February 16, 2012 | By

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Having scored the 3D version of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth in 2008, Andrew Lockington returned for the sequel, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, but the project turned out to be much more than writing another dynamic orchestral score.

This time there was research, and Lockington made a rare research expedition to Papua, New Guinea, where he immersed himself in ancient sacred music comprised of drums before returning back to his home base to write the score.

Working again in 3D with a large orchestral palette, Lockington discusses what may be his most memorable project, travelling to the past to create a musical bridge for the characters of the fantastical sequel.








Mark R. Hasan: When you were scoring Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, were you looking at 3D footage or were you looking at the footage ‘flat’?

Andrew Lockington: I was looking at it flat in my studio, but I would go to screenings with it in 3D when they were doing editorial or test screenings. It’s a great reference to see the 3D, particularly when it’s shot in 3D. I find the 2D to 3D conversions don’t have quite the same effect.

MRH: What was is like revisiting the main theme from Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008)? Was this the first time you had a chance to adapt a theme for a new musical adventure?

AL: The director, producers and studios insisted I keep the franchise theme as part of the score, which was great. It was fun to have it as an element but not to lean on it too heavily. I worked hard to develop three new themes that were specific to the characters and the peril they face in this particular adventure. Yes, this was the first time I’ve ever had the opportunity to adapt a theme. It was helpful though to have this film be an entirely new adventure for Josh Hutcherson’s character. Because of the venue and the maturing of Josh’s character it gave me artistic license to look at the theme in a different way and incorporate new musical elements that wouldn’t have been relevant to the first movie. I was happy with how the “Journey” Theme worked in the first film. I wouldn’t have wanted to use this theme again if I couldn’t have taken it to a new place.

MRH: I take it the music research came from your end rather than the filmmakers?

AL: It was both, actually. When I met with the director, Brad Peyton, for the first time, he said ‘I really want to feel in the music the sound of the South Pacific,’ and we started talking about what that was. So many of my go-to places were people I knew who were involved in Polynesian music and Melanesian music, but so much of it had the scars and the influence of Western culture or colonialism or missionaries; it wasn’t ‘pure.’

It’s a little bit like if you go to Columbia and study some of the music. There’s a lot of African influence there from the slave trade; even the stuff that you think would be pure has been infiltrated by techniques that actually came from Africa.

I was trying to find the purest form I could, and that’s what led me to Papua, New Guinea, because culturally, so much of that country hasn’t yet been connected to the global communication web, and they kind of do their own thing and don’t have any influence from…well….us! It’s like going back in time to find out what the music would’ve been like in the rest of Polynesia, 500-1,000 years go.

MRH: When you were listening to certain pieces, whether they were vocal or percussion, some of them must have been sacred pieces, and I’m curious if there were any restrictions on what you could incorporate, or what they would allow you to hear?

AL: Well, there were two sides to it. I wanted to make sure they understood what I was going to use it for, and that it would be used in a fictitious context, not in a documentary or preservation context; and secondly, my understanding of what I could and couldn’t use.

I was privy to a lot of things. The communication was interesting. Sometimes one guy would say to me ‘You can definitely use this, but our religion dictates that no women can ever hear it.’ Obviously there was no way I could to use it then, so I kind of had to be my own policeman. Everything that I used is really, really ancient; it’s almost similar to the raga format in Indian music: they have certain rhythms which are ingrained in the culture that are very base-form, and have been around forever.

I originally thought the instruments I encountered would be as important as much as anything, but I came to learn very quickly that they have just a completely different way of thinking of rhythms and drumming. For example, they had this syncopated element, where they do this quick syncopated one-two hit with drum sticks. The speed of that syncopated hit is played identical, whether you’re playing something really fast or really slow, so it doesn’t vary despite the fact the tempo of what you’re playing could be three times faster.

Rhythms in Western cultures are based on cycles: it’s a pattern that you repeat. What the Papua New Guinea musicians played might notever repeat; if we were notating, bar 57 wouldn’t look anything like the previous 56 bars. Much of their music was like learning a thousand hits and time variables, as opposed to memorizing two bars and repeating it fifty times.

