Academy-award-winning composer Gabriel Yared’s
impressive film career includes scores for such films as Cold Mountain, The Talented
Mr. Ripley, Message in a Bottle, Chocolat, City of Angels, and The English Patient.
But very few people know that he spent a year composing and recording the score for the
epic film Troy, of which scoring honors ultimately went to James Horner. In Hollywood,
movie scores are thrown out all the time for any number of reasons. Perhaps the most legendary
case (pun intended) was the film Legend, in which Jerry Goldsmith’s magnificent
score was replaced by the synthesizer garbage of Tangerine Dream. Mr. Goldsmith was finally
vindicated in the end with the album release of his score and, most lately, by a new DVD
edition of the film completely redubbed with the original soundtrack. One can only wonder
if the film would have been such a bomb had Goldsmith’s score been there in the first
place. And regarding Troy, at last count it seems that no score could have possibly
saved the $200-million turkey. Here is Mr. Yared’s story:
The Score of Troy — A Mystery
by Gabriel Yared
For the many people who have contacted me
through email and other means, I would like to summarise and present the facts which led
up to the rejection of my score for the film Troy, after nearly a year of great and
very fruitful collaboration with the director Wolfgang Petersen.
I first met Wolfgang Petersen in March 2003 when he presented to me the idea of working
on the score for Troy. We got off to a great start and he explained that he'd
come to me to bring a deeper level of emotion to his film, and that although he knew I wasn't
well known for writing big epic scores he told me he was confident from the things he had
heard from my previous work that I would be more than capable of delivering a great score
that would have a great original flavour.
In April 2003 I began work on the source music which needed to be pre-recorded as it was
featured in the film. This was a great challenge as it required the creation of a convincing
and effective ancient sound. The scenes included dances, funerals, mourning women, and even
drinking songs. In order to recreate the wailing and crying of the mourning women I used
a Bulgarian choir and some Eastern European soloists to make what turned out to be a great
sound, very evocative of the setting. These mourning women pieces also gave me some great
ideas that I would later incorporate into the underscore and soundtrack as a whole. It was
also at these sessions that I met a young Macedonian singer, Tanja Tzarovska, who was to
later go on to feature in the score and the song.
Later in this year I started to think of the score and I knew there would be a lot of music
(in fact Wolfgang spotted just over two hours of music). I knew I had to have a good overall
plan and structure in mind. After much research, writing, rejecting, and revising I finalised
the thematic ideas for each of the important characters, groups, and locations, ensuring
that these thematic cells could be related and readily combined, expanded, merged, or superposed.
My overall concept was to create a classic-yet-modern score, epic and yet subtle and
emotional. Classic in its elaborated harmonies, architecture, and structure, harking back
to classic forms (such as the fugue based on Priam's Trojan theme). Modern in the way it
was shaped and moulded to the action, and also in the sound of the score. I decided to supplement
the large orchestra with a 25-piece brass section to provide a different colour, and a large
choir which was sometimes triple-tracked to give support and drama in the large battle scenes,
as well as to provide colour and give an overall feeling similar to that of an epic Cantata.
The choir would say meaningless, invented-but-sonorous words written to enhance colour and
emotion, as the choir of an ancient Greek tragedy. I also had a group of six percussionists
who would overdub many interesting ethnic and conventional sounds and rhythms to work with
other sampled percussion created by my sound designer Nathaniel Mechaly. The other significant
colour would be based on the Bulgarian and ethnic vocals inspired by the source music. I
would use a phrase of the Bulgarian choir to act as a distant siren (as in the very opening
of the film and the ending), and then at certain important moments of the film I would use
Tanja's voice (sometimes accompanied only by percussion), like a "voice of destiny"
(for instance in key moments such as the fight between Hector and Achilles). So this was
the vision and plan of the score that came through after many approaches and much help and
support from my team.
Having settled on the overall ideas and concepts I then set to work writing each cue in
detail and providing demos so that Wolfgang could hear what I was doing and become familiar
with the themes and concepts. In November 2003, working together with Kirsty Whalley, I
provided a very detailed, orchestrated demo with full orchestra, choir, percussion, and
even vocal samples for every single cue. Wolfgang was genuinely delighted with everything
we sent to him, he loved the big epic sound, powerful and yet still moving and emotional.
Of course he had some comments here and there which we always endeavoured to fix straight
away. I also composed and demoed a beautiful song based on the love theme of Helen and Paris.
