alberto iglesias or a soundman and his abstraction teresa sala   They say he’s capable of coming up with all kinds of sound effects. Some of them are said to be quite therapeutic, whereas others take you off into a mishmash of madness. But... “What’s it really good for?”, “Is it really necessary?”, “What can we actually do with it?”... The compositor Alberto Iglesias seems to satisfy his inner yearnings by mulling over questions and doubts. And that’s exactly what he does before he sits down to work. The music is all an incognito at the start, like giving birth to a great nothing. But hold onto your horses there for a moment, our friend Alberto spends his days immersed in cinema, in search of the right ingredients. His name certainly carries weight in the movie business; he’s already won six Goya Awards for his soundtrack work. All the same, I must say that he came across to me as a very humble man. “In my opinion, you’re way off the mark if you think that every film needs to be accompanied by music. There might be films where music isn’t necessary. This notion is really important to me. It’s a question I constantly ask myself” says this Donostia-born man who now lives in Madrid. Well, I couldn’t put the question off for any longer…here goes: “Has this lack of need of music ever happened in one of the films you’ve worked on?” The answer is about as honest as you can get: “It happened with the film “Te Doy Mis Ojos”. When I saw the film, it struck me as such a powerful story, you know, the truth of the story was just so far beyond any cinematographic element that I really didn’t think it needed any music”. In other films where they mix fantasy and idealism, it’s much easier to come up with the appropriate music, but often when you get down to the nitty-gritty core of the story, “the music you hear is simply out of place”.

A River Called Kwai (A Bridge Over The River Kwai)
The next logical step in the interview was to bring up the subject of music and functionalism. When you actually reflect on the creative process behind composing music for a film, you inevitably think about the practical side to the soundtrack. Why? Because the melodies wouldn’t exist on their own. While a melody may survive in the memories of people for a short time on being removed from its movie context, people really remember a piece of music as a part of a bigger story, the film. Who doesn’t instantly link Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs Robinson” to a melodic hook and a beardless Dustin Hoffman? Do we not think of Kim Bassinger’s sex appeal when we hear Joe Cocker sing “You can leave your hat on”? Where is the river Kwai? Won’t those whistled marching tunes ring out for ever?... Cinema, the seventh art form, is undeniably ever more present in our society. And all of this entails that these melodies, along with the actors and directors that become household names, can also reach the heady heights of the Hit Parade. When we ask Alberto about this, he comes up with a different angle on the whole thing: “Music for cinema has to limit its strength to two watersheds. On the one hand, as a cog in the machine of a film, it should aim at being functional. On the other, it also has to be able to take that jump and stand on its own two legs a complete piece of music, you know, have a personality of its own”. As well as that, he doesn’t overlook the fact that cinema music should “never be boring... and that’s not something that’s easy to achieve”.

“Behiak (Cows)”, Almodovar and Football Matches
Medem and Almodovar, Almodovar and Medem. And Alberto Iglesias. Some people say that Pedro Almodóvar and Julio Medem are basically Alberto Iglesias’s common-law partners. All you have to do is take a glance at the Goyas he’s won with them: “La Ardilla Roja (The Red Squirrel)”, “Tierra (Land)”, “Los Amantes del Circulo Polar (The Lovers From The North Pole)”, “Todo Sobre Mi Madre (All About My Mother)”, “Lucia y el Sexo (Lucia and Sex)” and “Habla Con ella (Speak to Her)”. But Alberto doesn’t want to talk about prizes. You see, he’s not all that bothered about them. “We’re not on about football matches here. We’re talking about art. I think that saying this piece of art is better than that other one is nonsense. Five stars are awarded to one picture, three to another one and none at all to this other one. Having said that, and taking my sceptic opinion into consideration, I feel really happy when they give me these awards. You’re really grateful for it and it also gives you a type of ready-made calling card”.

