'Elysium' Score Began With E-Mail, YouTube Link

Director Neill Blomkamp told composer Ryan Amon to start writing the music without seeing any footage, giving him vague ideas to work from.
Columbia Pictures
Matt Damon in "Elysium"

The creation of the Elysium soundtrack was unconventional from the start.

Director Neill Blomkamp found composer Ryan Amon on YouTube, e-mailing the then-Bolivia-based musician, who was working on scores for movie trailers, with a simple question, "Is this you?" and a link to one of Amon's early tracks, posted on the site.

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“I had to Google ‘Neill Blomkamp’ because I didn’t recognize his name, which is really embarrassing now,” Amon told Wired, adding that he was sure the message was a prank from one of his friends. But he responded "just in case."

Now he's the composer behind Sony's highly anticipated sci-fi movie, which hits theaters on Friday.

Weeks after the initial e-mail, Amon and Blomkamp had a conversation on Skype, and he was asked to score the film.

But Blomkamp wanted Amon to start composing without seeing any footage. The director gave him "a brief summary" of the plot and told him to work from ideas like "darkness," "light" and "spiritual." He also wanted Amon to use nontraditional instruments.

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Amon wrote the music in D.C. and recorded the score with London's Philharmonia Orchestra at the famed Abbey Road Studios.

"We decided to record the orchestra in London at Abbey Road Studios, in Studio One -- which is the studio I like to call the 'Star Wars Room' -- where these huge, epic scores were done because the sound of that room is just massive,” Amon told Wired. "I remember walking into the studio thinking, 'What am I doing here? Why did they let me in the door?' "

Amon's score features baboon noises and mosquitoes humming, which gives the ethereal music a "drone-y, unsettling sound," as well as Tuvan throat singing alongside more traditional sounds like a piano and a female singer.

“The movie is a lot about transhumanism and where is that defining line between calling ourselves human and then genetically enhanced humans, where do we not become human anymore,” Amon stated in Wired. “So those instruments -- the female vocal and the piano -- represented humanity.”