Los Angeles-based Danny Bensi and New York-based Saunder Jurriaans collaborated long-distance on the score for “Boy Erased,” Joel Edgerton’s powerful examination of “gay conversion therapy” starring Lucas Hedges as the conflicted son of a Baptist minister.
“It was quite a struggle,” says Bensi, “the dramatic, emotional, societal aspects: how do we navigate through all this material with music, have it be interesting and dynamic but not get in the way?” Adds Jurriaans: “We wanted to avoid being too subversive. A big orchestral score can push you in certain directions.”
Most of their score is performed on piano and strings, with a brief addition of children’s choir. “We talked with Joel about having these elements of religious music,” says Jurriaans. “We tried to use the choir in an untraditional, more modern musical way, like [minimalists] Philip Glass or Steve Reich, with syncopated, rhythmic syllables. It’s a very subtle color that comes in and out.”
Cellist Bensi created many of the string parts in his own studio, and then recorded a larger string orchestra, layering all of the music together later during the mixing process. Among the most striking moments of the score are pitch-bending string sounds. “That’s one of Joel’s favorite melodic ideas,” says Bensi. “Those bendy violins are Beethovian chords, quite dark, emotive, introspective music. It was a theatrical musical technique to create a kind of dizzying, disoriented effect.”
The composers, who are better known for their music for TV’s “Ozark,” “Fear the Walking Dead” and “American Gods,” work on each other’s cues in “the cloud. We liken it to being a sculptor,” says Jurriaans. “We each chip away at it and we’re both trying to get to this core shape.”