Interview with Ivan Palomares: Le Vent des Regrets
It is always a great pleasure, in these times full of lack of inspiration, to find some quality works that allow us to keep enjoying our passion for film music. And Le Vent des Regrets, by Spanish composer Iván Palomares, is a perfect and brilliant example.
Of exquisite sound, with a flawless narrative, where melancholy and nostalgia (the use of cello is just wonderful) prevail, the score displays a melodic oasis which perfectly emphasizes the condition of the two main characters, past and future meeting present, with an incredible final musical liberation, a narration closing coda.
The score is brilliantly executed, perfectly working in the emotive level, standing out whenever the music appears, restrained but resolute. And nothing is useless; everything flows in a natural, honest and transparent way. No cheating. Iván speaks from the heart, exposing the conflict, humanizing characters, and music is one of the main elements, if not the main one.
A great discovery for me, the CD includes several other marvelous pieces, all very different, but which create a wonderful listening experience, where quality does not decline, and shows Iván’s versatility: epic, drama, horror, adventure… This is an excellent compilation, which will let us discover a composer who, if lucky in future assignments, will have much to say.
Before you start reading the interview, I would like to thank Iván for the gift of this incredible CD, musical accompaniment in my office all April long, day in and day out. Thanks also for giving away the two signed CD we shall raffle next week. And last, but not least, thanks for his absolute availability during the preparation of this interview.
Thank you very much and all the best.
Ivan Palomares – Biography
Iván Palomares studied Composition in the National Conservatory in Madrid, graduating with the highest distinction; he has also studied Orchestra conducting with Antonio Moya, Alain Sancho, Mercedes Padilla and Philippe Gérard, attended seminars and Master classes by Maestro Enrique García Asensio, Hollywood composer Hummie Mann, Samuel Adler and Ertugrul Sevsay and at Berklee School of Music.
He has received numerous awards worldwide, such as the prestigious Jerry Goldsmith Award for best music in a documentary in 2009 and in 2012. In 2013 he won the Crystal Pine Award for best music in the Samobor Film Music Festival.
His music has been aired in more than 130 countries through National Geographic and the Discovery Channel. He is developing his musical career both in the Classical (Composition and Conducting) and the Media field, having worked in several projects for Television, Film, Commercials and Stage plays.
Iván Palomares has kindly given us two signed copies of his latest CD. They will be raffled among all those who wish to take part in the following contest.
To do so, you have to send the answers to these three questions to the e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, stating in the subject Iván Palomares’ Contest.
1) Which record label has released the album and what is the name of its founder?
2) In which two TV series did Iván Palomares appear as an actor?
3) How many times has he won the Jerry Goldsmith Award and in which categories?
On May 17 we will post the names of the two winners. Good luck and see you soon.
Which is your first musical memory? The moment you said: This is it; this is what I want to do.
Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos come to my mind, No.2 in particular… Essentially because it could be heard at home nearly every weekend. I was always intrigued by the musical progression when it changes to relative minor… It drove me crazy!
But, with no doubt, the key moment was the day my father gave me the vinyl with the Return of the Jedi soundtrack and told me how music was articulated through the use of leitmotivs and the meaning of each one of them. I remember that day vividly… That was clearly a decisive moment!
All of us are, in life, the sum of a certain amount of influences, both personally and professionally. In your case, professionally, who were yours?
I think that music is, besides art, a form of communication and, as such, generates multiple responses in the listener. Film music tends to be seen as something that must always evoke an emotional experience… I believe it should not be limited only to emotion, but also should generate, together with the image, an aesthetic experience in the broadest sense, not only emotional, but also in an abstract and cerebral sense. That is why I think I have many and varied influences.
In concert music, I was influenced by both single pieces and great composers… Gesualdo, Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Chopin, Debussy, Ravel, Rachmaninov, Stravinsky, Berg, Webern, Ligeti, Lutoslawski, Takemitsu, Lachenmann…
In movies, Williams inevitably, who is obviously almost the main responsible I work on this! But I also enjoyed a lot Michael Kamen, who is sorely missed, and Goldsmith, Silvestri, Goldenthal, Zimmer, Newton Howard, Herrmann, Horner, Morricone…
As many other young composers, you began in short films and, in fact, you still write for this medium. What creative possibilities are provided by short films? Do you feel comfortable in them?
I think that short films are like the pit for a conductor… They should be compulsory to learn the craft and build the base for musical storytelling. All genres have a place in this type of filmmaking (comedy, horror, etc.) and, therefore, it is a great school to learn how to choose what message you want to convey as a film composer and learn, mainly, the methodology needed for movies or other media.
So, due to its own characteristics, it is still an excellent school for experimenting and I believe it is necessary to keep working on short films (apart from the fact that it allows to create relationships with new directors).
Of course, there is a moment when, as a composer, one needs to develop a musical idea for 90 minutes and the short film will become… ¡short!
I therefore think that the film composer with this type of experience should come back to short films, mainly, for personal reasons and not so much to create additional resume or future assignments… It should be because the story feels truly unique or because there is a special affinity with the director or because it allows a musical experimentation that, perhaps, would not be possible in more generic formats (TV, film, etc.).
