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Victor Reyes: Composing And Fine Tuning A Musical Thriller With "Grand Piano"

Profile of Victor Reyes Composer of the film, "Grand Piano" Starring Elijah Wood And John Cusack
Courtesy of Getty Images

Musical talent can be found all over the world. Most will discover them and others, will overlook them until they're ultimately discovered and wonder why you didn't discover them in the first place. I would have to share a similar siutation with composer Victor Reyes, whose music has graced some very solid films over the last few years and many of those were small hidden gems that like his music, will also be discovered.

Victor is a terrific talent and an exceptional composer who really deserves attention and has gotten some with the U.S. releases of films such as "Buried", "Red Lights" and his latest film, "Grand Piano" starring Elijah Wood and John Cusack, which will no doubt is a score that will jump start his U.S. career. Composing a very intricate composition for the film, Victor guides us note for note, beat for beat through an intense ninety minutes that pay off brilliantly in every musical way.

For this very special interview with him, I was able get his thoughts on "Grand Piano", revisiting the music of both "Red Lights" and "Buried" and his favorite film scores and director. So please read on enjoy the musings of this terrific untapped talent.

Please tell the readers about what made you become interested in music.

VR: Well, I've interested in music since I since I can first remember. I remember Mother Rosario forever. She was a nun who worked on my sister's school, "Reverends Workers of Jesus". She used to say to my mother: "Tthis boy has special ears". It was in this way as I began to study music with
her, and now I owe her my way of life, no doubt. After that, The Beatles happened and I started listening to them and everything became a snowball… you know.

Let’s talk about your recent work on the thriller “Grand Piano” starring Elijah Wood and John Cusack. What got you interested in this project?

VR: I think is how the music contributes to the film. In the most part of the films, the music has an emotional contribution, I mean, the music should remark some of the psychological aspects of the characters - how to tell somebody feels sad, or lonely, whatever. In Grand Piano, the music is more than this. As the action takes place during a piano concert, the music should not only remark
psychological aspects of which in this case is Elijah Wood's character, but also has to be - or
seems to be - a real piano concerto. This mixture of internal and external implications was a
challenge for me from the beginning of the project.

Did you spot the film with Director Eugenio Mira before you started writing and did he have a specific plan as exactly what he wanted the music to sound stylistically?

VR: The problem with Grand Piano is that we needed very special soundtrack. As I said, the action takes place during a piano concerto, so, we spoke a little about "how" the music should sound. Obviously, our first references was Tschaikovsky, Rachmaninov, etc., because it is supposed that the concerto has been written by an actual composer, Elijah's mentor. The difficulty was to make
something that "seems to be" a real piano concerto, but, at the same time, it was neccesary to us
that the music expresses what the hell is happening into Elijah's head. In other words, we needed two concerts in one. A piano real concerto that seems to be a dramatic soundtrack, or if you want to, a dramatic soundtrack that seems to be a real piano concerto.

How did you and Eugenio collaborate from writing the score from the beginning to the conclusion of it?

VR - Also being a great director, Eugenio is also a very talented composer. He wrote the soundtrack of his two precedents films, and he did it very well. He began to work into the music at the same time he was writing his storyboards, so he composed the first demos and we shot the film with the arrangements which I did on this pieces. After the edition process was finished, I took control of the music, and I re-wrote the final score. We knew that we'll need a more dramatic, thriller score.

How much music did you end up recording for the film?

VR: We recorded just the music that we needed, not one more bar. The soundtrack includes 3 movements of the piano concerto, "La Cinquette" for piano solo, and "Main Titles" sequence, that is the only piece that doesn't sound into the theater, during the concert.

What were the recording sessions for the film like from your point of view?

VR: Recording sessions was very nice to me. Big time at Prague and London. First, I had the privilege to record with a sensational symphonic orchestra at Prague, helped by my habitial collaborators there, Adam Klemens directing and Jan Holzner engineering. Best of the best in Europe. After that, we were really lucky to stand by a pianistic talent as John Leneham is. He is the "real" Grand Piano player. He played "The Untouchable" pieces for us. Still can't believe it.

