Ludwig Göransson Crafted The Oppenheimer Score Through Emotion And Experimentation [Exclusive Interview]

When you’re composing a score for a film, what is the first thing that motivates you? Is it a sonic palette that you want to create, sort of a “put all your paintbrushes down” sort of thing? Or is it a theme that can key you in and then you go from there? Do you have a typical way of working, or is it different every time?

It’s always different. I’m always trying to make it feel like I’m doing something new, I’m doing something for the first time. I always want to use new methods to find my way and to get inspired. And with “Oppenheimer,” I knew that the most important part of the music was going to be through its emotional core. So I didn’t want to start with sounds. I didn’t want to start with production. I didn’t want to start hiding behind technology or sound manipulation. I really wanted to get out with the emotional, with the theme, with the melodies first, just with the solo violin. And I knew if we got that right, it would be easier to get that then the synths and the manipulation and the strangeness, and the production would be easier after if we got the emotional core right first.

There’s a propulsiveness to your work that I find so invigorating, and really, it’s like a cresting wave that you’re riding throughout the movie. You’re always carried by it, as well as emotionally involved and getting the characters and being in their world. Is that a focus for you, or is it something that just sort of happens naturally in your process?

I think it’s both, but I’m not constantly thinking about it as I’m doing it. That was something that was interesting with “Oppenheimer,” emotionally, I wasn’t thinking about it as I was doing it. And it’s not until later, like now, like a year later, when I’m reflecting over the process and reflecting over how these themes came about and thinking about some of the places I had to go emotionally to be able to put that music in his feelings was pretty dark at times. And it’s not until now, a lot later, where you’re able to reflect with that.

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