5 Questions with Heather McIntosh

Heather McIntosh makes her debut recording on Varese this month with the score to the feature film, Z for Zachariah.  A long in-demand cellist player as well as a composer, Heather has performed with everyone from Animal Collective and St. Vincent to Gnarls Barkley and Lil' Wayne.  

1. Describe your latest soundtrack on Varese?

This work has a very pastoral tone, even though we are depicting the end of the world, it takes place in the only part of the world unaffected by the apocalypse. Along with lush chamber strings and horns, there is also an subtle underlying tension developed by the use of electronic and acoustic manipulated sounds.

2. Did the director give you any interesting instructions or feedback to help you create the tonal palate?

This is my second time working with Craig Zobel, so our director composer language is pretty well developed. With our last collaboration, the ensemble was super minimal, super biting, but minimal. This time we wanted to push ourselves with the score and it's thematic development. Really go for it, you know? Though it is a chamber work, we wanted the sound to be full and orchestral.

3. Which scene did you score first and why?

The scene in which Margot Robbie's character Ann Burden plays the organ. We knew we needed to get the tone of this right. It needed to feel like a timeless hymn and also be a defining theme for Ann. I started working on this after reading an early draft of the script, long before the film was shot.

4. What is your favorite Varese title in your collection?

There are so many great scores on the label, but the two I listen to the most are Angelo Badalamenti's Blue Velvet and Bernard Herrmann's Psycho. As a fairly new transplant to Los Angeles, Badalamenti's super noir (would that be super neo-noir?) score is great for car listening around town and Herrmann's score for Psycho is a pretty surreal listen on walks up in the hills around my house. Is that weird?

5. What kind of ensemble did you use to record the score? Did you use any interesting or unusual instrumentation or soloists who deserve a shout-out?

Chamber strings are strongly featured along with my friends and wonderful performers, Mary Lattimore on harp, Jeremy Thal on French horn, and some great vocal performances by Gideon Crevoshay and the Starry Mountain Trio. I also ran all over the place to record old pump organs for the score... one up in Portland, OR, one in Asheville, NC, and the one featured in the film which Margot Robbie plays. I thought it was important to record the actual organ in it's actual environment as it is featured. I'm thorough!

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