Let’s talk about the soundtrack album upcoming on Movie Score Media/Kronos Records. How did you guys put it together?

VR: The album includes the whole Grand Piano soundtrack in its integrity. Main Titles, 3 Piano Concerto Movements, and "La Cinquette". I made personally a special stereo mix of the pieces in order to have a proper album soundtrack. I'm proud of it. It was a blessing for me that the fine
people of Movie Score Media/Kronos was interested into publishing Grand Piano soundtrack, so the music is now on the market and everybody can enjoy it.

Are you happy with the way the album ended up and do you think fans of the film will enjoy it?

VR: Absolutely. Movie Score Media/Knonos was very respectful about the form of the score, as it is. I mean, the pieces are 10 to 12 minutes long. They understood that it was impossible to do any edits to the music. So the fans can listen to the music as the music is into the film, as a real concert.

I enjoyed your score for “Red Lights” for the thriller starring Cilian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver and Robert DeNiro a few years ago. What was it like working on that project?

VR: Well, as it happens with Grand Piano, it's a privilege to me working into a project that includes some of the most talented actors and actresses ever existed. Also, Red Lights was directed by one of the best filmmakers in the world, Rodrigo Cortés. The film is fantastic, a visual and pletoric declaration of intentions rising up from such an artist as Rodrigo is. He brought me the chance to record the score at Abbey Road, in London. I just can't say anymore. When you are surrounded and
supported by a cast and crew like this, then you feel yourself very, very lucky. As always does,
Rodrigo implicates himself deeply into the composition and production of the score. I think that Red
Lights is one of my best scores, thanks to him.

You also scored the terrific thriller “Buried” starring Ryan Reynolds. What was it like working on that film and what attracted you to it?

VR: Buried was a big deal. A movie in a coffin! Now, I had the chance to make some different with music in this film. In some ways, happens as in Grand Piano. In Buried, I thought that I should "show" what is happening "outside" the coffin with the music. I mean we are trapped there with Ryan, as well as the camera. So, what I did was score not only about Ryan's feelings, but also what is happening outside the coffin. Also the film takes place in Iraq and it gave me the chance to
explore Arabian music. Arabian scales and phrases are very similar to Flamenco music. We had the opportunity to take advantage of our ethnic musical roots.

Looking back on the score years later, how do you feel about it now?

VR: When I listen to Buried score, I feel proud of it. Buried is a really crazy soundtrack, in the same way that the film itself is a crazy piece of art.

What is it like working with someone of the caliber of Rodrigio Cortes as both director and producer?

VR: Rodrigo changed my life and the way in which I watch movies. He is a big talent, would say in a "rennasseance" style of the word. He is a writer, director, producer, musician, and many other things. A natural born filmaker. We're not talking about directing a film, but being a filmmaker with the
complete conciousness of making art.

What is your favorite film score of all time?

VR: Star Wars", for sure. John Williams changed scoring art forever. You may say "Jaws" is better. Maybe. Also, I think that Goldsmith's "Planet of the Apes" could be the best soundtrack ever. Wonderful, the music of "Planet of the Apes" is really integratedd into a real classical contemporary tendency of its time, and the music does not allow to you or Charlton Heston to feel that you are, actually on planet Earth. But "SW" shocked us in a big way and it was then wonderful, still is the best score ever.

Please tell the readers about your future upcoming projects.

VR: I just finished writing the score for a film directed by Buried's screenwriter, Chris Sparling. Another big talent. The film is "The Atticus Institute", a great horror film in docummetary style. I hope the film will be released soon.

A very special thanks to Victor for being generous with his time for this very special interview. Muchas gracias, amigo! Also special thanks to the MovieScore Media/Kronos Press Team for introducing me to Victor who's a class act.

Please feel free to visit Victor's official website @ http://www.victoreyes.es/VR_Home.html for samples of his work and upcoming projects.

The "Grand Piano" Soundtrack is now available from MovieScore Media/Kronos Records @ http://moviescoremedia.com/grand-piano-victor-reyes/ as well as iTunes, Amazon, eMusic.