Alex Wurman (Composer - 'Four Christmases')
'Yet Another Cold Refrain!'
Critically acclaimed composer Alex Wurman scores New Line Cinema’s latest, holiday comedy 'Four Christmases,' directed by Seth Gordon, starring Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon.
'Four Christmases' tells the story of Brad (Vince Vaughn) and Kate’s (Reese Witherspoon) struggle to visit all four of their divorced parents on Christmas Day after the couple gets caught in a lie by their families on a live news broadcast.
'Four Christmases' will be in theatres this holiday season opening on November 26th.
Wurman’s original score to 'Four Christmases' mixes traditional Christmas music with new original music, resulting in unique adaptations of familiar holiday classics. Wurman’s score also offers inventive themes that are subtly sweet as well as poignant. The score was recorded at Warner Bros Eastwood Stage and performed by a 90 piece orchestra, incorporating guitars, hand percussions, bells and other contemporary instruments.
Taking it from the top and knowing that you recently composed the soundtrack score for 'Four Christmases,' I wondered if you had ever scored a Christmas-themed soundtrack before? [Alex Wurman] "No. This is the first time but I grew up listening to the nutckraker suite because my father had made a wonderful recording of it with his Moog synthesizer for RCA records. In fact, when quoting the Sugar Plumb Fairy in the movie I found it useful to listen to my fathers recording, because he emphasized counter-melodies that worked well as an underpinning for the score."
And just what was it like composing such a traditionally fun holiday composition ... months ahead of the actual season? Did it have you in the spirit immediately or was it simply just another assignment? "The funniest moment came when I wrote "Alex Wurman is in the christmas spirit in the middle of august" on my facebook status."
For your work on this score you mixed traditional Christmas music with your newly-composed music, but were you told which specific traditional Christmas melodies you could 'borrow from' or did you have the whole spectrum to delve into?! "While sitting in a room with several filmmakers and producers, the discussions were darting from one genre to the next. I began to pick up on what their desires were. So, while no one actually told me what to do plain and simple, it was fairly clear what my options were. We tried things, sometimes we hit it on the head the first time, and sometimes we had to try again. The challenge was to bring references from as far outside the box as possible without being the slightest bit distracting, because Reese and Vince occupy a lot of the space right off the bat."
Indeed, how easy (or hard) is it to constantly create a new, vibrant, wanted-by-the-public sound for such a season as Christmas that both builds on and surpasses the musical wonderment's/accomplishments/arrangements that preceded it within the industry? "In this case, I never attempted to do that. In fact, I felt a craving for some of the classic influences like Mancini and Gershwin. I think Reese and Vince have a real charisma as an onscreen couple that alludes to the romance of that golden era. What modernizes the score is its very contrast to the contemporary dialogue and other filmic choices."
Is it easier to work with a smaller group of musicians on, say an indie film or perhaps - rather like you did on 'Four Christmases' - with a 90 piece orchestra there at the Warner Bros. Eastwood Stage? "Actually, it has been my experience that working with a smaller group is much more difficult. In a smaller group every member is more exposed, each performance becomes so intimate and impacting, not to mention with the smaller budget I end up doing more on the technical side as well. With a more traditional orchestral score the strucutre of the orchestra is so well developed that it's like speaking a familiar language as opposed to learning a new one."
Knowing that you are an admirer of Gershwin and Bernstein do you think you actually saw your work here on this film as an opportunity to pay homage to and celebrate those you respect so much, perhaps? "I wish a hommage to them would take me less than a decade to do in a satisfactory way. But allowing myself to draw on the influences they've had on me in my lifetime was a great pleasure."
Your next upcoming work is for the new Ethan Hawke and Mark Ruffalo drama 'What Doesn't Kill You.' Please tell us more as to what to expect on that soundtrack " Its a very humble score with a melody that was inspired by the internal struggle and courageous determination of Ruffalo's character. The subject of the film, which is a true story, is based on the life of the writer/director Brian Goodman. Needless to say, when I showied him this main theme it was a very important event for both of us. The score is subtle but showing the forementioned determnination required power and reserve. I think this has worked based on the initial reaction I've received. this is the type of artistic opportunity I find extremely gratifying."
Lastly, and as we know you already love Penguins - as do all here at Exclusive Magazine, trust me - I was wondering if you had considered another Penguin film/documentary score for the future? "I wouldn't hesitate for a moment to do that. Of all the films I've worked on, the mood created in my studio by the sounds and visuals of the penguins is the one from which I suffered the most withdrawal when it was over. I loved being in the Antarctic with those beautful creatures. Thankfully, I remain in my studio, and on the screen, and not in the Antarctic where the temperatures and conditions are unbearable!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
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