As a curiosity, I see you have had some small roles in series such as “Family Doctor” or “Hospital”. What memories do you keep of that experience? Would you repeat it?
Yeah! It was a wonderful experience! Before I understood that I could not devote myself to something different to music, I studied drama and, for a time, worked as an actor. I had recurring characters in some series. It was a really nice time and I have always thought it to be complementary to music, conducting in particular, above all in all related to attitude, commitment and communication on stage. I would repeat it with no doubt. And I recommend taking drama courses to all my fellow conductors and composers. Not only to promote self-expression, but to show them how to look inwards in order to go outwards.
Coming back to the present, film music fans are lucky due to recent release of your music for several projects, thanks to Godwin Borg’s Kronos Records label. How did the idea of this CD take form?
Thanks so much! I talked to Godwin some time ago and we agreed that I would show him some material we could think to be interesting. When I showed him the soundtrack for Le Vent des Regrets, he immediately wanted to release a CD edition (not a digital one, something that is greatly appreciated, considering the effort involved) and we thought about the inclusion of music from some previous projects. At first, the idea was releasing the soundtracks of several short films, but in the end we found more interesting to put together a CD that was not only nice to hear, but could also play as a film music compilation. That is, on the one hand, a complete soundtrack for a short film, with its own musical approach that differed from the rest of the CD, and a compilation of the main themes for other movie or TV projects, ballet or free music I have recorded over the years. We are delighted with the reception given to the release… We knew the risks involved in a soundtrack CD such as this and it is really gratifying to be told that it is a pleasure to hear and that people appreciate it, precisely, due to the variety of styles.
What do you think of the labor of producers such as Mikael Carlsson or Godwin Borg, people who take a chance in releasing lesser known works of composers which would not find their niche otherwise? Will there be more releases?
We are extremely fortunate to have people as committed as Mikael or Godwin. As you say, that there are people like them is a proof of the huge enthusiasm and passion they have for film music, considering the costs involved in producing, editing and releasing CDs in these times. I may only express my gratitude to them and, in particular, to Godwin, whose enthusiasm is incredible and contagious. And, of course, I hope there are more releases in the future!
What will the listener find on this Kronos Records album, apart from the music for the short film “Le Vent des Regrets”?
In the case of Le Vent des Regrets, it is a very personal score, for a story that captivated me from the screenplay itself. It is one of those stories that you, as a composer, cannot refuse. And it took a lot of effort, from the guts.
Then, a selection of pieces that, deep down, show much of what film music is for me. The listener is going to find themes that will allow moving through different moods, such as melancholy, hope or epic and some others that simply try to enjoy him. All made with great effort and passion and I believe they reflect many of the musical influences we have mentioned previously. They are short but intense pieces!
Digging into the short film “Le Vent des Regrets”, how did you get the assignment?
Olivier Vidal, one of the two talented directors (the other one is Sébastien Maggiani, and incredibly young and gifted guy, with whom he released a few months ago the French film Hasta Mañana) had heard my music and, after talking to each other on several occasions, he gave me the screenplay one day and it was marvelous. I sent him a first demo based on what the screenplay suggested to me and that was the origin of the music for the film.
Reading John Mansell’s interview in the CD booklet, we learn that you had the chance of working with a 40 musician orchestra for a 15 minute short film, a rather large ensemble and unusual given the tight budget. What was the reason for that? The result, in the film, is really emotional and one can hear the colorful and orchestral accompaniment.
It was a series of lucky circumstances that allowed the recording. Olivier and I agreed to do everything possible to record live. We felt that the story could not be told, as originally foreseen, with synthesizers. The film has a vintage look, a kind of old fashioned moviemaking way, with very scarce dialogue in some moments, lots of silences, background sound and an only music final scene, which is a gift for any composer.
On the way we crossed paths with the great Carlos Martín and Mad4strings orchestra, which at that time was being launched, and, with lots of effort on their part, made us an irresistible proposal. Even if it meant, obviously, an additional sacrifice by all, it allowed the project to keep going. The musicians and the technicians performed excellently during the recording. Ana Laura Iglesias’ cello solo is very emotive. I would like to particularly thank Mikel Krutzaga, who mixed the score beautifully, which makes the music cover you and gets it directly to your bowels.
The film is about childhood problems, about those factors that shape our adult life, seen through an older man who gets out of prison after a long sentence, meeting a child who also has problems and with whom he identifies. How did you approach the film? What was your musical approach? One may notice an emotional and direct musical tapestry, full of nostalgia and melancholy (I believe the use of cello is essential on this).
It all really came from the feeling that reading the screenplay gave me. In spite of talking about a traumatic past and the court scenes, the screenplay does not judge the characters, but basically seeks to take out all the light they have deep inside. In the end, I found that both characters were people who had made mistakes at an early age, and that they would spend their lives in search of an absolution that could only come with time.
With so many references to childhood, my intuition made me compose a “broken” lullaby, as the remembrance of an unfinished one sung to them. That lullaby became the cello solo, with very few notes at first, as a theme that finds difficult to start, except in the last scene, where the theme is released, like the characters, if only temporarily. For me, that was the musical challenge… how to tell, with very few musical elements, several emotions at the same time, with a significant degree of emotional restraint while the listener could feel the eagerness of the music to bloom.
