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Rolfe Kent talks about creating the score for 'Downsizing'

Image: Rolfe Kent and Sterling Powers. Used with permission.

Unexpected texture, sounds and a signature musical personality are the hallmarks of British film composer Rolfe Kent. 

Kent has scored more than 50 films, including Academy Award nominated Up in the Air (for which he won a Golden Satellite award), Sideways (for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award in 2007), Labor Day, Bad Words (Jason Bateman’s directorial debut), Dom Hemingway,  and About Schmidt. Kent also composed the Emmy-nominated main title theme for the Showtime hit, Dexter.  In 2012, he received the Richard Kirk award for career achievement.

Born in England into a non-musical family, Kent intuitively felt at age 12 that he wanted to be a film composer, although his early musical training was brief and not so formal.  Citing Jarre's Lawrence of Arabia and Morricone’s The Good, The Bad and the Ugly as inspirations, Kent took the advice of an early music teacher to avoid rigid course work that would dampen his enthusiasm.  He followed an entirely different path than most composers.   After enrolling in psychology studies at University of Leeds in Yorkshire, Kent's musical career was casually begun at a dance club when the director of a play offered him a chance to "do" the music.  His jump start was his composition for a stage musical Gross at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a springboard for authors, composers and performers.

In the confines of his musically busy studio, one can immediately see why his musical personality is as distinct and his own.  Constantly on the go, adventurous and curious, Kent has developed a style that is not only distinct, but indicative of his aversion to the commonly anticipated kind of score in tone, texture and rhythm.  The studio walls are lined with many familiar and many more unfamiliar instruments, gingerly handled and gleefully demonstrated for their sonic qualities.  Among his collection are the Indonesian percussion instrument the angklung, the shawm (first used in military maneuvers as a psychological weapon), the melodica, used for the light, soothing effect in Kent's jazz-infused score for his Golden Globe-nominated Sideways, and an instrument he discovered that sounds like the world’s beaches at their most romantic high tide.

Kent has the distinction of attracting and sustaining relationships with directors as popular and diverse as Alexander Payne, Mark Waters, Jason Reitman, Burr Steers, and Richard Shepard.

He brings many of these musical ideas to Downsizing. "Alexander [Payne, writer/director] asked for the score to be beautiful classical music," Kent described.  The composer wanted to avoid movie-score clichés and took a different route.  "I figured a Kubrickian approach was best, where the music sounds like it existed outside of the film, and was discovered to match the scene perfectly."

Known for using unexpected textures, sounds and his own signature musical personality,  this opened the floodgates for Rolfe.  "As ever, Alexander was open to hearing unexpected sounds, so when I threw him the curve of an opera aria sung in Norwegian, or some bagpipes.  He loved it." 

Image: Rolfe Kent and Sterling Powers. Used with permission. 

Trailer

More Info Here about Rolfe and his work.

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For more information about David Peck's podcasting, writing and public speaking please visit his site here or check out the site of his podcast on film, social change and much more.

With thanks to producer Josh Snethlage and Mixed Media Sound.

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