Film Music Friday: Atli Örvarsson on Hansel & Gretel
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January 25, 2013

Atli Örvarsson on Hansel and Gretel

Atli Örvarsson

Atli Örvarsson

The Brothers Grimm published the morbid fairytale Hansel & Gretel just over 200 years ago. It’s been told and re-told over the years, but never with such stylish, action-packed brio as you’ll witness in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. Atli Örvarsson – a graduate of the ASCAP TV & Film Scoring Workshop – pulled out all the stops for his score, combining traditional scoring methods and cutting-edge electronics for a musical landscape as modern as the movie itself. I asked him how he did it.

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How closely did you work with Tommy Wirkola on the direction of your score?

I worked very closely with Tommy. He comes from a rock 'n' roll background, and from the get-go that was a direction he very much wanted to take. But then, as the score developed, other styles started to influence the sound...anything from Bach to dubstep!

There's so much going on in this score - big string sections and choirs, heavy guitars and electronics. Did you always know you'd have such a wide spectrum of sounds, or did it develop over time?

It really evolved a lot over time. There was quite a bit of experimentation with the tone of the film which I kept responding to, and I feel like there's DNA of all of these styles in there. What's great about fantasy is that you can be very broad in your sound and compositions, but perhaps the challenge was to keep it very modern at the same time.

How much of this score was recorded live vs. put together synthetically?

It's probably about half and half. There was a lot of sampling and sound design that went into it and then we eventually recorded about an 80-piece orchestra at Sony.

A lot of unspeakable things happen to children in the Hansel and Gretel fairytale. Am I just hearing things, or did you use children in your score, too?

No children were harmed during the production of this film score!

Did you try out any techniques or instruments in this score that you've never used before?

Yes! Probably my favorite was the Mahler Hammer, which is literally that, a huge wood hammer that makes an almighty boom! The contrabass flute was another fun experiment.

Would you say that your time at Remote Control Productions has impacted the creative decisions you made in this score?

Yes, I've learned so much about experimentation with sounds and thinking outside of the box during my time at RCP. So blended with my Icelandic traditional/rock 'n' roll background, hopefully it makes for a unique cocktail.

How would you describe the importance that ASCAP has played in your music career?

ASCAP has been a great partner for me along the way on so many levels. They've always supported me and helped open up various doors that have led to great relationships and career-advancing opportunities.

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Visit Atli Örvarsson on the web: www.atlimusic.com

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters came out on January 25th, 2013. Find out more at www.hanselandgretelmovie.com.