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Darren Aronofsky's Go-To Composer Clint Mansell on Their Many Collaborations and Why He Doesn't Consider Himself a Musician

By Cameron Sinz | Indiewire October 14, 2013 at 9:30AM

While perhaps best known as Darren Aronofsky's go-to composer on works such as "Requiem for a Dream" and "Black Swan," composer Clint Mansell has spent the past 15 years establishing one of the most critically lauded bodies of work in the industry, both inside and outside his collaborations with Aronofsky. With work ranging from Duncan Jones' "Moon" to Park Chan-wook's American debut "Stoker," Mansell has proven himself to be one of the daring and audacious composers currently active; a fact acknowledged time and time again during his talk earlier this week as a part of the BFI London Film Festival's masterclass series.
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Mansell still doesn't know why "Lux Aeterna" (from "Requiem for a Dream") connected with people the way it did.

"That piece of music has really just taken on a life of its own, it's like having a kid and watching it go off. It just sort of connected with people in a way that I certainly can't replicate and don't know why it did what it did or how it did what it did, because if I did I'd obviously be doing it constantly. It just had something that people connect to."

Filth Jim Broadbent James McAvoy

While working on this fall's "Filth," Mansell learned that the key to composing comedy is creating room for the humor to emerge.

"[Comic tone] just isn't my instinct. I mean, I like a good laugh but musically I've never connected with anything that's jolly. My instinct isn't to go there so that kind of thing is very hard for me. We had to tread a very thin line with 'Filth,' because it is funny but it's also a bit dark and very serious. So you need to create room for the humor to come through, but you really don't want to take away from those moments... I don't really have the gene though."

Manselll doesn't consider himself to be a musician.

"Whenever I work with an orchestra... I assume you know that my music is simplistic. I'm not a great musician, and I don't even classify myself as a musician really. When you look out in the studio out the window into the live room, you think about how many hours all of these [musicians] have spent perfecting their instruments to make my riffs sound as good as they are. It's incredible to get to work with musicians of that caliber, and it's a great honor."

Finding your unique voice is the most crucial thing to discovering your artistic potential.

"To me though, it always go back to this quote from 'Trading Places,' the Eddie Murphy film... 'just be yourself, they can't take that away from you.' And that's what writing music is to me. Find your voice, be yourself, and don't worry about whether it's going to be accepted or popular. Find your voice and believe in it because that's what music is about. It's about finding something you respond to, and if you respond to it someone else it probably going to as well.

"The only thing I can see as a success is doing a film where I think I've done a good job and the director's happy with me and you're both happy with it. Of course you want the film to be successful and the music to be loved, but you have no control over those things, so you've got to just do your best work in the things you're working on and the best way to do that is just by being you."

This article is related to: London Film Festival, Clint Mansell, Darren Aronofsky, Masterclass, Features, Requiem for a Dream, Filth