1) Hildur, can you elaborate on the sonic landscape that you created for Joker? It sounds so extraordinary!
Todd Phillips called me to ask whether I would be interested in reading through the script really early in the process and I loved it, it really spoke to me. So, when he asked me to write down some music based on my initial reactions it was a surprisingly easy process. I had probably one of the strongest aha moments of my career and the music I wrote ended up being one of the main themes for the film.
Being brought onto the project early allowed me not to be influenced by any external visual input and timings, and instead allowed me to sit down and find my way into Arthur’s character, his voice and his mind. Todd really resonated with this music and ended up playing it in the back ground whilst he was shooting the scenes later, this is pretty unusual as for most films the music is written later to the already shot scenes. It allowed the film and the music to grow together as a whole in a way that is pretty unique.
I knew that Todd had listened to my solo albums and had wanted the cello to play a large role in the score and I used this to really tell Arthur’s story and built the orchestra around this. It was really important for me from the beginning that the music represented his inner journey and the voice inside his head. The soundtrack was kept intentionally very simple and sparse to reflect how I saw Arthur’s character and the journey he was going through. From one of the first scenes where Arthur is being beaten up by a group of kids you hear this lone cello but what the audience doesn’t realise if that there is a full orchestra behind it which is almost inaudible, but you can feel these larger forces are there from the beginning. As the film progresses and his anger and frustration grow the orchestra becomes ever more present, the angrier he is getting the bigger it becomes. The orchestra ends up pretty much eating the cello alive by the end of the film.
2) You have scored some incredible projects such as Joker and Chernobyl. How do you deal with the pressure of multiple creative teams and delivering great music in a timely manner?
It wasn’t always easy to go back and forth between the two, as they were both large scale and completely different projects. Having a strong dialogue with the people you work with is crucial. At my studio in Berlin I work largely with close family and friends, my husband was score producer on Chernobyl and Joker and my brother and childhood friend were the editorial team on my side. This allows me to just focus on the music without getting caught up in trying to explain what I mean, as the people I work with know me so well and its always just about the music. Otherwise while writing, I tried to allocate blocks of time where I was focusing only on one project at a time. It´s just pretty intense organizing and time management.
3) You are a classically trained cellist who is equally at home with film scoring and performing live. Is it important to wear multiple hats like that?
It´s crucial for me to feel like I have the space and opportunity to jump between different mediums and means of expression. It´s really important for me to keep the curiosity alive by exploring different ways of playing and making music. At the moment I am working in two commissions – one for an ensemble of musicians and another one for a cello playing robot and a fog and laser installation. That´s a really good combination for me. I am also very much a performer at heart, so I love playing for people that I´m in the same room with.
4) Hildur, you have collaborated extensively with the late great Johann Johannsson. How did that collaboration come about?
We became friends in Iceland through the tiny music scene there in the late 90´s and started playing making music together around 2003. It was around the time where we were both finding our voices as solo musicians, after having always played with bands and groups of people. We resonated so strongly right from the very instant we recorded the first piece together. And in each other found musical soulmates. Our collaborations were always a dialogue, a conversation between friends, that most often took place through music. We lent each other ears and/or instruments on pretty much every single project we did from 2003 on.
5) What is your career advice to emerging composers who are not based in Los Angeles?
My advice would be the same to all composers all around the world. I think it´s more important now than ever, in all the digital noise we live with today, to give yourself the space to create the music that truly resonates with you. Not to try to please anyone else, or fit into any preconceived boxes. Give yourself the space you need to find your own voice, that place where you loose track of time in. Everything else will follow.
Hildur, thank you SO MUCH !