Scoring a film can feel like an isolated process — but scoring a film about isolation during a pandemic takes it to a whole new level.
In the film, Clooney, who directed and stars, plays Augustine, a lone astronaut who is left in the Arctic after a global catastrophe. He tries to contact a group of astronauts, warning them not to return to Earth.
While recording the score, Desplat had to adapt to the restrictions of quarantine, layering in strings, piano, brass and woodwinds. “We had to record the sections separately, which I am usually reluctant to do, since it twists for the musicians the perception of the overall orchestral sound, dynamics, intonation, phrasing music and is rather frustrating for the director,” he tells Variety. “But COVID was stronger.”
Despat worked remotely with Clooney (who also is a producer on the film) and producer Grant Heslov, who remained in Los Angeles.
“Solrey [Dominique Lemonnier], my artistic producer, and I were in Paris in my studio, and the London Symphony Orchestra … was in London,” he continues. “Not being able to conduct was very sad — it is the most exciting moment for me when the music I have dreamed of for weeks finally, finally comes to life in the same room with the musicians as it unveils, finally flying in the air from the parts they are sight-reading.”
Of the score, Desplat stayed away from a “space sound” or “sci-fi” score. Instead, he went for an intimate, warm and harrowing score, avoiding electronica. “The lush string section of the London Symphony orchestra is at the center of the score’s sound,” Desplat says.
As with all scores, it’s in service to the film, its story and characters. “George is a humanist and his characters share the values of love, friendship, solidarity, courage and sacrifice, so I always try to emphasize the psychology and the emotional ride of the characters but my inspiration also comes from the rotating stars, [the spaceship], the weightlessness, the pure Arctic skies, the surrounding void of space and the unstoppable lightning meteorites.”
The 22-track album will be released on December 23 on all digital services by ABKCO to coincide with the film’s release. Two tracks, “The Midnight Sky” and “Aether Spaceship” are now available.