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August 9, 2017 9:59 PM   Subscribe

Christopher Nolan on the organ used in the soundtrack for Interstellar - "Pulling out all the stops, I now know what that expression means for real."

Interstellar live

covers for church organ and piano:
First Step [previously]
No Time For Caution

Hans Zimmer's Interstellar Adventure - "Composer unveils secrets of organ, choir, orchestra in Nolan film"

Why Interstellar's Organ Needs to Be So Loud -"Hans Zimmer's score drowns out dialogue and has already broken an Imax theater, but there's thematic significance in all that noise."

Music of the Spheres - "In Interstellar, Hans Zimmer scores the universe."
Pipe Organ Has Starring Role in Interstellar - "Zimmer records score in London's Temple Church"
[played by organist Roger Sayer]
But it would be a mistake to think that the pipe organ only signals the big moments in Nolan's film. "It has the most simple, innocent sounds, and yet it has that sort of heroic, hymn-like sound and style which I think conjures up many emotions of joy and sadness as well," says Sayer.

"The organ is basically an orchestra in a box," he adds. "A single sound can be the most beautiful thing, if it's voiced right and it has the right tone. Every stop you choose has a beautiful sound; it's just a matter of which one suits the occasion. Some of the sounds are really beguiling, really attractive, really soulful. One should never forget that the organ isn't just about bombast and decibels. It's about beauty and elegance."
Keyboard Magazine interviews Hans Zimmer:
How did the idea to make pipe organ so central to the score occur?

So, we wanted to start on the opposite end of the spectrum from where we’ve been for the last ten years. Ever since we started doing the Batman movies, we defined a certain style for us. That was very much driven by action drums, kinetic ostinatos in the strings, et cetera. So we went, if we throw everything out from our vocabulary before, where does that lead us?

Then one day Chris, in the middle of a paragraph, goes, “Have you ever thought of a pipe organ?” As soon as he said it, I just saw the shape. Those big organ pipes look like the afterburners on rocket ship. So visually, that seemed to fit right into the image that I was trying to create. For me, it’s vital that the score involves some sort of metaphor for the story. The other part of that metaphor is that a pipe organ can’t make a sound without breath. In that regard, it’s incredibly human.

Another thing is that we wanted to celebrate scientists in the film as opposed to them being the nerdy sidekicks―a bit like having the keyboard player at the center of the stage as opposed to back behind the guitarist or singer! And by the 17th century, the pipe organ was the most complex machine people had created. It kept that distinction until the telephone exchange was invented―and you can’t tell me Bob Moog didn’t see a telephone exchange at some point before thinking of the modular synth.
posted by the man of twists and turns (15 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
Musical Musings: Pulling Out All The Stops - "Have you ever noticed anyone saying that they will “pull out all the stops” to get something done? They probably weren’t talking about an actual pipe organ. Read more to learn about stops and where this phrase comes from."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:00 PM on August 9 [1 favorite]


If you ever wished you could watch 2001: A Space Odyssey from inside a pipe organ while someone was giving an organ recital, Interstellar is the next best thing.
posted by straight at 10:21 PM on August 9 [6 favorites]


“Have you ever thought of a pipe organ?” As soon as he said it, I just saw the shape. Those big organ pipes look like the afterburners on rocket ship.

Have you ever heard of the rock band Boston?
posted by straight at 10:26 PM on August 9 [8 favorites]


If you ever wished you could watch 2001: A Space Odyssey from inside a pipe organ while someone was giving an organ recital, Interstellar is the next best thing.

Those two movies should never be mentioned in the same sentence together - Nolan is a pale simulacrum of Kubrick.
posted by fairmettle at 11:09 PM on August 9 [1 favorite]


So if you take the dialogue away from Interstellar it becomes Koyaanisqatsi?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:25 PM on August 9 [4 favorites]


So if you take the dialogue away from Interstellar it becomes Koyaanisqatsi?

I'm not seeing a problem here.
posted by zardoz at 11:55 PM on August 9 [5 favorites]


The title of this post, and the film scores featuring the organ, reminds me of J.S. Bach's BWV 639, arranged by Edouard Nikolaevich Artemyev, in Andrei Tarkovsky's film adaptation of Solaris. The organ music haunts throughout the entirety of the otherwise quiet film. The music is, indeed, "incredibly human."

E.g. this passage from the film [SLYT]
posted by runcifex at 12:05 AM on August 10 [6 favorites]


If you ever wished you could watch 2001: A Space Odyssey from inside a pipe organ while someone was giving an organ recital, Interstellar is the next best thing.

I once sat more-or-less inside a cathedral's organ while doing a sound recording, along with a massed choir a few meters away, and it was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life.
posted by Luddite at 3:26 AM on August 10 [6 favorites]


If you ever wished you could watch 2001: A Space Odyssey from inside a pipe organ while someone was giving an organ recital, Interstellar is the next best thing.

But then you'd miss all the dialogue painfully explaining every single thing that just did and is going to happen because Nolan is convinced his audience is too dumb to understand anything. And that's a vital part of the Nolan experience!
posted by FatherDagon at 9:39 AM on August 10


Q: Why did J.S. Bach have so many children?
A: Because his organ had no stops.


Thank you, thank you. It's great to be back here in the Neue Kirche. I just flew in from Weimar...and, boy, are my arms tired!
posted by the sobsister at 10:16 AM on August 10 [8 favorites]


I know a lot of people don't like Interstellar, and I totally understand a lot of the issues with it, but it's remained one of my favorite movies since it came out and the score for it completely destroys me. I listen to it nearly every night when I go to bed. Gonna go through these links when I'm off work.
posted by gucci mane at 12:42 PM on August 10 [4 favorites]


Christopher Nolan also used something called a Shepard tone in Interstellar, and even more extensively, in Dunkirk.
posted by eye of newt at 8:39 PM on August 10


A Shepard tone in Interstellar. Another--a series of chords that seem to be endlessly rising.
posted by eye of newt at 9:26 PM on August 10


It's interesting that the film has a reputation for loudness, because the soundtrack recording is actually mastered with a ton of headroom and excess dynamic range. Perceptually, it's almost irritatingly quiet, if what you're looking for is the bombast of the film. It doesn't feel the same at all.

I bought the soundtrack after watching the movie because I like that sort of thing (qualities of the movie qua movie aside, it's a hell of a long-form music video), and it's nearly impossible to listen to except via headphones or in a quiet room with a good stereo, because the dynamic range is too great. And even then, it's very different than the experience you get listening to the film with the picture off.

For one thing, the soundtrack recording omits the most notable cut from the film; the organ version of "No Time For Caution" playing during the space station docking scene! I have no idea why; it's like having a record of 2001's soundtrack without Thus Spake Zarathustra on it.

As an aside, why do car stereos not have a compressor/limiter built-in? Or portable music players? The times when people are listening to music in a situation that lets them appreciate 98dB of dynamic range seem a hell of a lot less common than when there's only 40dB between the noise floor and Permanent Hearing Damage.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:34 PM on August 10 [4 favorites]


I was lucky enough to get to see Hans Zimmer in concert a few days ago, he's touring currently with an orchestra and singers (including at least one of the original Lion King singers) and it was so good, beginning to end. If you can catch him I highly recommend it. Reminds me that I need to rewatch more movies he's composed for.
posted by gryftir at 4:38 PM on August 18


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