Magazine article Screen International

Daniel Pemberton Talks Composing 'Steve Jobs'

Magazine article Screen International

Daniel Pemberton Talks Composing 'Steve Jobs'

Article excerpt

The composer on scoring for Danny Boyle's Oscar contender.

Once known as the 'go-to' music guy in British television - scoring bold, innovative music tracks to shows such as Peep Show, Upstairs, Downstairs and even Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares - Daniel Pemberton has quickly risen through the ranks, and is now one of Hollywood's most sought after composers.

His cinema repertoire began with The Awakening, followed by Ridley Scott's The Counselor, Guy Ritchie's The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and most recently Steve Jobs - Danny Boyle's contender in this season's awards race

Screen spoke to the young composer at this year's World Soundtrack Awards, where he was last year donned the Discovery of the Year.

You are known within the industry as creating a wide variety of musical compositions - whether orchestral, electronic or with an unusual array of instruments. How would you describe the score for Steve Jobs, which is broken down into three acts?

When I first met Danny [Boyle], he had this great way of describing the film: the first act was about his [Steve Jobs'] vision, the second act was about his revenge and the third act was about his wisdom. Since all three represented very different parts of his life - we both discussed the idea of having three different scores to correspond to the specific time periods. We had no idea if it would work, but in the end I think it did. It gave the film a sense of momentum, a sense of identity. It keeps you engaged throughout the story.

At what stage of the production process did you get involved?

I started right at the beginning from script stage. Once production started, I'd be watching rushes everyday and responding to the performances, cinematography, production design, editing and of course Danny. I'd write a a lot of music, Danny and I would talk, then change things. Back in London - we'd finesse things until it was right. It's great because your 'stuff' becomes a lot more embedded in how the film is made, rather than just turning up at the end. Everyone was part of the collaborative process.

What was it like to work with Danny Boyle?

Danny is such a fantastic filmmaker - he was able to turn what is essentially a two and a half hour play into a cinematic vision. And I loved his process of scoring all the way through production. You're not getting a composer to come up with somebody's else's work - it's very creative.

I understand you used a variety of vintage synthesisers to recreate the first act, which is set in 1984 when Steve Jobs unveils the first Macintosh computer. Can you tell us more about that?

This was an interesting time - the forefront of a new era in technology. Steve Jobs and Macintosh thought what they were doing was going to change the world. While that didn't happen until the late 90s, I still wanted to capture that feeling of optimism.

Danny Boyle was going to shoot this act in 16mm, so I decided to only use equipment from 1984 which included several different vintage synthesisers (Yamaha CS 80, Roland SH-1000, Roland Juno-60, Moog Minimoog). Some of them were difficult to find, and there were limitations... The synths wouldn't have enough memory so you would have to take pictures of how they were set up, you'd have to play the notes by hand and if the room was too hot - they'd go out of tune. …

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