Mychael Danna (Composer - 'Capote')
'Recording The Inner Dissolution of Sound'
Recognized as a pioneer of combining non-Western sound sources with orchestral and electronic minimalism in film music, BMI composer Mychael Danna has recently scored 'Capote' for director Bennett Miller. Danna's score sets the tone for the inspirational true-life story of novelist Truman Capote, who has decided to investigate the murders of the Clutter family in Kansas as a possible subject for a non-fiction novel after being tired of writing fiction. The film stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener and is directed by Bennett Miller. It is written by Dan Futterman based on the book by Gerald Clarke.
Starting off his film music career by scoring feature debut 'Family Viewing' for Atom Egoyan in 1987, Danna was honored with Canadian film award by this score. He has been nominated for eleven times in the Canadian film award. He also earns reputation by the incorporation of ethnic influences into the body of contemporary film scoring aesthetics.
Chatting recently with Mychael Danna himself, and taking it from the top, I first asked him to take us back to the very start of his film music career when he made his scoring feature debut "Family Viewing" for Atom Egoyan in 1987. "I guess my experience beginning in film music is a little different than most people in that I wasn’t particularly seeking out film. I had no ambitions in that direction. I started writing music for theater and theater people were the people I was hanging out with. So the first film I worked on with Atom Egoyan was with someone who also came from the theater world. So we really approached it more from that point of view."
It's been noted that you have been nominated eleven times for a Canadian Film Award for your various scores, but have you been lucky enough to win any thus far? If so, which ones and when? "Four out of 11, all for Atom Egoyan films: “Exotica,” “Felicia’s Journey,” “The Sweet Hereafter” and “Ararat".”
You've certainly proven your versatility from scoring Moroccan music in "8MM" to American old-time music in "Ride With the Devil" to European medieval and Persian music in "The Sweet Hereafter", but is there a nationality of music that you yourself have undertaken that you've found harder to score than any other? "Not really because I find it’s so much fun. I think they all have challenges and it’s a matter of how much research, work, studying and listening that you do. I try to do as much as possible. If I have enough time, I feel confident that I can give credit to any kind of music. I’ve studied ethnomusicology at university, so I have a pretty reasonable background. Obviously, there are some styles that I sympathetically vibrate to more than others, but every style I’ve worked with do far has its own challenges and rewards. They’re all different, but there are challenges and rewards in all of them."
In this new score to 'Capote,' a film where Philip Seymour Hoffman portrays Truman Capote's emotional and psychic dissolution, what was you thought process going into the initial days of composition? "The thought process on that was that the music needed to be concerned with Truman Capote’s inner world. Phil’s wonderful performance really filled in perfectly his outer persona and suggests this inner world that the music takes from there and sort of fleshes out. In particular, it’s the sense that Capote has this inner emptiness. There’s an inner hole inside of him which is the kind of feeling that the music is portraying. That inner loneliness and emptiness is a hole that is filled with Perry Smith eventually in the film."
During your score, you rely heavily on the piano. Was this always to be your instrument of choice or did you try others first? "We tried many things. In fact, the score ended up in a very different way. It was a much more esoteric approach from the start. It’s typical in the process of film scoring that you don’t end up where you start. It’s a process. Eventually, we just felt that the simple, almost black and white score was the right approach to take to this. Too many colors was wrong and so we just settled on the black and white color scheme of piano and strings."
Prior to the composing of this film, did you perhaps already know of the novelist Truman Capote and the story behind his life? "Yes, I was. Certainly I’m old enough to remember seeing Capote being sort of a personality in America on “Johnny Carson” and “Merv Griffin” and really not knowing much more about him than that; just seeing that eccentric, inebriated, very odd character. So I do remember those last few years of his life."
What is lined-up next for your scoring talents to work freely upon? ""Breach” with Billy Ray, a turn-coat FBI agent story. And “Surf’s UP,” which is a Sony Animation film. That will be really fun because that’s a completely different world for me to enter. Those are the only two projects I can talk about right now."
What '80s (and possibly cheesy!) song would you love to re-compose today if asked ... and why?! ""She Works Hard for the Money” by Donna Summer. Because hookers are people too!"
Lastly, I like Penguins ... do you?! "I do now. I’m about to enter a world of penguins!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
If you would like to win an AUTOGRAPHED 'CAPOTE' CD from Mychael Danna himself, just answer this easy question: Danna studied music composition at the University of Toronto, winning which Scholarship in 1985?
Send me your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win a brand new and AUTOGRAPHED 'CAPOTE' CD from Mychael Danna! Just send us an e:mail here before April 15th with your answer and the subject title 'CAPOTE SIGNED CDs' to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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