Maestro! The soundtrack king celebrates his Heroes & Inspirations while a string section surges heroically.
The best way to talk about music is to talk about story and emotion and not to talk about the instruments,” Michael Giacchino tells
SFX. The Oscar-winning composer is sharing how he works with long-time creative ally JJ Abrams but these words illuminate his entire career. From Lost to The Incredibles, Star Trek
to Rogue One, Jurassic World to Spider-Man: Homecoming, he’s brought his heart-spurring, richly thematic touch to countless modern blockbusters. This month Giacchino celebrates his 50th birthday with a retrospective concert at the Royal Albert Hall. “There’s nothing like a live performance,” he says, preparing to name some touchstone influences on his work. “The audience gives you energy; you give it back to them in the form of music.”
His work with Ray Harryhausen was probably some of the first music that I noticed and loved. Those movies actually made me want to make stop-motion movies, which I did endlessly as a kid! People normally talk about his work with Hitchcock but he did everything. He did tons of radio shows, he did tons of television, he did The Twilight Zone. He was incredible. I love the storytelling aspect of his writing. You could always listen to his music outside of the project that it was associated with and relive that story in your head. I always try very hard to make sure whatever music I’m writing is going to help tell the story. I don’t particularly enjoy music that’s just wallpaper in the background. I love music that takes a story on and embodies it in its structure, in how it’s played, how it’s orchestrated.
JOHN WILLIAMS’ STAR WARS SCORE
Star Wars was the movie that opened my brain into understanding what an orchestra does. Prior to that I would listen to orchestral music but not really think about how it was made – the idea that there are different musical components to an orchestra – trumpet, oboe, French horn and so forth. In the liner notes they talked about different instruments that were being used in certain cues. I’d go, “Oh, that’s what that sound is…” It awakened me to the understanding of how an orchestra
heading into the desert or visiting an ancient ruin makes me want to make a movie
functions. I became pretty obsessed with learning more about that. How did I feel following John Williams on Rogue One? There wasn’t that much time to think about it. There was just such a short time period to get it finished in. It became something that was purely about my gut instincts. “Okay, if you want a Star Wars score, here’s what I think it would be…” There was no time to second-guess any of it. I actually got to play a Stormtrooper in The Force Awakens. I was SN3181, the guy who arrests Poe Dameron after they destroy the village at the beginning of the movie. I take him in front of Kylo Ren. He’s still alive somewhere in that universe… I have an action figure that I pretend is me. A good friend of mine at Disney made me a boxed Stormtrooper but it has my picture on the front, in the uniform without the helmet.
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
I have a lot of all-time favourite films but today’s is Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Every aspect of it is just amazing. It’s one of those films that’s a perfect example of how to make a movie: you do it quickly, efficiently, you storyboard everything, you make sure it’s working… Steven [Spielberg] wanted to make something that was on budget, that was on time, because of what happened on Jaws [and 1941]. I always look at Raiders as an incredible example of filmmaking and teamwork. It’s hard to imagine a film like that ever getting made again, because it’s not overproduced – they did just enough. Nowadays every big actionadventure film seems to be loaded with nothing but visual effects and fake worlds, which really don’t do anything for me. I’d much rather have the small story and I think Raiders is a great example of that.
I’m always attracted to things that are about storytelling and they were just great storytellers. I love their way of experimenting. They didn’t read music and they certainly didn’t know a whole lot about music theory but they weren’t afraid to experiment. They went by how it sounded to them – “This sounds like a great idea!” – and they took that and ran with it. And that’s an incredibly hard thing to do. You have to be very persistent to want to work that way. I just admire so much how they were able to pool so many great ideas among them, with the help of George Martin of course, who then shaped it. That collaboration between all of them is just fascinating to me.
Rossini was writing music that was incredibly thematic. Everyone knows the Lone Ranger theme but finding out that it was actually a classical piece of music, written as the overture to an opera about William Tell, you’re like, “Wow, this existed before?” And then you start uncovering all the other things that were being used in TV or film that were actually written hundreds of years ago. I love his stuff very much, because it’s just incredibly romantic and big and feels like a film score. Shostakovich is another composer who I love. He can be dark in ways that no one else can. It’s incredible the texture he comes up with.
I have a soft spot in my heart for Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard. I really love learning about Colonial history and I love wandering around those towns. I have a similar attraction to Hawaii – the exploration, being out at sea. For some reason that sort of nautical history has always been fascinating to me. I find places absolutely inspiring. Going into the Sequoias or heading out into the desert or visiting an ancient ruin always makes me feel like I want to make a movie. My brain turns back into the 10-year-old kid who just wants to run into the woods with his camera. I love that idea of looking around you and being dwarfed in scale to the point where you can do nothing but come up with ideas for films or stories.
Just spending a chill afternoon with the Imperials.
Giacchino cameoed as a Stormtrooper in The Force Awakens. Giacchino wrote the score for Rogue One. Star Wars
Mark Hamill enjoys his tea break on theset.
Being squished by a boulder before you’ve even had breakfast. Street music in Cape Cod.
Giacchino also looks to Italian composer Rossini.
He loves them, yeah, yeah, yeah...