The Master of Plucking Strings: How soundtrack composer Moritz Denis gets ideas for his music

04. January 2017

The Master of Plucking Strings

How soundtrack composer Moritz Denis gets ideas for his music

Filmkomponist Moritz Denis. Bild: © Adlershof Journal

Soundtrack composer Moritz Denis

Why weren’t any shots fired at the Monday demonstrations in Leipzig in 1989? A new comedy of errors featuring Erich Honecker and a doppelganger, which will be in cinemas in March 2017, tries to give an answer to this momentous question. The score for “Vorwärts immer” was created by Moritz Denis and Eike Hosenfeld, an Adlershof-based composer duo.

Moriz Denis has just returned from his studio after recordings with the German Film Orchestra Babelsberg. The 39-year-old has always been making music: classical and jazz guitar in big bands, punk bands and free jazz ensembles. “In whatever spare time I had,” Denis remembers, “I made music.” One day, however, he decided to study computer technology. The excursion lasted for two semesters before he returned to making music.

In December 2001, his musical endeavours led him to produce a cinema advertisement for Panasonic together with Eike Hosenfeld. They have been working as a composer team ever since. Together they produce music for documentations, advertisement, films for TV and cinema including “Berlin am Meer”, “Hördur” – the first feature film of director Ekrem Ergün – “Tatort”, or the TV series “Löwenzahn”, “Terra X” and “Sonne, Siesta und Saudade“. Denis and Hosenfeld have no reservations about musical genres. They record any given instrument in their own studio including guitar, bass, banjo, trumpet, piano, accordion, mandolin, flute, drums and percussion. The only thing missing is the violin. “None of us can play the violin,” says Denis. The few things they cannot play themselves are recorded with talented friends – or on the computer.

Denis has a passion for any kind of plucked string instruments. His love for his rockabilly guitar is only surpassed by his excitement over the oud, the Arabic lute. A traditional, wooden musical instrument with a “full and meditative sound”, he swoons.

The way Denis plays the Arabic lute can be heard in the film “Sonita”, which won the grand jury and audience award at the Sundance Festival. An 18-year-old Afghan woman is the eponymous protagonist of the documentation, who dreams of a career as a rapper in Iran and a way out of her family’s plans to sell her off to an unknown husband for 9,000 dollars.

Sonita’s rapping against the traditional oud – Denis uses such contradictions to create tension and atmosphere in his soundtracks. His ideas for a certain score or decisions which instruments to include are mostly made in the gut, he explains. One shouldn’t be afraid of abandoning ideas and trying new things.

Denis usually gets his initial ideas when he first reads the script. The film’s genre, protagonists and dramatic composition often provide essential input for the music. Does one follow the characters, opt for an overarching theme and put music over dialogue? Using music can suggest as well as reinforce certain emotions. “Music can unmask certain images, if it doesn’t fit.”

When asked about his favourite film soundtrack, he can only give a temporary answer: “At the moment, I would have to say ‘It follows” because the score by the American composer Richard Vreeland underscores the world of the film’s teenage protagonists so wonderfully.”

By Rico Bigelmann for Adlershof Journal

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