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Composing Insights - Space

I was honoured to be asked to compose the music for this new film Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Places for the new Curiosity Stream.

“Join renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, one of the most brilliant minds our time in an extraordinary journey across the cosmos as he shares his own story of inspiration, curiosity, perseverance and ambition.”

Having composed the soundtrack for the Discovery Channel films ‘Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking‘, ‘Time Travel’ and ‘Aliens’, I knew this was going to be an exciting musical journey.

When approaching the music for this film I like to imagine the viewer inside the mind of Stephen Hawking – with the soundtrack being a major part of that.

The process started with me being sent a rough cut of the film before I started composing a single note. This was followed by various discussions with director Ed Watkins about what he wanted to achieve with the music.

I began to sketch out some themes and motifs for the production team to ‘try out’ in the edit. At this stage many of the computer graphics were only very crudely mapped out – but it was enough for me to make a start and begin ideas – so I had a rough cut to work with. Things like size and choice of orchestral palette, pace, feel, how textural, unusual instrumentation, voices/choirs – all these things need to be considered. It is very useful to find out at an early stage what music works and what music does not work – it can save a lot of time further down the line. So these initial sketches are an important part of the process.

A few weeks later and the picture had reached what is called a ‘Picture Lock’ – timings and shots are all finalised. So I knew how long themes needed to be for each section.

The director then gave me more specific notes on what each scene required from the music – also called music spotting notes.

These are the references for the Saturn Section – and from these notes I composed suitable themes.

SCENE: SATURN
Video screen flash back to school Reminiscence – Mischievous
Heading to Saturn Adventure, exploration.
Arriving at Saturn Awe, majesty
Skimming the rings Adventurous, dangerous
Protecting the Earth Revelation
Visiting Enceladus Otherworldly beauty. Awe.
Earth’s Evolution Scale, majesty.
Video screen flash back to school Reminiscence – Uplifting

Where appropriate I am keen to make the themes as personal as possible – trying to bring the viewer into the world of Stephen Hawking. Some of the themes that I composed for his childhood memories have a more playful and quirky feel. The theme ’This Remarkable Planet’ starts with an intimate/personal feel (piano and strings) – reflecting Stephen Hawking’s childhood but it slowly develops into quite an epic variation as his ship travels though space on his journey to planet Earth.

Listen to the theme ‘This Remarkable Planet’ on YouTube and ‘Going Back in Time’ on YouTube.