Steven Price talks about composing the score for “Gravity”

stevenpriceI am a huge fan of film scores, always have been. I am always keeping my eyes open for a new favorite. Well, I have found him…enter Steven Price. Steven has three film scores currently under his belt including “Attack of the Block” and “The World’s End”. His latest score for the hugely successful film “Gravity” is no question the best score of the year! I have a feeling it is going to be winning many awards in the coming months. Media Mikes had a chance to chat about developing the score for this film and his involvement with the film.

Mike Gencarelli: Where you ever concerned about delivering the sound to the soundlessness of space with your score for “Gravity”?
Steven Price: It was one of those things that looking back on it I should have been absolutely terrified. At the time we were so into trying things and experimenting that I didn’t realize what a ridiculous thing that I had attempted to do until I finished it really. This was actually lucky cause otherwise I would have sat frozen to my chair and never written a note. At the time it felt like it was a great opportunity to take on this daunting task but I can see now that it was perhaps now quite an ambitious task to undertake.

MG: I felt like the score was the third member of the cast in the film; was that a goal of yours?
SP: The hope for the music was that it was going to add to this idea of immersion. The camera was floating up in space, weightless like the characters and the music was there to follow through with that. You were up in space with them and you felt like you were immersed in that. For me it is the third character in some ways but I was always closely tied to the Gravity500pxcharacter of Ryan. A lot of what the music was trying to do was express her emotions and feelings. The hope was certainly that it would have this immersive feel and the sense that it would really all come together as a whole experience.

MG: What did you use for inspiration to come up with this amazing score?
SP: From the word “Go”, Alfonso (Cuarón) was really clear that he didn’t want this to be a traditional film score. I didn’t go and listen to other film scores about space. I avoided things like that actually. We would listen to all types of different music and draw specific aspects from each. You might be listening to rock music one week and then the next some really extreme electronica. All of these things would trigger off little experiments that I would use to apply during the writing process. Everything was really open and we had a lot of freedom. There was no one telling us how we had to create the sound. We got to make something that really fitted this film well and that was also very distinctive.

MG: I read that the score was mixed to be enhanced with the Dolby Atmos technology; tell us about that process?
SP: Yeah! That was the last thing that we did. We came back this past summer and did a new mix for that. This film really suits with Dolby Atmos and the whole thing about it is that you are completely surrounded by speakers. They are all around you. I based a lot around the knowledge that we were doing that when I wrote it as well. You can take it to another level. So if the camera enters the helmet of Sandra Bullock, then all of the sudden the score can feel like it compressed around your head. We had a lot of fun doing that and it is easily my favorite mix. There are so few Dolby Atmos screens in the UK but it is the one that I recommend to my friends for sure in America!

MG: “Don’t Let Go” is one hell of an emotional 11+ minute track; give us some background on its development?
SP: When I wrote it originally it started as 4 or 5 cues. They all did separate things but were designed to flow together. It became Sandra Bullockthe bit that I was most proud of, so that is why I put it on the album as one continuous track. It just felt like it worked so well. It starts off with the introduction of the most dramatic stuff. You’ve had all this chaos and disorientation in the film for the first 20 minutes and this was the first time when you can take a breath. So it let me do a little bit of that kind of writing style which then went into a really choreographed action section. This idea came along early in the writing process that as the actors move around that I can reflect their movement within the music. I thought that that aspect was sort of a breakthrough and I was very excited during mixing that one. I was just so happy with how it all came together and how the emotions carried through it.

MG: What was your timeline on this film?
SP: I started back in December 2011 and we finished the main film mix November/December of last year but then came back like I said this year and did a little more. So I have been involved for the better part of two years now, which in the great scheme of this project is nothing. There are people that have spent around four or five years working on it. But it was great that since it was in fact so much longer than the typical composing project on a film where you are always in a race against time that with this film you got a chance to go back and try different things. I was also involved with temp mixes with the sound crew, so we all sort of evolved the sound together. It was pretty rare and really great to see the whole project develop over the years.

MG: It’s been a busy year for you with “Gravity” and “The World’s End”, tell us about how ?TWE.ScoreCover.8.20.13
SP: I had done a film called “Attack of the Block”, in which Edgar Wright produced a few years ago. So “The World’s End” came from that basically. It was just great to work with Edgar on that film. He is so interested in his music. The whole film is so cleverly structured and the music is a part of that. You get really involved really early. Again, I got a script way before they even shot that one and got to discuss how they were going to do things and how we could adapt the sound. That was great fun and a lot of my role in that was around the energy of how everything happened in one night in the film. We got to play into a bunch of different styles since there were comedy bits, action bits and even romantic bits as well. It was just good fun to be able to press different buttons. From being in this very immersive “Gravity” world, it was great to break out and do something different.

MG: What do you have planned after this film?
SP: There are a few things that I have knocking about. Since I am relatively new to this whole composing thing and I am not one of these people that have done like 50 films, I still feel incredibly lucky to be doing it. But also I feel paranoid that it will stop all of the sudden [laughs]. So there are a few things in the works but I don’t want to curse them by talking about them just yet. But there is definitely some exciting stuff coming up!

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