Alongside Journey to the Center of the Earth 3-D, City of Ember is the second film from Walden Media scored by Andrew Lockington in 2008. Those familiar with the Journey score will find the films and their respective scores compliment each other in orchestral scope and robustness, plus the use of some unique instrumental ingredients.


City of Ember (book cover)


Mark R. Hasan: For fans who enjoyed your score for Journey to the Center of the Earth 3-D (2008), City of Ember will be another great surprise because it’s another large scale, orchestral score. Did director Gil Kenan (Monster House) want a classical-styled score, or was it your suggestion?

Andrew Lockington: I was brought onto the film during the last week of June or first week of July. They had had another composer on the film for a while before me, so one of the first things I was told was that the orchestra record dates at Abbey Road were already set in stone and could go no later. They started August 2nd, so I had literally four weeks to go.

The orchestral side of things and even the choir side had been pre-determined, and had been an idea that they’d been working on before I was hired, so I was fortunate that my ideas for the film definitely went in that direction, but as you’ll hear in the score, there are a lot of elements of interesting electro-acoustic music that I used.

I recorded some organic instruments – some quarter tone trumpet and the violin stuff - and really manipulated it using lots of old analogue filters with the help of a really great programmer here in Toronto named Michael White. I tried to merge that with the orchestral and choir sides to create an interesting angle.


MRH: The more common approach is to put sounds on a hard drive, and use ProTools to do enhancements using the filters that come with the program. Why go analogue?

AL: Well, my early discussions with Gil and my knowledge of Jeanne Duprau’s City of Ember book were that, even though it’s some time in the future, it’s a very analogue world. There’s nothing super high tech or super digital in the City of Ember; everything is all levers and mechanical machines... so I really wanted the music to try and emulate that, and it brought me to look at some of the old, analogue synths and filters and fun little toys from the seventies and even the sixties, where you’re actually plugging in cables and turning knobs. As soon as you turns those knobs away, or you turn that machine off, you’ve lost everything; you can’t recall any of those settings.

I really liked the idea of playing around in a world of real physical manipulations as opposed to digital or any sort of emulation of that world. There are really good synth emulators now online that you can use in Macs and PCs, and while I have on other projects played around with those, I really wanted to stay true to the form and to the theme of the film, which is this sort of Alien or Blade Runner-type future; sort of a form of the future that’s not super-super high tech, but is a little darker and more rough around the edges.


MRH: Had you heard about Michael White, who had these vintage synthesizers, because those machines are very huge, they require a great deal of electronic components compared to a standard computer workstation, and it’s not something that’s easy to maintain, so there probably aren’t that many people in Canada, let alone the world, that actually have these machines that are still fully functional.

AL: You know you’re absolutely right. I had met the gentleman on Journey. I had done a little but of analogue stuff, and Journey was a more traditional score, so I didn’t have the palette to work with and stretch the limits and boundaries too much with that film, but it introduced me to some interesting sounds and interesting ideas.

On Journey, we were dealing much more with Moog sounds, but in City of Ember, I really wanted to use some of those same filters to start with sounds that would be commonplace - like trumpet and violin - and manipulated them beyond the form of recognition, so you didn’t have that influence of knowing what the instrument… You were only left with a pure musical sound, and the only thing you could really hone in on was the melodic content of what you were hearing, as opposed to a reference to a person actually playing it.







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