Aaron and Bryce Dessner on their ‘Cyrano’ film soundtrack: “They’re National songs in a way, and have an intimate feeling”

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The twins of The National have adapted their score for an off-Broadway stage production of the legendary tale for a new film adaptation starring Peter Dinklage.

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Whispers first surfaced in early 2018 that The National’s Aaron and Bryce Dessner were working on a musical version of the 1897 play. Cyrano de Bergerac, with lyrics by band frontman Matt Berninger and his wife Karin Besser.

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Later that year, the play – titled Cyrano and starring game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage in the title role – enjoyed a short run at the Terris Theater at the historic Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut, before going Off-Broadway in New York City the following year.

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Studio MGM then acquired the rights to the film, which is directed by Joe Wright from a script written by Dinklage’s wife, Erica Schmidt, and stars Haley Bennett with Dinklage as Roxanne. Before the film’s release in the US on December 31 and in the UK in January, Dessner Brothers will release Cyrano Soundtrack out December 10 via Decca Records.

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In an exclusive UK interview, the Desner twins revealed Granthshala Being approached by Schmidt to compose the score for the music, how the music transferred and evolved into the upcoming film soundtrack and Bryce, who lives in France, gave the project an added sense of weight and responsibility.

Granthshala: How did you first get involved with this project?

Aaron: “Erica had the idea to get used to Cyrano for the theater for years, and she had the idea of ​​collaborating with us because she was a big fan of The National. he wrote to matto [Berninger] And they got in touch, and Bryce went to her home in New York for an early reading of the play. We gave her a lot of unfinished national sketches, or new music from my brother and I that could potentially be a national anthem, and Erica played a playlist of music that we sent in the background while the actors read her scripts. . It was really moving, and that was the beginning of the project. “

was the story of Cyrano de Bergerac One that you were both familiar with growing up, and did that affect how you entered the project and what kind of music you wanted to make for it?

Bryce: “I saw the Gerard Depardieu film adaptation in the ’90s, and was familiar with the story. My wife is French and I live in France. Her grandfather can read Cyrano Remember. The French can only recite the last scene, so for them it is such an eternal story that it seems as though we have known for a long time. “

Was the idea of ​​developing the play into a film devised long ago?

Bryce: “that [Wright, director] Saw the play and immediately said, ‘I’m going to do this’. So the film was part of the process from the very beginning. The piece developed a bit more through two theatrical runs, and then Joe called us last summer in the middle of the pandemic to say he had figured out how to film it in a COVID bubble in Sicily. “

The National in New York City, April 2019. Credits: Graham McIndoe.

Were you able to be on set during filming, and if so, how did it help the music progress and develop?

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Bryce: “I was able to go to Sicily, and was on set for part of it. I did a three-week rehearsal on set with the actors, and the one special thing about this whole situation is that usually when you When making a film, you watch it once you shoot, or sometimes even once you finish editing. Whereas with this film, we were on board long ago, even a There was also the idea of ​​having a film, so the music was in talks from the start. Before they shot every scene, the music was discussed, and they shot around the music – it compared to what we’re used to. woven into a much deeper level.”

How do you think the music has changed between the stage version and the upcoming film and soundtrack that we will see and hear?

Bryce: “The great thing about it was that we basically had four years working with the songs and changing them, and it was in development for quite some time.”

Aaron: “The music grew and developed between the Connecticut and New York productions. The film version has been carried forward because of Joe’s work in developing it further with Erica and the focus on what he wanted to achieve. All vocals are recorded live, with the actors in the context of their singing. It’s a different medium than working in theatre, and we’re all playing instruments for these versions. We had a lot of control, and we really enjoyed digging deeper into this part of the process. “

Bryce: “For plays, we had to write music for a Broadway band to play, but the way we play is pretty specific so it was great to be able to finish the songs the way we wanted. It was big, slamming There isn’t a normal melody with needle-drops. They’re kind of national anthems, and have an inner, intimate feeling, and seamlessly weave in and out of the narrative.”

talking to Granthshala in 2019, Berninger said that the lyrics were written by him. Cyrano There were “some of the best” written by him. Was it refreshing to work with him and Karin within a different framework away from The National?

Bryce: “We were exchanging music as usual, but there was something about Cyrano, at least in Matt’s case, it was more direct in the lyrics, and it felt like an evolution. This is actually the first time that Matt and Karin have written narrative-led lyrics that fit inside a story. The most famous scene in the movie is the balcony scene, and that’s a song, so that was a huge change in our writing. National songs have a little bit of narrative, but they are massive [ourselves] And not in service of a bigger story. The film also has a new national song titled ‘Somebody Desperate’ at the end of the film.

What can you tell us about that song, and how does it fit into the narrative?

Aaron: “We actually wrote that song thinking of Christian [de Neuvillette, a French soldier in the Cyrano story]. I think it was a song being worked on that didn’t fit anywhere in particular, but felt about the story. None of the songs in the theatrical version are identical anymore, and some are completely unrecognizable. A lot of it is quite different, and ‘Somebody Desperate’ was written for the film. It kind of ties everything together.”

Aaron and Bryce Dessner’s ‘Cyrano’ OST, with lyrics by Matt Berninger and Karin Besser and contributions from the London Symphony Orchestra and Vikingur Olafsson, will be released on December 10 via Decca Records.

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