Is “Le Vent des Regrets” one of the best projects you have worked on or one of those you feel most proud of? Honestly, having seen the film, and heard the CD, the music works great with the image and has an excellent narrative sense, being also enjoyable in the album.
Thank you! For me, of course, it is the most personal one, where I could compose music that moves at a different level from the rest of projects I have been able to work on. I had long waited for a story like this, where music is more metalinguistic, honest, bare, unadulterated.
Fortunately, both screenplay and direction helped greatly. Choosing a beach, with the wind in the background, as in the opening credits, to suggest how wind and sea can “sweep” bad memories over time is extremely symbolic. And, in this case, subtly directed, without falling into the obvious. When a direction is so subtle, music is easily written… That is why the cello theme appears accompanied by musical textures in motion, as if the wind of the film itself.
I would love to develop such projects and stories in a longer format… For me, beyond doubt, this is the kind of filmmaking that would make me happy to contribute in Europe.
The rest of the CD is a good sample of what we can expect from a good composer; epic themes, adventure ones, some ethnic, other more dramatic ones… a bit of everything. Do you consider yourself versatile? Is there any genre you like best or you like to work whatever the subject?
Of course! I totally believe in versatility. I consider genre, within film music, as a composing pattern, as a musical form in which one develops something close or different to genre, but always based on its codes. Sometimes you can be lucky enough to reimagine the codes and deep dive, especially when the story allows it, but that is something that can be only done with the director’s approval. In any case, I have always liked exercises in style, since my learning days. I think it is positive for the “hand” of a composer who also wants to write for other media.
However, what kind of project would you like to work on? What would be your dream?
No doubt, at least once in my life, I wish I could work on a blockbuster with a huge orchestra. I think we all film composers, as soundtrack fans, have enjoyed “larger than life” scores and at some point I would like others to enjoy one of mine the same way, while I enjoy the process too, obviously.
However, my dream is basically to be able to devote my life to this, being able to choose good stories and, naturally, with enough budget for allowing me to tell them the way they are conceived in my mind.
Some of your more important works are for documentaries, such as “El desafío de Garamba” (with a marvelous ethnic touch) or “A World Apart”, music that we may purchase via digital download in your web (both have themes in the Kronos Records album). What compositional opportunities do documentaries give you?
Documentaries are full of opportunities indeed… There are several subgenres within them and the good thing is that there is enough creative freedom. As always, it depends on the medium to which it is intended for, but it is generally quieter than movies or TV and closer from the working process point of view, so there are more chances to propose things.
Personally, my motivation when writing for documentaries is leaving a “footprint” in the ones allowing it, a subliminal “message” that matches the one that, at heart, the producers or directors want to tell. It can be a concept, such as the passion for discovering new things or travelling nostalgia or the feeling of being alive. It is fun to try to add this “concept” within the background music that often goes unnoticed… How nice is to discover that the message, despite being behind the image, has been conveyed.
About the future… which projects do you have in the pipeline?
Two documentary series and other very interesting projects that I cannot yet disclose, as they are in preproduction. And, in concert music, an upcoming premiere of a work for flute, played by the great Julián Elvira.
As a curio, what do you like or do not like of current film music?
Deadlines, even tighter, but, above all, the each time more limiting budgets.
Also, though it is part of the profession and one needs to adapt to the new aesthetics (either you accept it or maybe you should not devote to this), the use of film music as an additional sound effect and the loss of the organic feeling live musicians provide, in favor of a hybrid production in which sound is totally manipulated. The power of natural resonance in an orchestral recording is lost by adding exaggerated dynamics. In my opinion, it only saturates and exhausts the listener. But, as I say, it is part of the “business” and either you accept it or swim upstream.
Finally, one thing that worries me is the saturation of film music in TV programs using compositions from great films, excellently written (Thomas Newman, Elfman, etc.), but which are used without criteria, for the easy tear. The code originally associated to the film, its subtleties and richness, is twisted, they become background music in (reality) shows, together with empty library music. In the end, the viewer gets used to associate these themes only as background or library music and, though it could seem I go too far, I think this contributes to the loss of value music has undergone today. Anything goes; everything can be used in any medium, in any way, because it has no value. And that is a pity, because there is very well written film music.
And finally, some very quick personal questions… The first thing that comes to mind. You only need to provide one reply. Ok? Let’s go!
A movie … “The Godfather: Part II”
A musical instrument … The cello
A composer … Beethoven
A book … “The Shadow of the Sun”, by Ryszard Kapuściński
A city … Paris
A song … “J’ai vu”, by Henri Salvador
A TV series … Breaking Bad
Thank you very much for your time and for giving away the CDs for the raffle. We wish you the best of luck in your future projects and we would like to see you soon in Asturias.
A million thanks to you! I’ll take you up on your offer… I love Asturias!
Special Thanks to:
- Ivan Palomares, for gifting us his time
- Oscar Salazar for the translations; without you this had been impossible.