Cultures shouldn’t become globalised mush: Titanic composer

August 24th, 2008 - 11:38 am ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Aug 24 (IANS) British music arranger-composer John Altman, known for his work in films like “Titanic” and “Shall We Dance”, has just scored for a Malayalam movie, but says it is important to preserve the diversity of sounds all over the world.”I just hope every culture doesn’t lose its identity to become one globalised mush. The diversity of sounds all over the world is still important. I hope it stays,” Altman told IANS in an interview.

Altman, who had earlier scored for Gurinder Chadha’s “Bhaji On the Beach”, has now given music for the Malayalam film “Akashagopuram”.

“I wanted to do something more that would be groundbreaking and maybe would open the door for other Western composers to score in Indian cinema,” Altman said.

Excerpts from the interview with IANS:

Q: What brings you to Malayalam cinema?

A: Well, I didn’t have to take the route taken by traditional Malayalam films. That helped. That would’ve been difficult. But since they shot the film in England, the makers of “Akashagopuram” wanted a fresh take. I was very excited by the idea of bringing my own sensibility to a music that didn’t necessarily originate from Malayali culture.

The good thing for me was that everyone in India has seen “Titanic” and “Shall De Dance” and several other films. So when they hear my music in “Akashagopuram”, they aren’t in for a total culture shock. I think people in India would find it interesting.

Q: In any case, there’s no culture-specific sound any more.

A: You’re right. With satellite television, every part of the world is aware of all kinds of sights and sounds. I was the first Western composer to score music in a Russian film as well. I wanted to do something more that would be groundbreaking and maybe would open the door for other Western composers to score in Indian cinema.

Q: We had Richard Clayderman composing one track in the Rajshri’s “Uff Kya Jadoo Mohabbat Hai”.

A: That’s right. For me, “Akashagopuram” was of special interest because it’s adapted from Ibsen. I was a lecturer way back in English literature before I became a musician. That was intriguing. Also, some of my Indian friends in England had told me about the film’s leading man, Mohanlal. So, of course, I knew about him. It’s mainly background music and one theme song in English, a very global song.

Q: You’ve done the score for another Indian project.

A: Yes! Jagmohan Mundhra’s “Shoot On Sight”. That’s a totally different territory…terrorism. Again, the sound I was asked to create wasn’t culture-specific. I was told I had to create a sound that suggested people in Britian going about their ordinary lives. They didn’t want the music to be Indian or Islamic. They wanted a very British sound, which would underscore the shock of terrorism.

Interestingly enough, I scored music in one of the first Anglo-Indian movies, Gurinder Chadha’s “Bhaji On the Beach” in 1993. And I did use Indian music in that. And now, 15 years later, I’ve done two more Indian films and not done any Indian sounds in them.

Q: Quite ironical. You’ve had a 40-year career in film scores. Your thoughts?

A: Yes, I’ve also worked with musicians like Diana Ross, Alison Moyet and George Michael. What has changed is that globalisation has become a reality. When I was young, one really had to search the sounds out. When I heard Pandit Ravi Shankar in the 1960s I couldn’t get his records in any music shop in England. I had to order it from India and it took three months to come. Today you just go online and get any music.

Q: Is that good or bad?

A: It depends on how the technology is used. I just hope every culture doesn’t lose its identity to become one globalised mush. The diversity of sounds all over the world is still important. I hope it stays. Today the good thing is that there’s so much history of music available on the net.

Q: You’re credited as the historic musical adviser for “Titanic”?

A: It basically meant I chose all the music to be played by the orchestra on the ship. Then I arranged it all. Then I wrote the music for the entire portion where the ship sinks and the band plays.

Q: Who are your favourite Indian musicians?

A: I used to watch Satyajit Ray’s films. I loved the music in that by Ravi Shankar etc. I love “Lagaan” and A.R. Rahman’s music. I saw it predominantly because I’ve cricket mania. I’d love to write a Bollywood musical. I’m hoping it would happen during this visit to India.

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