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 Unveiled
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.

Music Editors:
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:
Richard Lancaster

Orchestra and Choir Conducted by:
Harry Rabinowitz

Additional Conducting:
Nick Ingman

Sound Design and Synth Programming: Nathaniel Mechaly

Score Supervisor:
Jean Pierre Arquie

Stephane Moucha

Music Preparation:
Dave Hage, Rob and Nick Mera of Dakota Music

Orchestral Contractor:
Isobel Griffiths

Choir Master:
Jenny O'Grady

Vocal Soloist:
Tanja Tzarovska

Additional Vocals:
Dessi Slava, Vivian Ellis, Belinda Sykes

Choir Lyrics:
Tanja Tzarovska

Special thanks to:
Colette Barber, Marianne Jenkins, Frank Ricotti, Emily Jenkins,
George and Ellen at Abbey Road, Cecil the Driver

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