It’s March 2017, and by now, you’ve all heard about this season’s critically acclaimed, groundbreaking comedic, suspense-thriller “Get Out,” directed by Emmy-winning actor and comedian Jordan Peele. However…did you know that Subito’s own Michael Abels wrote the score for this hit film? “Get Out” is Abels’ first feature film and what a way to say hello to the movies! “Get Out” has broken records in the month since its February premiere (over $147M domestic gross to date) and has changed the landscape of the American horror and suspense genres. We chatted with Abels to find out more about this project and his artistic process for writing music for the concert hall as well as for film.
S: How did you become involved with “Get Out?”
Abels: My involvement with the project came about in a surprising way. The production company contacted me and said Jordan Peele was interested in having me score his directorial debut. Jordan had heard one of my concert works — Urban Legends — and after hearing that piece, he decided he wanted me to hunt me down. [Urban Legends — a concerto for string quartet and orchestra — was written for and premiered by the Harlem String Quartet and the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra. Anthony Elliott conducted the 2010 performance at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall.] When Jordan and I met, he expressed a clear vision for the film. He wanted music that reflected the African-American voice, but he didn’t want music that was what he called “joyful.” African-American music – even in its most somber spirituals – has a sense of hopefulness, and Jordan didn’t want to portray hope. From that conversation, it sounded like what he wanted was “gospel horror” – terrifying African-American music. So that was inspiration behind “Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga,” the main title track of the film.
S: Is this your first foray into film music?
Abels: As a music composition major at USC, I also had the opportunity to write music for student films via the school’s cinema and television department. That was my introduction to scoring to picture. After I graduated, I scored some commercials as well. But “Get Out” is my first feature film.
S: How do you approach composing music for the concert hall vs. film?
Abels: Writing for the concert hall or for film is the same in that I regard music as storytelling. As a composer/storyteller, you take your audience on a journey. In concert music, audience members listen and interpret what you’ve written into their own personal story. In film, the music emphasizes the emotions of a specific story that is being told by the visuals and dialogue. Either way, I’m telling a story through music, and I’m trying to take people on a journey.
“Get Out” is now in theaters nationwide. So if you haven’t seen it, run…don’t walk and enjoy the suspenseful ride!
More Abels news: On April 1, Abels’ Dance for Martin’s Dream will be performed by the New Hampshire Music Educators All-State Orchestra led by Wes Kenney, music director of the Fort Collins Symphony (CO). On the 30th, conductor Mark Russell Smith leads the Quad City Symphony in the reprise of Abels’ Liquify as part of its “Side by Side” Concert. Liquify is a new nine-minute tone poem which the orchestra commissioned and recently premiered in February. Looking ahead to May 12th and 15th , the Chicago Sinfonietta performs the composer’s American Variations on “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, featuring principal trumpet Matt Lee.