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Interview: Mark degli Antoni on BMI Composer/Director Roundtable

by Austen Diamond
- Posted // 2013-01-22 - On top of exploring the unique atmosphere of composing a film score, the BMI Composer/Director Roundtable at Sundance is an excellent way to see how the collaborative spirit between music and film is different than that of making music purely as a recording artist. Composer Mark degli Antoni talks about the process and the roundtable.

BMI and the Sundance Film Festival will present the 15th annual Composer/Director Roundtable, entitled “Music & Film: The Creative Process,” beginning at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23 at the Sundance House presented by HP (638 Park Ave., Park City). For more information and for a complete list of composers and directors, go here.

To put the discussion in a different context, in a previous interview BMI Vice President, Film/TV Relations Doreen Ringer Ross said, “BMI has been a longtime sponsor of the Sundance Composers Lab. One of the primary things focused on in the lab is the creative collaboration of composers and directors. Our composer/director roundtable at the Sundance Film Festival is a natural extension this agenda. It’s also a way for us to support BMI composers who scored films that are in the festival.”


God Loves Uganda trailer -- for more on the film, go here.

Musician/composer Mark degli Antoni (pictured), who worked on the incredible doc God Loves Uganda, answered some questions via e-mail. Director of the film Roger Ross Williams was unable to answer question by press time.

City Weekly: What initially inspired you to study composition (Mannes College of Music in New York City)? What are some of the movie scores that set the benchmark for you?

Mark degli Antoni: I love the way music is constructed and that it is constructed. I needed to get inside the technique of counterpoint because that is the essence of composition, and a conservatory in New York was the best place for me to do that

Any score by Alberto Iglesias, who usually works with Almodovar. The sophistication and expression of his music in a film is remarkable and magic to me.

CW: You’ve toured with Soul Coughing and performed with other rock acts. How has added to the way that you compose in general and for film.

MdA: With Soul Coughing, I was a writer so the experience was deeply personal. I wanted to separate us in a way that made us cinematic. Hence the use of a wide palette of sound as a keyboard-sampler performer.

With Low and David Byrne, it was a chance to play with friends and to participate in great music -- especially the opportunity to work with tremendous singers. Al , Mimi and David are all brilliant and so attuned to what is happening around them. They sing and the sky opens.

CW: Talk about the creative process of making the score for God Loves Uganda. Was it a difficult subject area to build from?

MdA: It was shockingly clear. Roger, the director, just said all the right dramatic things when we first spoke. I implicitly understood him, and every music sketch I sent he used. I was extremely focused when initially writing for the film because I believed in the message and was committed to make it right.

CW: Talk about working with Roger Ross Williams.

MdA: Absolutely lovely. Kind, soft spoken, clear in his vision. I can be quite emotional, I get excited about music, and his ease and calm were a perfect balance. And he's tremendously encouraging and supportive.

CW: You have scored one doc previously. Do you approach working on a doc differently than a drama? How does this score differ from what you’ve done in the past?

MdA: Actually, I have scored several docs. Roman Polanski: Wanted & Desired and Werner Herzog's Into the Abyss are probably the best-known. Happily, the nature of docs is rapidly evolving, no longer a method of conveying news but often an expressive dramatic story using techniques usually only found in narrative. So, it's become quite fun and expressive, like narrative film composing.

The key to the Uganda film was to stay simple and beautiful. Not to wear the drama on the sleeve; it's a deep subject which didn't need accent, but at the same time didn't need banal bed music. It was similar to Into the Abyss in that respect.

CW: As a composer, describe what you get out of the BMI roundtable.

MdA: The chance to see old friends and new ones. Nothing better than talking shop. Brilliant.

CW: Lastly, and sorry if you get this all the time, but what’s up with the nickname “horse tricks”?

MdA: On the road with Soul Coughing, I became nicknamed the "horse" for several reasons, one of which was that I have lots of energy and need to be let out to "run" regularly. I came up with Horse Tricks as a pseudonym to express the character I became in creating music during that period.

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