How Westworld, Hans Zimmer, and Musical Illusions Influenced This Soundtrack
How Musical Illusions Shaped The Film's Score
Before I write any music for a story, I always try to dig into the main idea behind it.
That can be a really hard process, but it can also be pretty fascinating. I'd like to bring you along on that journey.
My name's Daniel Ciurlizza and I'm the composer on Project Volare, a 6-week short film series + guide to filmmaking..
Here's what went down behind the music...
One of the coolest themes about Volare is that it centers on the idea of illusion. Everything around us feels a little off. We're always a little bit confused in this world, and nothing is what it seems.
So for the main titles, we wrote a theme that was somewhat ambiguous - you can hear it one way, or another. And it's kinda subtle. It's a melody that's built on "ghost notes" - similar to Shepherd Tones used by Hans Zimmer in Dunkirk and Interstellar. And we did that by playing octaves - two of the same notes (except one sounds higher than the other), and we play it at the same time.
You can hear this "ghost note" on the second note of the melody. Check out the main titles:
Sometimes it sounds like it's a higher note than the first, and sometimes it sounds like it's lower.
We scored this around the time Blade Runner 2049 came out, so I was inspired to incorporate some of the same synthesizers and sounds they used in that movie. Those synths double the piano that plays the main melody, and that's where the illusion starts to creep in.
If you don't hear it yet, that's alright. It's kinda like the blue dress/gold dress thing - you have to stare at it for a while to get it.
Building A Train With Music
The train is another major theme for this season - that's where we eventually lead the audience, and it's where everything goes down. And our characters know that from the start.
I wanted to hint at the anxiety and uneasiness, so we made a bunch of sounds that mimicked a train using musical instruments, and used them any time we were supposed to feel like something wasn't quite right.
We made an ambient bed by hitting a cello with Hot Rods, which are essentially drum sticks made up of a tight bundle of smaller sticks. And that made the artificial chugging sound we hear throughout the show.
I wanted the audience to feel like something was off. So I thought, what if we could make it sound like there was a train coming far into the distance. And we could play that through every episode up until the last one. And finally, we recorded harmonicas, pitched them down, and stretched them out.
The inspiration for the main titles really came from HBO's Westworld. There was something about the opening credits to that show that I kept going back to. I think it's really well paced, but I also feel like it has similar themes - we're going back to the idea of illusions. Things that we think are real, but aren't.
As soon as the audience realizes it was all a trick - a setup for something more dangerous - all of those train sounds go away.
Thanks for joining me on this journey. If you haven't seen the rest of season 1 yet, I'm excited for you.