premiering at the Cannes Film Festival on May 16, the film comes on the heels of Fox’s massively successful Freddie Mercury movie “Bohemian Rhapsody” and could capitalize on audiences’ newly discovered interest in rock star stories that transport [...]

  • Burbank-based Barnstorm VFX Studio Expands to

    Barnstorm VFX, Creator of Visuals for Amazon’s ‘The Man in the High Castle’ and Other Shows, Expands to Vancouver

    Barnstorm VFX, the company behind the visual effects on Amazon Studios’ “The Man in the High Castle” (pictured above), “HBO’s Silicon Valley” and CBS’ “Strange Angel,” has opened a new facility in Vancouver, British Columbia. The move positions the boutique digital effects, design and production shop to take advantage of expanding work north of the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content