We get into the basics of his work, and we are inevitably confronted by Medem’s aesthetic violence and Alomodovar’s rather special character: “Both of them are totally different to each other. Two different planets. And at times I ask myself how on earth I manage to fit myself into these totally different spheres. Truth be told, every film is an individual world in itself. I mean, I know that the director is the driving motor, but when we work, we are involved in a film in a definite moment and place in time and that’s the most important thing really. As for myself, I really love working with different registers and spaces. That’s the whole basis to composing music for a film”. Which one do you like the most? “Sure I can’t even remember them all, never mind choose one. If I had to mention any specifically, I’d have to say that I had a great time on “Habla con Ella”, “El Amante Menguante” or “Vacas”. What about the less pleasant ones? Have you had many bad experiences? “Of course. People are always talking about the functionalism of soundtrack music and how sometimes music can be intrusive in a film. People ask me if I feel free in my work with so many obligations to fulfil. And the truth is that ideas and freedom go hand in hand. When I have no ideas, I don’t feel free at all. I do feel it, however, when I have to overcome problems. That really stimulates me”. What is Alberto Iglesias at these days? “I’ve nothing concrete on at the moment, and I’m just spending my time writing and studying. I like to have time on my hands when I finish a film. I’m waiting”. On what? “On a call from harmony.

A quick Scan: Alberto Iglesias (Donostia, 1955)
He studied piano and harmony in Donostia as a youngster, and he later went to Paris and Barcelona. At first, he studied composition and counterpoint, and then he moved on to electro-acoustic music. From 1981 to 1986, he worked hand in hand with electronic composer Javier Navarrete. He got involved in cinema when he composed the music for short films produced by his brother Jose Luis and Montxo Armendariz. His first full length feature films were “La Conquista de Albania (The Conquest of Albania)” and “La Muerte de Mikel (The death of Mikel)”, and ever since then – without entirely abandoning other forms of working with music – he’s worked a lot more on films. As well as composing the music for the most well-known Spanish films, he has also composed music for Nacho Duato’s Dance Company. He’s also come up with the music for quite a few ads. He says that lately he’s been really feeling the urge to try his hand at opera, “but not a three-act opera, I’d rather do something that theatrically is a bit more manageable”.

2003 La mala educación (Pedro Almodóvar)
2003 Te doy mis ojos (Iciar Bollaín)
2003 Comandante (Oliver Stone)
2002 Pasos de baile / The Dancer Upstairs (John Malkovich)
2002 Hable con ella (Pedro Almodóvar)
2001 Lucía y el sexo (Julio Medem)
1999 Todo sobre mi madre (Pedro Almodóvar)
1998 Los amantes del Círculo Polar (Julio Medem)
1997 La camarera del Titánic (Bigas Luna)
1997 Carne trémula (Pedro Almodóvar)
1996 Tierra (Julio Medem)
1995 Una casa en las afueras (P. Costa)
1995 Pasajes (Daniel Calparsoro)
1995 La flor de mi secreto (Pedro Almodóvar)
1993 La vida láctea (J. Estelrich)
1993 La ardilla roja (Julio Medem)
1993 Dispara (Carlos Saura)
1992 Vacas (Julio Medem)
1988 Lluvia de Otoño (José Ángel Rebolledo)
1987 El sueño de Tánger (Ricardo Franco)
1986 La playa de los perros (J. Fonseca e Costa)
1986 Adiós pequeña (Imanol Uribe)
1985 Luces de Bohemia (Miguel Ángel Díez)
1985 Fuego eterno (José Ángel Rebolledo)
1984 La muerte de Mikel (Imanol Uribe)
1983 La conquista de Albania (Alfonso Ungría)
1981 Cortometraje Fernando Amezketarra (Juanba Berasategi)
1980 Cortometraje Ikusmena (Montxo Armendáriz)

Other bits and Pieces:
1992 Cautiva (Kontzertua)

off the record:
“Fiction is always possible when you’re writing music for a film. What does it take to believe in this fiction?: It’s not the compositor that creates the music, it just happens. The music is already a part of the images, it’s in the sequences filmed by the director; it’s there in a secret code that hasn’t been decoded yet. The fundamental parts of the film hold the key to the secret of the music”.