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Interview – Voice From the Stone Composer Michael Wandmacher Discusses Creating the Film’s Dramatic Original Score


Posted November 26, 2017 by

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Interview –  Composer Michael Wandmacher

Eric D. Howell’s latest film, Voice From the Stone, tells the haunting and suspenseful story of Verena, played by Emilia Clarke, a solemn nurse drawn to aid a young boy who has fallen silent since the sudden passing of his mother. Clarke’s performance in the film is definitely something to be applauded but another element worth paying attention to is the film’s score by Michael Wandmacher.  As the film progresses Wandmacher’s dramatically haunting score begins to take shape as another crucial character in the story, finalized by the end title theme “Speak to Me” he co-wrote with Evanescence’s Amy Lee. With a World Soundtrack Award nomination for the original score and a Hollywood Music in Media Award win for the end theme, viewers and critics also seem to be taking notice.  We spoke with Wandmacher about his work on Voice From the Stone and a few other topics below in an in depth interview.

Interview - Michael Wandmacher

How would you describe your Voice From the Stone score?

It’s a careful blend of haunting and beautiful. The process of writing it was tricky because it’s difficult to represent those opposing forces without swaying too far in one direction. Although the melodies and orchestration make a nod to classic Hollywood romanticism, there is always a sense of unease and dissonance lurking in the music. The score also evolves along with the characters in the story, starting off somewhat muted and restrained and eventually becoming full-bodied, sweeping orchestral statements. There is also a third element that utilizes ambient textures to highlight flashbacks in the story.

How closely did you work the Voice From the Stone director, Eric D. Howell?

Very! From the earliest days of development, we were talking about the score and how it would play a role in the film. Many of the core themes and textures were created before a frame of film was even shot. It was a great experience to be involved so early in the process and to be able to experiment with different approaches.

What sort of influence did he have on the film’s score?

He had great influence. A lot of his vision is contained in the music. Because of my early involvement we were able to have long discussions about approach, scores and films we liked and the ability to try different things. Also, since one of the characters in the story is a concert pianist, he wanted the piano to be a central voice in the score. He also wanted solo cello to be the compliment to that voice, at first opposing it and eventually working in concert with it.

Did you work with the Voice From the Stone sound designers at all? I noticed there were a few instances when the lines between the score and sound design crossed?

Yes. On both sides we were very careful to create a seamless handoff between score and sound. It’s not a “loud” movie and much of the most complicated sound work is actually very delicate and deliberate, especially as it relates to the voice inside the castle. It’s safe to say that no matter how small a sonic moment seemed, it was poured over at the mix.

You co-wrote a song for Voice From the Stone with Evanescence’s Amy Lee titled ‘Speak to Me’ that has been getting some attention. How long did it take you to write this with her? What was your process like producing it?

That was a great experience. It actually went pretty quickly. The core song, piano and voice, was done in just a couple days. The strings, drums and other bits were added later. We started by working together in the same room at Skywalker Ranch and then proceeded to send the song back and forth between Coasts as the details were added. It was a career highlight for me. Amy’s a creative force. You have to bring your A-game every minute to keep up!

 Michael Wandmacher voices from the stone

What are your influences as a composer?

Tough question because the list is LONG. As far as film music, I grew up listening to Alan Silvestri, John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith. But I was also very much into electronic music, rock, metal, industrial, pretty much anything. I like to listen to a broad swath of stuff. I think it helps to better inform your composition if your base of influence is broad. Strangely enough, I actually get a lot of musical ideas from looking at artwork and reading.

You have scored both indie films and big budget films such as Underworld: Blood Wars and Punisher: War Zone. Is there a big difference working on the two?

Mainly in the “scale” of the music. The bigger films usually require large orchestras and a lot of electronics. The technical aspect of doing those scores is as demanding as the writing of the music. In the case of Voice From The Stone the composition was extremely challenging because the orchestra was chamber-sized and much of the music featured solo instruments. There was nowhere to hide! Every note had to have a place and purpose. Very different from the huge walls of sound needed for the bigger movies.

Typically what is the most challenging type of film to produce music for?

They all have their specific challenges. As I mentioned, Voice was really tough because it was purposefully small in scale, which made every choice very obvious in the final product. But I think in terms of sheer hours on the job, large-scale genre films are a real workout. Many minutes of music (sometimes more than the length of the movie!), all produced using massive templates and hundreds of tracks. Those jobs are equally demanding creatively, technically and as a managerial task. Plus, they’re usually on very short schedules.


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Interviewed By:

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