MRH: From your perspective, at what point did you feel you’d reached the saturation point where you had enough exposure and research, and were ready to compose?

AL: Some of the tribes we were visiting had never been heard or even recorded, so it was a bit of a Hail Mary, in the sense that I knew I would get something interesting but had no idea what it would be. I had some sense of what the instruments were like, but it was very hard to research it before going there because so much of the trip was research in and of itself.

I’d written some of the main themes, and I knew kind of what I was looking for. I was having experiences where I’d hear 70% or 60% of what I could work with. But it was at my very last session when one of my guys turned to me and said ‘Ah, you heard it, didn’t you?’ and he was right: I was recording these old rhythms, and I went ‘Oh my gosh, this is it!’ and it was a 100% eureka moment. I knew exactly how to incorporate this into the orchestral score.’

MRH: Compared to 10 or 20 years ago, did you find the amount of technical gear that you needed to bring was a lot smaller and compact, but could basically do what was impossible 20 years ago?

AL: Even a year ago. It’s amazing the advances that have happened in a year. I had to bring a lot of stuff and have redundancy because we wouldn’t have the ability to recharge batteries or replace something. I climbed up unto the jungle and I hiked for three days to get there. If my recorder broke down, I was just out of luck, so I actually brought three recorders with me, six microphones, tonnes of cables, and lots of extra stuff. The technology was amazing. These recorders that were relatively inexpensive compared to what you would’ve bought even a year ago or two years ago did such a magnificent job.

MRH: What were some of the recorder models you used?

AL: A good friend of mine, a great recording engineer, Ron Searles, recommended the Zoom model. It has two microphones built in and records on flash drives. It also has two XLR inputs for external mics and can send phantom power to them. I took 3 of these for redundancy purposes, but ultimately decided I might as well be using all three at once. Sure enough I’d have one fail on me just about every day due to the excessive moisture we encountered. They never failed during recording but at the end of the day one would fail to turn on or the screen would go bezerk. I’d heard about jungle humidity wreaking havoc on electronics so I’d brought a remedy. Whenever this happened I would place the recorder in a ziplock back with two or three gel packs and close it up for the night. These were gel packs that you find in running shoe boxes or electronics when you buy them. The things that say “Do not eat” on them. Silica packs. I’d collected them and had 7 or 8 with me.

When I awoke in the morning the gel pack would be bloated with moisture and the recorder or video camera would be working again. It worked like a charm.

MRH: I guess my fear has always been that with flash gear is that something can go horribly wrong – the chip can no longer be read – and all these hours of material is gone, whereas at least on a tape, if it gets jammed you can fix it with a splice or at least try and do something with it.

AL: I had the same fear, and actually one of the things I brought with me was one of the little MacBook Airs that came out maybe 13 months ago, and a card reader. I also had an external flash drive that was USB, and every night I would back everything up as fast as I could because I knew I couldn’t recharge my computer at all on the trip. Each time it was a matter of turning the computer on, get it copying, and then turning the dimness down on the screen to the point that it’s black so that I discharge the battery as little as possible, but have a safety of what I recorded over the course of the day.

MRH: Were there any guides and assistants along the way, or were you travelling solo once you reached the jungle?

AL: I had one main guide who helped me plan the trip. He in turn hired a few other people along the way who were experts in the language of the tribe we were visiting. A wondered before we left if our entourage was getting too big, but I was so grateful once I was there to have 3 or 4 people to keep tabs on me, particularly in some of the more tenuous situations we found ourselves in the odd time.

Most of the people of Papua New Guinea are so generous and kind, but like all countries, there are dangerous situations that can develop if you don’t know what you’re doing. We had a few confrontations, but my team handled them brilliantly.

MRH: You also took along an HD camcorder and taped some material.

