Our new film, made in collaboration with FACT magazine, opens the door on what Max Richter calls “composer gym” – a metaphysical space where composers work out their process and do battle with the moving image; a space that turns composers into film composers.
FACT speak to Anna Meredith, Lustmord, Max Richter and the Bristol-based composer duo Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury to find out what led each into the world of film composition. These innovative musicians discuss their unique perspectives and approaches to composing for film and explain the joys and challenges of working in the often complex world of sound and vision.
At the British Council, we've been fascinated by the union of film and music for some time and its unique ability to create artwork that, at its best, can be greater than the sum of its parts. For the past few years we've developed a film and music programme to support innovative work and stimulate conversations in this field.
- Find out more about our Film, Archive and Music Lab Week
- Listen to our SXSW conversation on live scores
- Apply for our film and music fund, Vietnam
From Studio to Screen
“I prefer to think of music as a creative conversation, between what I’m saying and the biography and thoughts the listener is bringing”
– Max Richter talking to Big Issue
Max Richter is a prolific composer whose music spans opera, ballet and the screen; he has also recorded eight solo albums. Stylistically, Richter is associated with a post-minimalism aesthetic – his composition “Sleep” gradually unfolds over eight hours and received its North American premiere this year at SXSW. For the screen, he composed the music for the HBO series The Leftovers created by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta which premiered in June 2014. In 2016, he provided the music for an episode of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror called “Nosedive”. In the same year he scored Luke Scott's debut feature Morgan and the political thriller Miss Sloane. He also provided music for Arrival, Castle Rock and BBC drama Taboo.
“Is it classical, is it pop? I don’t really think about it that way”
– Anna Meredith talking to The Guardian
Anna Meredith is a Scottish composer, producer and performer working across a wide range of musical environments and styles from concert hall commissions to more traditional albums and tours. Her music has appeared on adverts, fashion campaigns, installations, documentaries, clubs and at The Royal Albert Hall for the Last Night of the Proms. Working for film, her first film soundtrack was for Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade in 2018. She is well known to the British Council as a musician in residence in China and as guest producer for Mix The City Chennai.
“I’m not a musician in a musical sense. I work with sound and I blur the line between music and sound design. I create, I have this need to”
– Lustmord talking to Red Bull Academy
Lustmord AKA Brian Williams is a Welsh musician, now based in Los Angeles, often credited for creating the dark ambient genre. After relocating to London he befriended and worked with a number of bands before beginning to create his own music under the name Lustmord starting with the album Heresyin 1990. He uses a combination of musical and non-musical sounds to create his work, including screams, crashes, rumbles and atmospheric noise. He has provided music for over 40 films and also provided music for the computer game “Evolve”.
Geoff Barrow & Ben Salisbury
“Film scores … were our gateway into interesting music. We all heard Beatles records and whatever classical music our parents played, but I didn’t hear interesting classical music until I saw Planet of the Apes”
– Ben Salsibury talking to Rolling Stone
Both Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury hail from Bristol though their backgrounds in music are quite different. Barrow was a founding member and musical force behind 90s trip-hop band Portishead whose cinematic approach to music (and music video) might partly explain why both he and the band’s guitarist Adrian Utley are now creating music for film. Meanwhile, Ben Salisbury studied music at Newcastle University and Bournemouth University before going on to compose music largely for natural science documentaries. A chance meeting with Barrow, and a mutual love of football, led to a friendship and later a creative partnership which saw the pair collaborate for two Alex Garland films, his directorial debut Ex Machina and 2018’s Annihalation. Their score for Ex Machina won them an Ivor Novello Award for 'Best Original Soundtrack' in 2016.