Composer Joby Talbot will be performing his original score for the silent film “The Dying Swan” Saturday, April 14, at the Music Recital Hall at Southern Oregon University as part of the Ashland Independent Film Festival.
Coincidentally, the Royal Ballet’s “The Winter’s Tale” (composed by Talbot) is being shown during the London Live series at the Varsity Theatre in Ashland April 8 and 9.
Talbot’s résumé includes contemporary classical pieces and film and television scores. He composed motion picture scores for “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and for the animated film “Sing.” As an arranger, he has worked with numerous contemporary musicians, including Paul McCartney and Tom Jones.
EH: Some of your scores are enormously complicated. How do you get started?
JT: It’s like building a building. You have to have a strong structural architecture. I start with the raw building blocks of pitches and rhythm. When I’ve got the whole piece done like that, then I can start worrying about who plays what, and how they all combine.
EH: How do you find musical structure in cinema?
JT: Because I’ve done different kinds of music, everything from playing in pop bands to writing music for film, ballet and opera, when I write a film score, I try to write music which serves the film but could exist on its own. I have to find some musical logic in the basic illogical form that is given: First the guy’s scaling a mountain; then he’s being shot at; then he falls down a cliff; then he falls in love — a completely illogical beat, nothing to do with any kind of musical logic. I try to pull those two things together, so you end up with a piece that has the shape of the film, but also has an interior logic that can stand alone. This stood me in good stead for writing silent movies, ballets and operas. If you can take the classical structure and the storytelling in film, and work with them both — then you’re really on to something.
EH: Do you have any advice for young musicians and composers?
JT: Compose or play as many different kinds of music with as many different kinds of people as you possibly can. It’s like gardening. The more you can hybridize: the more you can take your experiences from one form of music, and apply them to another form of music, the hardier the stock will be. Don’t think anything is beneath you, it’s not.
The other thing is to be true to music. Of all the genres of music there are in the world, there are only two: Sincere music and insincere music. You can have an opera that is completely insincere, and you can have a cheesy pop song that is completely sincere. You can tell immediately whether the people making the music love the music. When you hear something that people are only doing for the money, you instantly know.
EH: What’s unique about your upcoming presentation of “The Dying Swan”?
JT: The film is a classic; it’s beautiful and emotionally engaging. Having the opportunity of seeing it on the big screen, with live music, makes it feel so immediate. We’re seeing these actors in this film from another world (before the Russian Revolution) by people who are long gone — and yet the live music will bring it to life in the moment.
The Royal Ballet’s “The Winter’s Tale” plays at 10 a.m. Sunday, April 8, and 1 p.m. Monday, April 9, at the Varsity Theatre in Ashland.
“The Dying Swan,” Evgenii Bauer’s 1917 silent film, will be performed by violinist Jessica Lambert, cellist Michal Palzewicz and Joby Talbot on piano, at 8:15 p.m., Saturday, April 14, at the SOU Music Recital Hall.
— Evalyn Hansen is a writer and director based in Ashland. To read more interviews with remarkable people, visit her blog at ashlandtheater.wordpress.com. Email her at evalyn_robinson@yahoo.com.