5 Questions with Edwin Wendler

Varèse Sarabande just released the soundtrack to Unnatural via digital retail and as a limited edition CD autographed by both the composer Edwin Wendler and director Hank Braxtan.  Composer Edwin Wendler sat down with us to discuss his score to Unnatural.

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

A: Director Hank Braxtan wanted the music for Unnatural to be as cold and unforgiving as the location of the movie: the Alaskan wilderness.  I picked sounds that felt like they fit in the environment: wooden percussion instruments, odd vocals, a banged-up piano, icy-cold electronics, etc.

2. Was there a particular scene you felt was key to the film?

A: There is a fairly long action/suspense set piece near the end of the movie.  I needed to pull out all the stops: wild percussion, dissonant riffs, etc.  It was very important to me, though, to create some kind of cohesion by breaking down the main theme and using elements of it for the action music, so at least on a subliminal level, there is a thematic consistency, even in material which, on the surface, has nothing to do with the main theme.

3. Which scene did you score first and why?

A: I usually work chronologically.  In this case, the opening scene, which takes place in a lab, was eventually moved to the later place in the movie.  It sets up the antagonist and the overall sound of the movie.  When the opening of the movie was changed, structurally, the transition to the main title didn't work anymore.  Hank and Ron (producer) were thinking of editorial adjustments but I immediately saw a musical solution, presented it quickly, and was able to make the transition work, making my client very happy in the process.  As composers, we live for those moments, and I'm so glad I was able to find a solution for that sequence.

4. Did you use any interesting or unusual instrumentation?

A: For the creature itself, the result of an ambitious but misguided experiment, I used brass sounds which I put through electronic filters.  The idea was to take a natural, familiar sound and make it unnatural.

5. What is your favorite Varèse title in your collection?

A: Brainstorm by James Horner.  I always say that it is my favorite film score of all time.  It pays homage to all the major periods of classical music, the dynamic range is absolutely wild, and the dramatic range spans from moments of pure horror to absolute serenity.  It's an ambitious, daring score from an extremely passionate composer.  I love it more than I can express.

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