“The most difficult question is which sound suits the film best”

At the occasion of the Locarno Film Festival in August, Swiss composer Peter Scherer was awarded with the Film Music Prize 2015 by FONDATION SUISA. He received the prize worth CHF 25,000 for his music to the film “Dark Star – HR Gigers Welt” by director Belinda Sallin. In a conversation prior to the award ceremony, the SUISA member Peter Scherer spoke about the challenges when composing film music, among other things.

“The most difficult question is which sound suits the film best”

Happy faces on the day of the award ceremony for the Film Music Prize by FONDATION SUISA on 07 August 2015 in the course of the International Film Festival in Locarno (from left to right): Zeno Gabaglio (Jury member Film Music Prize 2015 and SUISA Board member), Marco Blaser (Locarno Film Festival), prize winner Peter Scherer and Urs Schnell (Director FONDATION SUISA). (Photo: Giorgio Tebaldi)

Many congratulations for winning the Film Music Prize 2015 by FONDATION SUISA. After 2007, this is the second time that you win this prize. What does the award mean to you?
It’s great, naturally, that my work is acknowledged, especially because this prize is awarded by a jury of very competent people.

You have received the Film Music Prize for the soundtrack to the documentary “Dark Star – HR Gigers Welt”. HR Giger was well-known for his dark, apocalyptic images and had a strong personality which polarised people. How did you approach the task of composing music for this documentary?
First of all, I spoke in great detail with the director, Belinda Sallin, in order to find out how the protagonist is depicted and what the film intends to show. An endless number of films could be made about HR Giger, but for me as a musician it wasn’t about the question what my attitude was to HR Giger or his images, but rather: What’s the viewpoint of this film? What is this film about, and what does it really intend to show us?
Then, I attempt to imagine based on a raw concept what type of sound could suit this film. That’s the most difficult question to know where the music comes in. It is usually a lengthy process of searching, sketching and selecting.

HR Giger often appealed to a specific audience which is interested in dark movies or hard rock music. To what extent do you bear the future audience of the film in mind when composing the music?
Of course, you always think of the audience when you make a movie. Whether in terms of the script, the cut, the actors or the concept – you always think about the recipients. You try to imagine what the impact of the film will be and what comes across and what won’t. The viewers are of course important from this point of view. But whether a specific target group gets its money’s worth does not make any difference when the film is made nor when the film music is composed.

Did you know HR Giger?
I didn’t know him personally. Just like the majority of people I knew his images or rather: his most exposed and possibly most evident images. While I was looking into his person when the film was made I learned that he did a lot of other things on top of his art. It was the intention of the director of the film to show HR Giger the person, to show that he was a fascinating human being who had a rich life. She also intended to neutralise a certain prejudice and show new aspects of Giger.

Were there any requirements by HR Giger to the film or the film music or did he leave you and the director plenty of rope?
Unfortunately he had already passed away when I began composing the film music. But I do know from the director that he had a positive attitude to the film.

Apart from the film music, you also compose and play minimalistic electronic music. You do therefore know various facets of music creation. How do you perceive the change in the music business which has taken place in the last years especially when it comes to sound recordings? Does this change affect film music compositions at all?
There are various scenarios and realities. There are, for example, many bands who live mainly off their concerts. The film music sector is not affected so much by the decline of the sound recording market. Sound recordings are only a very small part of what I do.

What projects are you going to undertake next?
I look forward to work on a project with Markus Imhof. He is currently making a new film on the subject of migration, a very current topic which I am rather interested in. He is a magnificent director. I also write music for the documentary by Heidi Specogna about a political issue which affects the Central African Republic. I am not allowed to talk about other projects that I am currently involved in yet.

We wish you lots of success and thank you very much for the interview.

Peter Scherer is a composer, pianist and guitarist. He was born in Zurich in 1953. He received his piano diploma at the Conservatory Basel in 1977 and studied theory and composition at the University of Hamburg for music and performing arts after that. In 1980 he moved to New York where he specifically looked into electronic music and founded the Noise-Pop-Duo Ambitious Lovers. As a studio musician, producer or arranger, Peter Scherer worked with artists such as Laurie Anderson, Arto Lindsay, Caetano Veloso, John Zorn and Bill Frisell. At the end of the eighties he began to regularly compose music for dance and multimedia projects. Since 2010, Peter Scherer has been living in his home town Zurich again and mainly focusses on film music today. For his compositions to the feature film “Marmorera” (Director: Markus Fischer), he received the Film Music Prize by FONDATION SUISA for the first time in 2007. Among his best-known works is the music to Markus Imhof’s “More than Honey”, for which Peter Scherer received the Swiss Film Prize for best music in 2013. (Text: FONDATION SUISA)
The FONDATION SUISA Film Music Prize carries a value of CHF 25,000. It honours extraordinary performances in the sector of film music composition and its aim is to support prize winners and increase their popularity at home and abroad. The prize is awarded each year at the Festival del film in Locarno, alternating between the categories feature film and documentary film.

The Jury of the Film Music Prize 2015:
Jürg von Allmen (Digiton Tonstudio Zurich)
André Bellmont (Zurich University of the Arts)
Mario Beretta (Stage and film music composer, Zurich)
Zeno Gabaglio (Composer and artist, Vacallo)
Corinne Rossi (Praesens Film, Zurich)
Yvonne Söhner (former Swiss Radio and Television SRF, Ehrendingen)

Contribution on Peter Scherer and his film score to “Dark Star – HR Gigers Welt” on art-tv

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