Hours after recording his score for "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" in New York Tuesday, composer Alexandre Desplat flew to Los Angeles for two Q&As and screenings of "The Ides of March." The film's director and star, George Clooney, was on hand at the Pacific Design Center to compliment Desplat's work in using music as a story-telling agent.
"We messed around with a lot of sounds - the Scottish horn," Clooney using an example of an instrument that struck him as odd. The film was scored at EMI's legendary Abbey Road studios where, yes, Clooney did do a Beatles-walk across the street.
For a temp score they used "Michael Clayton" -- "I wanted the studio (Sony) to understand this was a thriller" -- and Desplat was able to to bring in some intriguing motifs between the military drums that open the picture and the solo piano at its conclusion. The music, Clooney said "tries to connect the hooks, showing how everything (in the story) is connected. It's all part of the arc."
One of the most prolific composers working in film, the Paris-based Desplat has worked on six films since the release of "The King's Speech" late last year and he has another four booked for 2012, including his fifth French film with Florent Emilio Siri. In October, he was named film composer of the year by the World Soundtrack Academy's honor for the third straight year.
"There are always challenges," Desplat said at dinner at Cecconi's Restaurant in West Hollywood, Calif., between Q&As. "You are stretched one way when you work with someone new and stretched in another when it is someone you are familiar with."
Desplat ran down the list of different ways he had worked recently. For "The Tree of Life," he spent three years working from Terrence Malik's script, writing 90 minutes of score from which Malik used only two cues. "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" was done in three weeks.
With Clooney, Desplat said, "he was very specific musically."
As the guest of honor, Desplat found time to chat with his manager Laura Engel and her partner in Kraft-Engel Management, Richard Kraft, president of Society of Composers and Lyricists Dan Foliart, and Ray Yee, BMI's executive director of Film/TV Relations.
Talk about Desplat's adventures in New York led to usual conversation about restaurants, Broadway shows and the lack of great recording studios in New York for large ensembles. Engel, whose husband, the harmonica player Jimmie Wood has recorded recently with Keith Richards and Rod Stewart, said she felt noise from rock bands and ambulances was seeping into the recording of the 60-piece orchestra. The engineer assuaged her fears, saying it sounded gorgeous.
When it came to dining, though, Momofuku and the DB burger in New York and John Sedlar's downtown L.A. restaurant Rivera were deemed top of the list; "Book of Mormon," not surprisingly, is the show to see.