89th Oscars Backstage Interview Transcript: Music (Original Score)

CATEGORY: Music (Original Score)
SPEECH BY: Justin Hurwitz



Q. My 14‑year‑old daughter wants to know, she heard at the last awards show you told the press room that there's a cut song, a title song called LA LA LAND?
A. Yeah.

Q. Are there themes of that in the finale of the film?  Will it be in the Broadway musical?  Will it be bonuses?  They are dying to hear LA LA LAND. 
A. There are actually hints of it in the score because at the time I was composing and orchestrating the epilog number, I thought that song was going to be in the movie so I was putting little countermelodies in and little hints to that song.  Then the song ended up not in the movie so there are little clues in the epilog as to what that song is, but I don't know if we'll ever put it out.  If ‑‑ we didn't record it with the real orchestra.  It exists as like a MIDI demo.  But we will talk about maybe using it for something. 

Q. Can you tell me the most incredible story of where you've heard people who have seen the film or just members of the public singing the "City of Stars" back to you or heard them singing it in some strange place?  Because it's so catchy, it's in all of our minds.  It's such a fantastic song. 
A. No.  Yeah, it's great.  I've heard ‑‑ yeah, I've heard, like, I guess, the whistle.  Every time ‑‑ I don't know.  Every time I hear, you know, like the trailer play or the whistle, my ears perk up because it's such a ‑‑ it's so surreal to hear that.  I think the most surreal thing that's happened though along those lines is my piano tuner was tuning my piano last month and he told me that he was tuning a piano earlier in the day and it was covered in LA LA LAND sheet music because the people's kids were playing the music which is just so cool. 

Q. Can you talk about the feeling or vibe of Los Angeles, what this town means to you and how it inspired you?
A. Yeah.  I think it's a ‑‑ it's an exciting, eclectic city.  And that's ‑‑ I was trying to make the music, you know, exciting and eclectic, but also full of melancholy and full of all the other, you know, the themes and tones that had to be in this score because of this story because of what we were trying to say about Los Angeles and what it's like to live here.  But I do think it is very ‑‑ it's a very joyous, exciting place and I think that's what "Another Day of Sun" kind of is.  It balances that excitement with that, you know, a little bit of heartbreak there, but it's ultimately a very exciting song.

Q. You obviously use a lot of different musical styles in the score, but jazz has played a very prominent role in Damien's movies ‑‑
A. Yes.

Q. ‑‑ thus far.  What has it been like for you to really work that jazz element into a score?  It's a little bit of an overlooked style when it comes to film. 
A. Yeah.  It's been a lot of fun.  So there's like really kind of traditional jazz that's on screen that's in the jazz club in this movie and that was really fun to write because I was just writing for jazz combo.  I was creating lead sheets and arrangements for a jazz combo, and that was a ‑‑ one particularly fun part of that was I took all the songs in the movie and I kind of rearranged them as jazz.  So I don't know if you noticed, but when Keith comes up, John Legend's character, Keith comes up and propositions Sebastian to join his band, that's "Another Day of Sun" turned into a jazz piece, like a minor Latin jazz piece that's playing in the background.  "A Lovely Night" is playing in the background after she gets her callback when he asks her out on a first date.  That was really fun turning the songs into kind of jazz combo pieces.  And then for the actual score score, like the dramatic score, I was just trying to have hints of jazz.  It's not jazz per se, but there's an upright bass and drums and vibes in some of it, and that sort of jazzy harmonic language.  So it was fun kind of taking a little bit from the jazz world but also some from this classical world and some from the just traditional film scoring world and mix it altogether for the actual score.



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