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Chris Beck

Christophe Beck (buffy composer) talks about scoring Elektra

By Jennifer

Monday 24 January 2005, by Webmaster

In the film music field, Christophe Beck is best-known for working on comedies. He’s scored dozen of those types of movies including this year’s Taxi with Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon and Without a Paddle with Seth Green, Matthew Lillard and Dax Shepard. Now the composer has his work appearing in another genre, the Elektra score. Beck was interested in diversifying his film score resume and the one-time Daredevil fan meshed well with the direction Elektra filmmakers desired.

The composer explained what it means to score a film. "To score a movie means to write the instrumental background music heard throughout the film," stated Beck. "Depending on the type of movie there is, some of the score may appear on the film soundtrack and some may not. In the case of Elektra, there was a separate CD released just for the score. Starting January 25th it may be in stores along with the other CD and is readily available online.

"I’ve done a lot of comedies and scored those types of films," continued Beck. "I was interested in branching out into other types of movies. A friend of mine, Music Supervisor Dave Jordan, recommended me to a director Rob Bowman who was listening to a stack of CDs trying to find the right person for Elektra. He put my CD into the mix and liked what he heard. He asked for more material and we began working together based on just the music he heard. The score is composed specifically to the picture and in a very precise manor."

He said working on Elektra was a little different than the typical comedy he’s scored because Elektra was a work in progress. "There were a lot of visual effects for the movie that weren’t complete," said Beck. "Music is the last part of any film work. Most of the time we’re working to picture as the movie is being completed. The process begins by watching the film together with the filmmakers and discussing where a music interlude or piece should go [this is called ’spotting.’]. From there I just watch the movie once or twice more in its entirety and the scenes that will have music on it. An idea pops into my head at some point. By the time I’m done with a score, I will have watched the piece dozens if not hundreds of times - always in the process of composing."

"The obvious difference to me in music when going from a comedy to drama is there’s more mystery and intenseness," continued Beck. "It’s not light and fluffy. Beyond the superficial, though, it’s really the same process. It’s very instinctual and experimental. I don’t think about it too much in terms of what genre am I scoring. I’m trying to help the film any way I can and come up with cool music at the same time to simplify it. The music cues in a drama are longer and less specific to the picture than a comedy. A lot of times the comedy music is really just trying to get people to laugh and sometimes that happens at the expense of the cohesiveness of the score. Comedy scores are really eclectic and different. The obviously tone of music is different - it’s fun to do one and then the other."

Beck added, "It’s more about getting a general feeling from the scene and thinking about the scene in terms of a point of view. Music is almost like opening another channel emotionally to the audience - a filmmaker can open that when he or she wants to, but how to use that power is a big decision. Whose point of view do we take: the triumphant villain or the struggling hero? How do we approach this? Those are creative decisions that have no right or wrong answer. The way the decisions are solved is something the filmmaker can help with."

Beck wasn’t totally unfamiliar with the characters of the popular Marvel Comics Daredevil. He read the comics growing up and knew about Elektra. "Elektra was a part of Daredevil’s story and life," said Beck. "I have not checked out her solo series or read her comics since I was in Junior high. I had seen the Daredevil movie, though, so I was familiar with Jennifer Garner and Elektra. I did believe creating the score for this film was something I might be able to do. I wanted this to be my first dramatic film score for a major studio. I had done some indy dramas and some big studio action movies, that you might call ’action comedies,’ but nothing like this. Although I had done Seasons two, three, and four of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on TV, so I did have some dramatic experience."

"I really wanted to experiment with some of the experimental production techniques to try to create interesting synthetic textures with some experimental production techniques to try to create interesting synthetic textures to make that a part of the score," continued Beck. "I borrowed ideas from the way samples are used in dance music where you take a snippet of something and loop it and mangle it to create a recognizable sound from something else. I wanted to try that in the score. There’s an Eastern feeling on purpose with lots of gongs and bells. I didn’t want to hit the Eastern aspect of it too hard, because of the presence of ninjas and supernatural martial arts, we felt it would be nice to be subtle and just refer to it every once in a while. To create this score, I did a recording session at the beginning of production with an orchestra. I collected material and used that with the sound designers to create new textures out of it. The synthetic comes from the source material. I was on this project for four months. I spent the first month experimenting in sound design. Four months is a luxury - you usually have six to eight weeks to get a score created. It’s almost like you wish you could get it all right on the first try, but you still end up doing more than one or two tries. It’s hard in a movie like Elektra where there was over an hour’s worth of music to write."

Beck added, "The hardest part was just the amount of changes in the picture at the last minute. It made my head spin. I’m used to the editing of the film to stop at a certain point, before I record. I’m used to the film stopping before I write the score. Now, most composers are working on scores as each film is being edited. In this case, because the visual effects were still coming in and the film makers were trying to improve things by making changes at the last minute, it was very tough for me to keep up with all of that work."

The composer was pleased with the final product. He enjoyed hearing and seeing his music and how it was incorporated into the Elektra film. "I was really pleased with the mix," said Beck. "Sometimes the score gets buried under necessary things like dialogue or unnecessary things like helicopter noises and stuff. It’s an occupational hazard you get used to, but Rob Bowman was a big fan of the score and pushed it in all the places it really needed to be pushed."

The Elektra score is in stores January 25th or can be ordered online. Currently Beck is working on Disney Ice Princess, a skating movie starring another person who used to work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Michelle Trachtenberg.

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