Residue

“A promising piece of indie sci-fi with the binge-watching hook of a show with 10 times its budget” (Vodzilla) 

Residue is a paranormal sci-fi thriller now on release on Netflix. I composed, produced and performed the original score.

 

 

The process of scoring Residue was intense but hugely inspiring. Both writer John Harrison and director Alex Garcia Lopez are from a musical background themselves, so making sure this score delivered for the project was paramount. The visual world of Residue is very unique – the dark and seedy city is set against the visually arresting, empty and haunting quarantine zone. This gave me a great opportunity to create musical moments that really evolved over the course of the project. 

 

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A few weeks ago I was invited to the Point Blank Music School in London to give a talk about the ‘Residue’ soundtrackhow and why I perform and compose in Ableton for film and television.

One of the things I touched on at the talk was the director/composer relationship, which is a key cornerstone to how a successful score can come to be. Often directors will use a temp score to help them with the edit and often this will be made up of quite big budget film scores and will have the general feel, tempo and mood of what the director wants. Residue’s director Alex Garcia Lopez (Utopia, Misfits) key references for Residue included elements from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Prisoners and Under the skin. From the start Alex really wanted the cello to be at the heart of Residue.

As a musician first and foremost, I prefer to perform to picture when i’m creating a score – and as Alex had a very open mind to music (having himself graduated from Berklee) I decided to spend more time creating the worlds of Residue via performance and actually play to picture at our next meeting.

The main objective to really establish the atmosphere for the distinct zones in the show, the emptiness of the streets, isolation of the characters and a general sense of tension and suspense. To do this effectively, the score had to evolve throughout the series and work like sound design in some respect.

I had the great fortune of getting on remarkably well with the sound designers, and they and I worked and communicated closely throughout the process, of course under the direction of Alex, which was a huge element of how this score was able to be achieved.

At this stage I wasn’t using Ableton – but I knew if I could create various worlds in which to perform, it would give me the best chance of using my musicianship to create the varied emotion needed for the characters and help the score evolve organically. So, I created 4 worlds each with their own harmony, resonance and individual effects. And because this was live performance, nothing I would do would sound the same twice and every pluck, bow, scratch, breath or harmonic would capture something different.

Once we had got to end of Episode 2 working this way, the mood really needed to change in tune with the overall tone of the narrative. And this is really where Ableton came into its own.

Whenever possible I would loop, filter, reverse and use Ableton to manipulate the cello samples I was creating. I even used the cello to create the drum sounds and used my voice through the cello mic to create some alternative loops for added discordant texture. Continuing to use the show’s key established themes and sounds, I was able to push much harder to create more dissonance, help the score evolve through a playful Residue sample-library that I had created and thereby achieved a greater sense of suspense in sound, which for this show was key.

The soundtrack for Residue is now on release and you can have a listen here: