The Sounds of Summer

Courtesy of Chasen PR

Six composers weigh in on the art of writing music for superheroes, pandas and reclusive auteurs.

Kung Fu Panda 2 | John Powell and Hans Zimmer
Powell: "This sequel has a little more depth to it, so we had to think about how exactly the music would play with the emotional arc of the story. Having said that, it's very funny. We had to do an awful lot of music that didn't step on comedy -- which is the same as the first one -- and that's always the tricky thing. We also had to give massive breadth to some of the fight scenes. They're quite spectacular -- massive. It's like taking a Jackie Chan movie and giving them a $500 million budget."

Conan the Barbarian | Tyler Bates
"There's a lot of music in this movie. I'm probably about 60 percent of the way there right now. It's a tall order. It's the most music I've ever had to produce for any movie. There's a full orchestra, a choir. There's a lot of different colors. I'm playing a fair amount of the score as well, just with guitar and GuitarViol. But it's not going to come off as a rock 'n' roll score, even though that attitude is still probably embedded in the music somewhere. Conan is a little bit of a punk himself."

The Tree of Life | Alexandre Desplat
"I have not seen the completed film. I've only seen footage. I was contacted by director Terrence Malick in 2007, and he wanted me to write music based on the script. I said I wasn't sure because that's very difficult to do. So I had many conversations over the phone with Terrence, and I started writing a number of different things: piano solo for orchestra, chamber music, vocals. We would just kind of dream together about what he could use. He is very visual and philosophical at the same time. I knew I had to write without pictures, so he would give me words as inspiration: river, sky, love, light. I found it really inspiring. We had a very good time together."

X-Men: First Class | Henry Jackman
"This is a movie about how the X-Men get to be a team, so the score is a really delicate balance of creating a theme that feels like an 'emergent' theme -- sort of a 'getting there' kind of a theme. It couldn't sound like Superman because it's just not that kind of film. I wrote something, and director Matthew Vaughn said, 'That's a great superhero theme, but it sounds like they're already there.' We went through some very interesting experiments to turn a theme that sounded like a destination into more of a journey."

Cowboys & Aliens | Harry Gregson-Williams
"It's a hybrid between a Western and sci-fi, so you know you're in for a ride. It's a sweeping story but also a very personal story. Finding the right tone has been the biggest challenge. There will be a full orchestra, possibly a choir. I'm also using a lot of interesting Native American percussion instruments. They're very natural and organic, and they pack a serious punch. As the film goes on and battle lines are drawn, the orchestra will come into it more and more."

Priest | Christopher Young
"Finding the right musical language for a movie is always the biggest challenge. We decided we wanted a monstrous sound. There's a whole lot of music in the movie, especially the finale, which is about 10-12 minutes long. It's never-ending energy. Every composer will tell you that writing continuous action music is really challenging, and this one just builds and builds to an amazing climax. This score is excessively aggressive and enveloping; it swallows you like a leviathan. It's a powerhouse of constant energy. It's like Godzilla f---ing King Kong."