Ludovic Bource began his musical education playing the accordion, branching out later to a multitude of genres including hip hop, world music, and heavy metal in his career as an arranger with various artists. He firmly eschews labels, however, including the one that some might now attach to him after the spectacular success of The Artist; namely, that of a composer for silent films. I asked Bource if composing for such a project posed any particular challenges.
“The original concept was to never force the music,” he told me through a translator. “Something we tried to avoid from the very beginning is the temptation of synchronicity, of the music notes punctuating things or movements or actions.” He went on to explain that many times in film the score is used to underline and highlight the action, and he and director Michel Hazavanicius took great pains to avoid this. He explained that in order to get around it, “We worked in big blocks of ten to fifteen minutes – narrative blocks… We would take a whole block and watch it without sound to see what kind of emotion was coming out, what story was coming out, and then try to write a block of music, something that would carry over several scenes, that would be ten to fifteen minutes long.”
According to Bource, the goal was that the music not be overpowering, so they came up with a formula. “It hovered around 50 percent – 50 percent of the information is coming from the image and the other was coming from the sounds… It really was an effort to create a cohesiveness between what you’re seeing in the image and the music that you’re hearing – almost a chemical formula, knowing how to gauge the intensity, the presence of the music, and when the image had to take the lead.”
Bource, a long time friend of the director, had been involved in the film from the very beginning and had collaborated with Hazavanicius on many other projects. For The Artist, he was involved from the very first storyboard, two years before the film was made. He explained that they listened to a lot of the great masters of classical music and Hollywood scores, as well as watching classic films together, doing about a year’s worth of intense research in all before even starting to write the music.
The Artist has brought a lot of attention to silent film in general. Bource has been doing interviews and working on promotion for the film while fielding offers on future projects. He said he was profoundly honored to have been nominated for the Golden Globe Award. “What interests me is a beautiful project. If another silent film comes about – why not? But I am by no means a specialist. For me, it’s about meeting people who are passionate about their work and who invite me on a journey…. I’m open to anything.” He hopes someday to collaborate on a dance or ballet piece, “but it’s really about working with very interesting people and to follow a project, and have that project take you on a journey. What I don’t want to do is either repeat myself or choose the easy road. I need to have risk – to feel I am giving the best of myself, with passion, to work together with people.”
“Music is all around us,” Bource concluded. “It’s in the ocean; it’s in the wind; it’s in the trees and the songs of the birds. There is an inherent power to music, and that’s what nourishes me and keeps me alive. No matter what the project, for me it’s the fantastic journey accompanied by collaborating with fascinating people.”