Quick chat: Oscar-nominated composer Alberto Iglesias

This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” begins with something of an overture, a jazzy-like composition that lets viewers into the mind of main character George Smiley (Gary Oldman) -- sorta. Spanish composer Alberto Iglesias kept the mood relatively downbeat through much of Tomas Alfredson’s film, a spy movie that isn’t a spy movie, at least in the traditional sense.

While Iglesias brought in slight electronics, it’s a wayward horn or a tip-tapping piano note that keeps things largely on the unsettling side. Here, Iglesias, whose work for ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ is up for the original score Oscar, talks about his musical goals for the film.


The film opens with a very nontraditional, jazz-like excursion. Discuss that.

PHOTOS: Oscars: Top nominees

‘I started with this cold thing in the beginning. Some films start where the music could contain the whole drama. I tried not to do that. It’s very much about George Smiley in that moment and the human side of the story. I didn’t have a dramatic actor until the very end of the film, and so therefore the music builds up and becomes bigger at the end, whereas it’s more subtle at the start.’

Film scoring is such a collaborative medium, with conversations between musicians and filmmakers. Yet you start with a more solitary approach?

‘I did sketches on the piano. Then I go to the computer and try to get a lot of ideas. For this, I worked a lot with electronics, and mixing both the electronic and acoustic worlds. The electronics come in during the sections in which characters talk in code.’

This score is very subtle.

‘Music is very close to mystery. Music is a mystery. There is a silent side of the characters, and the music in this film is trying to connect with the silence. The silence in the film is what activates the music. The music, coming from the silence, translates the mystery of these people.’

For a film that’s largely about the emotional journey of one character, what did you view as the role of the work? To hint at what’s being thought? To stay out of the way?

‘Music can amplify emotions, true, but I was more focused on the meaning of the film. The music is about the means behind the emotions and not much about creating something beautiful. I used it as a guide. The music understands better, I think. It’s not something big with lots of expressions. It’s more minimal. It’s not a film about spies in the Bond, or action sense. [Tomas Alfredson] explained to me very well what this film is about. It’s a film about loyalties and human relationships. These spies are victims of this moment ... I had to find music that could give that idea.’


Play-At-Home Oscar Ballot

Trent Reznor and ‘Dragon Tattoo’ director band together

‘They needed some Mexicans in there’: Pop & Hiss premieres the Los Lobos theme to ‘Rango’

-- Todd Martens