Interview: Roque Banos, Composer of “In the Heart of the Sea”

Posted on December 2, 2015 at 3:32 pm

Roque Baños composed the haunting score for Ron Howard’s new film, “In the Heart of the Sea,” based on the real-life whaling expedition that inspired Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. “I got involved at the very beginning of the shooting,” he told me in an interview. “My first conversation with Ron was before he started to shoot. We talked about many things of course but the most important words were like, ‘Roque, the music in this movie was going to be more than 50 percent of it.’ The music for him is another character of the movie. He treated us as another actor and we had conversations about emotions, the power represented on the whale. He wanted also a dramatic but also a very, very modern sound;, you didn’t want like an old school classic score.” There is one moment in the film where a sailor plays a genuine 18th century song on his guitar, but the score is not based on historical themes.

To convey the peril and passion of the story, Baños used a wide variety of instruments, from ethnic flutes to touch on the force of nature and the low sound, ancestral sound of the didgeridoo to represent the whale. There is an electric cello and orchestral guitars, “but the most unusual one was the percussion. I didn’t want to use the traditional percussion on the action scene. I wanted to use something special so then I asked Ron Howard if I could have everything they used from the ship for the shooting. Then they brought me everything that they had on the ship, even the sails, the sails, ropes, and hull, so we spent two days of recording a pallette of sounds that come from the ship. The whole ship was an instrument. So every percussion you hear on the music comes from the ship that we are seeing the picture. So another one that I will tell you, I was recording the sounds from nature like air, like water, the flow of water, the sound of the sea.” Putting all of those sounds together required a lot of mixing. “The whole thing was a like huge experiment. I didn’t know at the beginning how it was going to come out. I think there is always a way to combine extremely different instruments. I also created a big library of sounds so then I convert them into notes so then it could be used as music.”

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