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Clint Mansell recently has become one of the most intriguing composers working in Hollywood. He has begun his composing career as a vocalist and guitarist of the band Pop Will Eat Itself. In 1998 he took the opportunity to compose a score for a "Pi" - feature debut of his friend Darren Aronofsky. However the real spotlight came through their following project "Requiem for a Dream". Further, Mansell worked on such motion pictures as "Murder by Numbers", "Sahara" or "Doom". His latest effort is musical score to another Aronofsky's film - "The Fountain", where he once again collaborated with famous Kronos Quartet ensemble, who shared responsibilty of the "Requiem for a Dream" success. Clint Mansell has already been rewarded for "The Fountain" with the Golden Globe nomination and The Broadcast Film Critics Association Award. I'd like to invite you to read an interview I did with Clint Mansell few days after it was announced he's a Golden Globe nominee...


Łukasz Waligórski: What do you think about very distinct trend of minimalism in the modern-Hollywood film music? It left its stamp on many current projects of Danny Elfman, James Newton Howard, Hans Zimmer and obviously yours. As it seems that for Goldsmiths and Williamses of their era the strong influence were classical and Golden Age masters, for contemporary composers they are artists like Steve Reich or Philip Glass. Taking into account your mutual "love" for Kronos Quarter, how big inspiration for you is Glass? 

Clint Mansell: In truth, I don"t listen to a lot of these film composers. I really like certain composers - Glass, Kaczmarek - and there are certain scores by composers that I like - Zimmers "Gladiator", Shores" "Dead Ringers", "Betty Blue"... but most film music serves the film and is often wallpaper to my ears - often like the films they serve. I like films that make me think, consequently I like music that makes me feel. I write what I can, some of its good, some of its shit and occasionally it might be wonderful. 

I presume its the same for other composers. Phillip Glass and Steve Reich are unique individuals who follow their own muse. This, I find very inspiring. "The Hours" is one of my all time favorite scores. Also, Kronos Quartet are incredible. Again, they are unique. They lead, never follow. 

Both your main themes from "Requiem for a Dream" and "The Fountain" seem to be built around quite simple, minimalistic musical figure. However if one could take a wider look and perspective - they can exist in a spectacular fashion. What seems to be easier for a film composer - to write an extremely sophisticated composition/motif or to develop a composition based on simpler array of chords, what often leads to astonoshing results?

I like simplicity. I love the Ramones. Maybe it’s just the way my brain works. I don"t analyse what I write - I write what I am inspired to write. Inspired by the project I am writing for.... I think its important to distance yourself from outside influence as much as is possible. This way you can truly find what is in your soul. You may find there is nothing there - but its important to know. 

How do you find todays extreme popularity of theme from "Requiem for a Dream"? It gained a cult status, additionally it is heavily used by men behind film trailers. It recently appeared on special CD devoted to film trailer music "Requiem for a Tower". Having written so recognizable theme does it currently help you and your career of film composer? As a more recognizable personality?

It has undoubtedly helped my career because people know that theme - then they go "who wrote that theme?'" this way they discover Clint Mansell. Also, it showed me how my music can be adapted into other styles. Very illuminating for me. 

When did you start working on "The Fountain"? I heard that it was one of the longest film projects you’ve ever made?

I worked on it for 6 years.

Many people state that we live in the era of temp-track. Composers are actually made repeat themselves or their colleagues. Isn’t there really a place for originality in film music? Did "The Fountain" has any temp-track? 

We never temp Darrens films. He always uses my original music. If I have yet to write the music, then the film has no music. However, because I am so involved with Darrens films, he always has music from me to use - he has music on set when filming also. It may not be the final music, the "right" music - but he has music. Again, this leaves us free of outside influence. 

We know your collaboration with Kronos Quartet from "Requiem for a Dream", but I’m afraid here in Poland not many people know what the Mogwai is? Could you tell us? What was your collaboration with Mogwai like?

Mogwai are from Glasgow in Scotland. They make the most awesome, melodic, harmonic, discordant, beautiful music known. I implore you to investigate. 

Is that true, that David Bowie was going to be involved in the score for "The Fountain"?

David Bowie is the reason I wanted to be a musician. I saw him on TV when I was 8 and loved what I heard ("Starman" from "Ziggy Stardust"..). Yes, we met a few times, he saw an early draft of the film, I played him the themes I was working on. He decided not to be involved. 

Are you familiar with any polish composers? I heard that you really enjoyed "Finding Neverland" and "Unfaithful" by Jan A.P. Kaczmarek…

"Unfaithful" is a beautiful score. It made the film so good. I actually met with Adrian Lyne about scoring that film. But he went with Jan instead. When I heard the score I knew why. I couldn"t have done what Jan did. Awesome. I first saw "Finding Neverland" on a plane - and it made me cry. To cry when watching a film on a plane!! Man, thats gotta be some film - and the music was a huge part of it. I love Jans work. 

I know Zbigniew Preisner of course because of Kieślowski. Both of whom I admire greatly. I don"t know any other Polish composers, I would like to hear some. Can you recommed some to me? I am interested in music outside of what is here in America - there is much to learn. 

I would love to visit Poland. I am fascinated by its history, its troubles and its beauty. 

I noticed that "Finding Neverland" and "The Fountain" end credits are very similar because of music played on piano. In "Finding Neverland" we’ve got very romantic and gentle variation of main theme played by Leszek Mozdzer. In "The Fountain" there is beautiful "Together We Will Live Forever" played by Randy Kerber. Why did you decide to end the movie in so subtle and elegant way? Was there any inspiration with Kaczmarek’s music or maybe it was just Darren Arronofsky idea? 

I never thought of that - I guess its a style that has been used before. We wanted to give the audience a chance to reflect and absorb what they had seen and experienced. 

I really congratulate you on your nomination for Golden Globe and The Broadcast Film Critics Association Award. Do you think that Oscar nomination for Best Score is in your range? Tell us, what all these nominations and awards mean to you?

Thank you. Its nice to be recognised, its nice that this score has been recognised. If I had been nominated for other works I had done - "Sahara", "Doom" for instance - I would have been pleased but to get nominated for "The Fountain" which I feel is my best work, its personal for me, is very rewarding. 

Who knows by what criteria these are judged? I write as best I can, and when I do something I believe is good I will say so. Equally, if I do something that is not good, I will also say. I just hope that the music gets a chance to be heard. 

We already know that Ennio Morricone will receive an Honorary Academy Award. Do you think this Italian composer deserved for this award? Are you familiar with his works?

Morricone is a legend. If people only know one piece of film music it would probably be "The Good,The Bad and The Ugly". He is inventive, his music has such character. He totally deserves the honor. 

I really want to thank you for your time. I also wish you the very best success with "The Fountain" and all your future endeavors.

P.S.: I'd like to thank Tomek Rokita from Score Aficionado for his help in prepearing and translating of this interview.

Author: Łukasz Waligórski


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