Tanja Tzarovska, who was to sing the song, also wrote lyrics in Macedonian.
14th February and the next stage was to join my friend and engineer Peter Cobbin at Abbey
Road Studios for the recording of the score. The next three weeks of recording were very
tough and tiring with very long days of intense work, recording a 100-piece orchestra for
two sessions a day followed by evenings of overdub sessions. It was a wonderful time, however,
of creation and realisation and much enthusiasm from Wolfgang and the producers and production
team. Wolfgang was over the moon and could be heard in the corridors of Abbey Road Studios
singing the main themes, he was enchanted with the music and began to wonder about the temp
music he'd been using thus far for the test screenings. So it came that Wolfgang used
all his charm to persuade me to allow him to use some of our unfinished monitor mixes to
replace the temp music. Despite my misgivings he seemed so keen and proud of the music that
I agreed, providing he promised that it would be used just to help him for the previews
and would not be judged at all since it was work in progress — completely unmixed
and often without all of the final overdubs. So, it fell to Allan Jenkins (music editor)
to work tirelessly to conform all of these monitor mixes to the appropriate cut at very
short notice whilst we all continued with the work of finishing recording the score. The
monitor mixes, however, were very well received by all the sound department working at Shepperton
Studios, and Wolfgang was delighted with the way in which the music worked at the temp dub.
Indeed, after the run-through in the theatre the evening before the preview Wolfgang
called the team at Abbey Road from Sacramento to say how great the music sounded.
After the test screening on 10th March, though, everything had changed. The focus group
at the preview decided my music was "overpowering and too big, old fashioned and dated
the film." Thus in this 24-hour period my score was completely rejected by director
and studio, and a collaboration of one year came to an end, despite the fact that it was
unfinished work and that the dub was temporary and, although good, not always perfect. What
shocked me the most was that I wasn't given the chance to fix or change my score or even
to answer to any of the questions or accusations being leveled at my work, despite the fact
that I had sessions booked to redo some cues to the new picture and new versions of other
cues. Indeed, the decision to replace me had been taken and meetings with other composers
had already taken place before I even spoke personally to Wolfgang. I was later informed
that it was "...a problem with the writing" and that the score was beyond the
hope of being fixed and they were happy to have a new composer write the whole score just
a month-and-a-half before the worldwide release on the 14th May.
Throughout the whole project I had felt that my relationship with Wolfgang was very strong
and I am convinced that he was more than happy with my score, he was very supportive and
enthusiastic and attended nearly every recording session.
In the end I am proud to say that with the great help and support of all my team I succeeded
in producing what I firmly believe to be my finest score. It is original, musical, and every
single cue is crafted with a great deal of thought, heart, and inspiration in a way that
I feel works fantastically with the picture. I feel that my score lifted the picture and
gave some depth and emotion to many of the scenes which gave another element to the film
as a whole in amongst the terrific and exciting action scenes. My music was fantastically
recorded and mixed, and the detail of each overdub layer gave a great and characterising
sound which was completely up-to-date, but with the scale and class of a great epic.
I apologise to those reading this who will never get to hear this score. Unfortunately it
is not my property, so I will have to hope that one day it will get a commercial release,
albeit in this unfinished form. As they will not be credited in any formal way I would like
to thank my team for their fantastic skills, support, and indefatigable and enthusiastic
hard work. I would also like to thank the wonderful musicians, not only for their fantastic
performances, but for all of them who came to visit me (after they heard the bad news) to
give their support, and for the respect and affection which they always show me. The messages
of how they enjoyed performing the score and how much they enjoyed playing it to the picture
on the big screen mean so much to me, this and the support of my team is the best award
I could have.
Allan Jenkins & Kirsty Whalley
Jeff Atmajian, John Bell, Kirsty Whalley, Stephane Moucha
Music recorded at Abbey Road Studio 1 by Peter Cobbin
Music mixed by Peter Cobbin
Assistant recording engineers and additional editing:
Richard Lancaster and Sam Okell
Assistant mixing engineer:
Orchestra and Choir Conducted by:
Sound Design and Synth Programming: Nathaniel Mechaly
Jean Pierre Arquie
Dave Hage, Rob and Nick Mera of Dakota Music
Dessi Slava, Vivian Ellis, Belinda Sykes
Special thanks to:
Colette Barber, Marianne Jenkins, Frank Ricotti, Emily Jenkins,
George and Ellen at Abbey Road, Cecil the Driver