Composer Frederik Wiedmann on Process, Experimentation and Superheroes

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Back in July, composer Frederik Wiedmann’s work on SPECTRUM was covered here. It was a masterful piece of music that took us on a journey through the senses. After the release of the soundtrack that accompanies JUSTICE LEAGUE: GODS and MONSTERS, we had an opportunity to chat with the talented composer and ask him a few questions about his experience, process and whether or not Bruce Timm has him on ‘speed dial’.

From horror films, to films about the sensory experience of autism, and animated films, it really speaks to your range and understanding of how music relates to on-screen images. What do you need to consider, regarding the source material, before taking on a new project?

Generally my film makers reach out to me when they have a rough cut of the film, so there is pretty much always something to look at at that stage, which is great! In some instances I was given the script very early on in the process, before the actual shoot. I love when that happens since I can wrap my head around the story early on and start thinking about the music. In either case though, it’s plenty of material to get the know the project. In the animated world, the source material comic might do as well.

You've done work with DC/WB in the past, and have partnered with Bruce Timm previously on Green Lantern: The Animated Series. what is it about these characters that you enjoy writing music for?

I’ve always loved superheroes, as a kid, as an adult. Superheroes are really very complex characters, in most cases at least. There is always a dark side to the heroism, a dark past, loss, etc, so that gives the heroes more than one layer which is always exciting for a composer. There is suddenly lots of opportunity to explore an emotional aspect of the characters. The other important element in the DC line is the “heroes’ journey”. Mostly they change who they are during the course of the story, they “become” the hero we know and love, and scoring these kind of character developments is another very thankful and thrilling task for a film composer.

Do you have a favorite DC character?

If I had to pick one it would be Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) - It could be because GLTAS was my first (of many) DC animated projects, so I’ll always hold that one very close to my heart. But I also like his human side. In our show specifically, he was depicted as a very human and kind character. That really spoke to me.

When composing music for an animated feature, such as Justice League: Gods and Monsters, how much collaboration is there between you and Bruce Timm to create music that enhances the story?

Bruce loves music and is very hands on. I love working with him since he is always looking to break some boundaries and try new things. It’s a great invitation for me to think outside the box. It has always been a great collaboration, with lots of creativity and ideas. Really fun and inspiring.

You said that you were presented with the opportunity to 'reinvent' yourself a little bit from a 'musical perspective'. What was it like to play with musical elements that you otherwise may not have explored?

I love doing some experimenting during a scoring process. That sometimes means creating new sounds, instruments and of course thematic material. My favorite thing to do is, when there is the time (often we are working on crunched schedules), to sit in my studio for days and do nothing, no writing, but only find new interesting sounds in my synthesizers and ethnic acoustic instruments. I’ll try hitting my guitars with drum sticks, and bow my dulcimers with a violin bow etc. And the outcome is usually a very unique and exciting new sound palette.

It's noted on the soundtrack that 'electronic elements' were used. And when composing "In Another Life" we can hear an 'array of dulcimers'. As you worked on the composition, was there a particular instrument or sound that you were excited about including in the score?

There were a few cues that were 100% electronic, and that may sound boring, but it is actually a lot of fun for me. The orchestra always works, one way or another. But working with synths only, I feel you have to be more on your toes to find the “right” sound that blends well with the scene and does not stand out as too “weird” . We wanted this score to have this strong contemporary element, since the story and the mood of the film felt quite modern.

In cues like “In Another Life”  I wanted to evoke a sense of “ancient times”. The look and the design of Wonder Woman’s world reminded me of ancient Greece in a way, so including acoustic instruments like the dulcimers and the Armenian Duduk seemed like a good fit.

Speaking of "In Another Life", it's beautifully orchestrated and seems to have a different tone than the rest of the album. With so many tracks, what challenges are you faced with in order to create a unique sound for each piece, but still tie it all together?

continuity is a very important part of my job, just like it is for an editor. The score has to feel homogenous, yet varied enough so it remains interesting and not repetitive. This is something that I think comes with experience. After a certain amount of movies under your belt, you kern how to pace yourself with the music arch, and how to change up the orchestration enough to keep the story flowing. The structural placement of thematic material is also crucial. I spend a great deal of time, especially in superhero movies, to structure my thematic material so it happens always in the right moments.

Of the 26 tracks, on an album that comes in at just under 55 minutes, which piece would you say was the most fun to work on? Most challenging?

I think a tough one was the main title (track 2). We wanted to try something a little different, Bruce and I discussed Rock and heavy metal elements, as well as electronics, as opposed to the usual orchestral super hero theme. We wanted to start the movie off with a darker feel, less heroic, and more edgy. So we ended up with a blend of all worlds. I think it’s a cool track - that sets things up in a way you may not expected when watching a Justice League movie.

At this point does Bruce Timm have you on 'speed dial' for future projects or are you ready to move on from scoring animated films?

I am always ready for more.  And I hope to get to work with Bruce again. he is such a great person to work with.

Are there any upcoming projects you'd like to tell us about?

I recently wrapped up a great thriller called “Shut In” - I believe it’s being released in October. It’s a gripping “house invasion” thriller starring “Beth Riesgraf (“Leverage”). Highly recumbent this one.

On behalf of Critical Blast, I would like to thank Frederik Wiedmann for taking the time to do this interview. We look forward to future projects by the highly talented composer. The soundtrack for JUSTICE LEAGUE: GODS and MONSTERS is available for purchase through itunes, google play and amazon. The soundtrack has some amazing elements that is unique to other music composed for DC animation. Soundcloud offers a free preview for 5 of the tracks on the album which we’ve embedded for you below. Give it a listen!