What if the composers Hanns Eisler and Jaques Ibert got into a nice little fistfight? This was my first thought before starting the score to Prix de beauté. Two seemingly opposite directions were before me, and instead of settling on one and I decided to simply let these two thoughts slug it out. On the surface, the coloring and ornamentation are strictly a Franco-file display, but the meat of the structure itself has a pure Teutonic-robustness, and with no unnecessary frivolity. I simply imagined the screenwriters Pabst and Claire in the same room, and took it from there.
Upon my first viewing of the silent Prix de beauté I was amazed by how many impressive things I had missed the first time I saw it as a sound film. The broad use of the Loudspeaker as a narrator, the mechanisms of the printing presses, the grotesqueness of the carnival, all which pointed the way for me, musically. For example, I had written a series of percussive melodic phrases for the trombone that, with the help of an old and rare mute from America called a “solo-tone mute”, mimics the megaphone whenever the Loudspeaker appears on screen.
The original score for the 1930 sound version, written masterfully by Wolfgang Zeller, was useful to me only in so much as the use of the song Je n’ai qu’un amour, c’est toi! The song is elemental to the story, of course, yet makes an appearance only at the very beginning and at the very end. My approach was to treat the song as straight forward as possible, orchestrating it according to the 1930 period practices, only to subvert it in the finale as Andrea finds his way to into the screening room.
The score was commissioned by the Orchestre National de Lyon in 2011