19 May 2007

THE FOUNTAIN - Entretien avec Clint MANSELL par Christine BLANC

"Therefore, the Lord God banished Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden and placed a flaming sword to protect the tree of life."
- Genesis 3: 24
Please Mister Mansell, how would you personally introduce yourself?
I’ve always loved music. Hearing the Beatles when I was about 3 years old. Then when I was 9 I heard David Bowie and then I knew I wanted to be a musician.
But a combination of arrogance and laziness meant that I didn’t do much but dream about it for years. Finally, around 15 years old, I began to teach myself chords on a guitar and that was the beginning.
I played in bands, learning how to write, learning to listen to my own voice, my own ideas. But it’s difficult in the modern music world of ‘pop’ to experiment too much because the boundaries are all set.
To really find my own music I had to move on.
I like emotional music, something that makes me feel. Something passionate .Not necessarily extreme just something defined and honest .

What are your sources of inspiration when you compose film music?
My inspiration comes from many sources. Music, of course, from Ramones, Stooges, Suicide and punk in general up to Godspeed You Black Emperor, UNKLE, and to Chopin, Elgar, Bach to Ennio Morricone, Zbigniev Priesner,….
Photography, movies, art-all inspire and help me believe that I can do ANYTHING-if I apply myself. One has to dig deep inside to truly find something of value.

May you tell me about your training?
I have no training .I’m a self-taught musician. My background is punk and electronic music. My only instruments are my ears.

May you tell me about your background and favourites credits?
I grew up in the West Midlands of England. Music. Movies and football were my favourite things growing up.
I played in bands from age 18.I made 5 albums and many singles with Pop Will Eat Itself from 1986-96.

When and how did you come to work in film music?
After leaving PWEI, I moved to New York to write my own music, to seek new influences and new exposure.
I failed at this, in retrospect. I couldn’t find anything to inspire me, I was depressed and at a loss.
I met Darren Aronofsky through a mutual friend. He was trying to get his first film, Pi, made… He needed someone to write music-I was that person.

How do you choose a project to work on?
It varies greatly. If the script is good and I am excited by the director and his vision is my favoured way.

What do you feel when you’re composing and what do you like in this process?
I need to get lost in the ideas of the film, which takes time and understanding of the work. Then I write until the music I create makes me feel the same way as the work I’m writing for…from there, it becomes a joining of the two to create a third entity. First, there is the story, second is the music, when the two are simpatico there becomes a third- the score.

Did your way of working change along the years or according to each film?
I don’t know if its changed. It probably has in some ways. But I still approach it in the same way. I look for something that catches me-musically, and use that as my start point.

How would you describe or characterize your own musical style?
I have no idea how to describe what I do-you tell me…..

How do you compose?
It’s a lot of application and effort. I just keep writing, finding little things that I like until they become bigger things.
I write very much based on instinct, I tend not to over-analyse anything until I have a substantial amount of work…I watch the movie a lot, and when the music and the film seem like they are talking to each other, I have something to pursue.



How did you come on the Fountain project?
This is the third film I have done with Darren Aronofsky.

May you describe your score for The Fountain?
There seems to be similarities between your score for Requiem For A dream & The Fountain. Do you agree with that? What’s about Tree of Life? Did you want to make connections between the two films?
I’m not too concerned with describing my work. That is for others to do. I just write what excites me.

Can you describe the main motive you created for the film, how you conceived it, and how you used it?
My scores are always concerned with repetition and evolution. The main themes grow out of each other in a very organic way due to the amount of time I allow myself to get to know them. Then I develop them over this time.
It’s difficult to say where the main motif first appears, but it develops through out the film as it is re-used because the main character is reliving the same experiences over and over but eventually he has a breakthrough and that is when the themes really blossom.


Some journalists say you seem to be close to the minimalist music movement. Do you agree? What makes you different from Phil Glass and the other composers of this kind?
I try to keep my writing as ‘bare’ as possible. If there’s too much happening then some parts can be lost or overwhelmed.
I use repetition a lot so that’s probably where the Glass/Reich connection begins, Glass’ score for The Hours is amongst my favourite works. I don’t know a great deal of that stuff, my more minimal influences probably come from punk-the Stooges, Suicide very basic rock’n roll!

The film takes place at three different periods. What was your relation to time in this film, through your music?
Time is an important topic in matter of minimalist music (repetition, micro variations, etc). How do you deal with the specific feeling of time of a film, the narration of a film?
I didn’t respond to time for The Fountain. I decided that the principle element was the story of one man’s growth. Darren tells stories in a non-linear fashion, if I had matched his movements the effect would have been very disorientating.
So the score is linear against the editing style. This helps ground the story, musically, and gives us a cohesive through-line that climaxes with the characters eventual awakening.


How did you come to associate such different musical styles as the one of the Kronos Quartet and the one of Mogwai?
Mogwai work in a very emotional and cinematic way.I thought they would work well with Kronos. Mogwai bring both power and intensity whilst Kronos can bring emotion and melody. Awesome.

How would you describe your treatment of the quartet in the Fountain, and your treatment of Mogwai? How do you feel between these two universes?
Well, I think we used both to their full effect. David Harrington from Kronos really pushes us all with his vision and precision. I feel very blessed to be working with such artists. Mogwai were great to work with. It’s not easy for an artist to put their work/sound in the hands of another. They were very gracious and allowed me full freedom.

What style, and what musical universe do you feel the closest: Mogwaï or the classical quartet?
The beauty of my work is that I can dip into all music styles that may be relevant to the current project.

What did you want to get in associating styles so different from the musical and cultural point of view?
A modern and unique score.

Can you tell me about what happened with David Bowie? What were your intentions regarding this artist? And what you didn’t make it together?
We met and talked about the possibility of Bowie contributing to the score, initially vocally, but maybe further. We had a few meetings but it never progressed.

Can you tell me about your collaboration with Nine Inch Nails?
As a member of PWEI I was signed to Nothing Recordswhich was run by Trent Reznor.He was very supportive of me in my wilderness years when I couldn’t find any direction.He introduced me to ProTools,Macs,Logic Audio,all the equipment I use today.Also,he helped me think outside of the norm.He encouraged me to challenge myself.

How much time did you dispose to compose your score, and with what budget?
I worked on The Fountain for 5 years..But this is not normal. Usually, it’s around 5-6 months.
I have no idea what the budget was in the end.

What orchestra and what size did you choose?
Initially,I thought I would need a large orchestra to complement the epic scope and journey of the story. But, the more I worked on the film, it occurred to me that the story is actually a small story of one mans journey. It’s an intimate story, so at that point I realized the score needed to be small and intimate also….

How did you work with Darren Aronofsky?
I work very closely with Darren Aronofsky, even before I actually start writing we talk and listen to each other, new music, films, images, anything that is inspiring to us….this approach continues throughout the process.
We never use a temp score in Darren’s films, we only use my music from the beginning.
I work closely with Brian Emrich, the sound designer also. We make sure we know what we are both doing so that the score and SFX can grow in tandem, with cohesion and synchronicity.

Can you tell me about the Fountain Remixed project? (The origins, the idea, the success of it, how you chose the winners)
This is still on going, with the results soon. Watch this space.
I like the idea of having people work with my work. Who knows what might happen!


You played in a punk group. Punks’ moto was “no future”. And now you do a film about past, present and future. How do you feel about this subject, and how did you evolve philosophically from that period?
Punks statement of ‘No Future’ was very much tied to the initial period of the late 70s when Britian was grinding to a halt.We had to make our own future is what I took from the statement. I follow that to this day. I am responsible for my life and I need to work hard to see the results. No one will do it for me.

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