David Lang is a composer known for Youth (
In 2016, he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song for “simple song #3.” He currently teaches composition at Yale. We spoke with Professor Lang at the New York Film Festival premiere of Wildlife on Sunday evening at Alice Tully Hall. He spoke about how he got involved with scoring Wildlife, his favorite scene to score and more!
The Knockturnal: How did you get involved with Wildlife?
David Lang: I had done the music for Paolo Sorrentino’s film, Youth, and Paul Dano is a character in that movie and so through that process, I met him, which was really fun. When he decided to do this movie on his own, he asked me if I would join him for this, which was really fun.
The Knockturnal: What did you love about the project?
David Lang: I loved getting to know Paul a little better, who had a real vision for how this film should work and how the book should be translated into a film. I thought what he did was really spectacular.
The Knockturnal: Tell me about your process of putting the music in place?
David Lang: A lot of what I do is I react to something and I try to imagine different ways that the music can change the emotional character of a scene. So I would try lots of different kinds of pieces, little ideas, and scraps. I would put them to the picture, I would show them to Paul and to his editor, and then we would evaluate what worked, what didn’t work. What was interesting and kind of a challenge for me in this film was that for the most part, everything I did told too much. Everything I did was – Paul made such an effort to make everything understated and everything introspective and make everything really sort of simmer on a kind of low burn. It really was a very, very subtle film and everything that I did, had to be pulled down that same way, too. So it was a challenge and also it was something that I got directly from Paul.
The Knockturnal: What was a highlight scene for you to work on?
David Lang: I loved working on the end. There’s a really beautiful thing that happens at the end where the boy finally has a moment to himself. Trying to figure out the music that goes with that was probably my favorite moment in the piece.
The Knockturnal: How did you get your start in composing for film?
David Lang: I’m primarily not a film composer. I’m primarily an opera composer and I’m very nerdy. I’m a very nerdy classical musician and I teach classical composers at Yale University. I’ve done film things over the years just as a little side gig, but what happened really here was that Paolo Sorrentino made this film, Youth, about a composer, and he had the idea that he might want to talk to someone who is a classical composer who knows that world. That’s how I got invited into this world.
The Knockturnal: What is your advice to people who are interested in working in this field?
David Lang: Have fun. I sort of lucked into this field and I sort of imagine that the best way to get involved in this field was to luck into it, too, which means to be around actors, to be around filmmakers, to be around people who are doing interesting things. To work on projects with your peers as they grow up. I think one of the interesting things here is that I got into this project because I had met Paul on another project and we had become friends. To me, I think that at every level, when you are starting or when you are super famous, whatever level you are at, I think that that’s the way to work.
The screening was presented by Citi. The IFC release hits theaters on October 19, 2018.