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'Elysium' Composer on How to Write an 'Organic' Score (Hint: Hire Monkeys and Mosquitos)

Ryan Amon Abbey Road studios 2013 L

Ryan Amon talks to THR about his "hybrid" process, working at Abbey Road and why lack of direction can be the best scoring bet.

When director Neill Blomkamp (District 9) selected Ryan Amon to score Elysium, the composer was surprised, to say the least.

Although Amon had previously written music for trailers, and he estimates 10 -- including those for The Avengers and Watchmen -- used his compositions, his experience was limited.

"I haven’t done any short films or anything, and he knew that,” Amon tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I haven’t done anything before this."

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But Blomkamp wanted an “organic” and “nontraditional” score to the Matt Damon and Jodie Foster starrer, expected to open in August, and after hearing Amon's music on YouTube, there was no doubt in the director's mind as to who should score the sci-fi epic.

The director had him compose much of the music before seeing the film -- replicating Amon’s process for scoring trailers, which are usually not prepared for composers beforehand. “He didn’t want me to know what was going on. He wanted me to use my imagination,” Amon said. He found the process both daunting and liberating. “I could have scored this movie 100 ways.”

The result is a “hybrid score” that fuses synthesizers with classical orchestration by London’s Philharmonia.

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“It’s like a mulch of music,” says Amon. “It’s got electronic elements, a lot of them, and the orchestra is more like color.”

The score has animals, too -- baboon calls, mosquitos buzzing and other wildlife. “There’s a lot of sound design that’s built into it,” Amon adds.

A high point for the composer: working in Abbey Road’s Studio One -- “the Star Wars room,” as he dubbed it, where the saga’s scores were recorded, starting with 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back. Says Amon: “I’ll be thinking about this one for years. It was very humbling."

Twitter: @THRMusic