AL: I didn’t want to do that. I was being so careful of my backpack weight ratio because I knew I would have to carry everything I had. I was gone for three weeks and was taking water and some food, and just a lot of safety things because the chances of us getting stuck somewhere and not finding food was pretty good. I already knew I was going to stand out and attract some unwanted attention and the last thing I wanted to do was flash around some expensive video camera when I’d been told to try to fit in as much as possible.

When the director said to me, ‘Can you take the camcorder? You gotta film this whole thing,’ I thought ‘Oh, that’s the last thing that I want to do.’ What I ended up doing is during some of the recording sessions I would just set the camcorder up, and tape some of what we were doing, and some of the journey – like taking the boat along crocodile infested waters up a very treacherous river. It was actually very interesting, and I’m glad I did it.

Similar to what you were saying about the music, there’s a lot of things that I filmed that I can never show anybody because there are things that are very sacred or religious, but it was good to do, and it’s a good way to remember the trip, and it only endangered our lives a few times….(I’m half kidding)

MRH: Is there a chance some of the footage of your journey might be included on the DVD / Blu-ray edition?

AL: Yes. I think so. I had about 8 hours of film to go through but handed the highlights (and the things that were approved by the tribes to show) over to the Special Features team at Warner Brothers. I’ve also been approached by a few documentary companies about doing a documentary on my trip. That’s something I hope we have time to explore this spring.

MRH: It’s kind of like a religious pilgrimage in a sense, where it’s good for a composer, at least once, to go to a unique culture, whether it’s remote or in a completely different physical environment, and expose themselves to that because it’s something that’s so vastly different from having a sound library or samples or local musicians who may have been influenced by Western techniques, and perhaps find something that’s a lot more pure.

AL: Composers all have their own sound, and often when you think about doing a different project, it’s ‘How can I incorporate my sound into these instruments or these sonic sounds or literal library of sounds?’ What I find is really interesting is essentially getting inside the heads of how people think of music, not only the purpose of that music.

For example, in Western music, we sub-divide music into meters. We say this is 3/4 or 4/4; we figured out ways to break it down in our heads that make it easier for us to both appreciate and perform, and different cultures do that in very different ways. It’s actually really interesting to learn how other people think of music, both playing it and appreciating it, and try to incorporate that into what you’re doing. That’s what I really enjoyed, and I think you’re right – I think it ends up being a bit of a pilgrimage; just looking at your craft from the outside and from a distance, and re-evaluating it a little bit.

MRH: From composers that I’ve spoken to who’ve made those kinds of trips or completely immersed themselves in a different culture, the whole experience was very rewarding, and I’m sure it influenced the way they regard other sounds or at least the use of those sounds in more diverse forms of their ongoing work.

AL: I was classically trained on piano as a kid, and that’s where all of my writing began. I remember the experience I would have when my mother would re-arrange the furniture and move the piano from one side of the room to another. I would have this entirely new creative feeling just based on how the piano sounded in a different place in the room, and also based on the view – looking at a different window. Creatively, it unlocked this whole other dimension every time that happened. When I was in my teens I got my first guitar and started writing music on it. It was a whole new approach to composing to go at it through a different door. I found myself immediately inspired by the new perspective and have always searched for other ways to experience that 2nd wind. My time in Papua New Guinea was just an evolution of that.

These are little gifts that you get as a composer; they’re eureka moments of seeing a different perspective of what you do, and you can take that knowledge and apply it in a very literal way. It makes it fun, makes it rewarding and most importantly, it makes for better storytelling.

MRH: One last question: Is that really The Rock singing “What a Wonderful World”? He’s pretty good!

AL: That guy’s super talented. That is absolutely him singing, and playing. He recorded that in the studio live, playing and singing at the same time. There’s no vocal tuning or manipulation. That’s literally him live off the floor!


. would like to thank Andrew Lockington for discussing his latest work, and Meg for facilitating the interview.

Visit Andrew Lockington’s website.

Visit the official Journey 2: The Mysterious Island website.

Read our prior interview with the composer regarding Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D.

Read our prior interview about scoring City of Ember.

All images remain the property of their copyright holders.

This interview © 2012 by Mark R. Hasan


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