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Interviews |  25 Mar 2015 17:05 |  By Aashay Dalvi

Debbie Wiseman used medieval instruments like lute, vielle for 'Wolf Hall' soundtrack

MUMBAI: One of the leading British film and TV composers, Debbie Wiseman MBE, made her sixth collaboration with BAFTA Award winning director Peter Kosminsky by composing for BBC One’s recent critically acclaimed series ‘Wolf Hall’, based on Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker Prize winning books. For the series, Wiseman created an original score mixing Tudor instruments with contemporary ones to create the austere and vivid musical atmosphere of the time of King Henry VIII, as shown in the series. The score was performed by the celebrated Locrian Ensemble of London.

Wiseman had previously stated that Peter Kosminsky's visual adaptation and Mark Rylance's performance as Thomas Cromwell had been a huge inspiration throughout the composing process. spoke to Wiseman about her composition for ‘Wolf Hall’ and her upcoming projects.


When did you find out that you would be composing for ‘Wolf Hall’?

I got a call from the director, Peter Kosminsky, and he told me about the project. It sounded wonderful, and as I have worked with Peter many times before, I was excited that we would have another opportunity to collaborate. It is a huge privilege to have been asked to create the score for the drama adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s stunning novels. My aim was to create a musical world inspired by the vitality and elegance of the novels, and the vivid screenplay by Peter Straughan.

Stephen Warbeck composed for the stage adaptation of ‘Wolf Hall’. Did that influence your composition for the screen adaptation in any way?

I have not seen the stage adaptation, and I made a conscious decision not to see it so that it would not influence me in any way. Instead, the inspiration came from the book, the wonderful adaptation by Peter Straughan, and my conversations with Peter (Kosminsky). We felt that we would use the Tudor setting as inspiration, but would then try and create a musical world that also felt contemporary and immediate, as that would match the way Peter was intending to shoot the series. So, although I did use some Tudor instruments in the score such as the recorder, the lute, the vielle and the harpsichord; there are also moments where the music feels modern.

The response for your soundtrack for ‘Wolf Hall’ has been huge. What do you think about that?

I have been overwhelmed by the response to the soundtrack. I have had so many messages, on Twitter, Facebook and via my website, and the whole experience has been very special. It is hugely rewarding to know that people have enjoyed the series, and then felt that they would like to listen to the soundtrack album too. The soundtrack album recently entered Classic FM's chart at Number 1, which is very exciting!

In addition to 'Wolf Hall', which are the other projects are you working on?

There are many projects coming up! I am starting composing for another new series of ‘Father Brown’. There are also many other projects in discussion at the moment, which I will be able to talk about soon!

‘Wolf Hall’ and the upcoming re-release of the ‘Haunted’ OST have been undertaken by Silva Screen Records. Have you been associated with Silva Screen Records for long?

Silva Screen Records has released many of my soundtrack albums; I have had a very long association with them. They have released around six or seven of my scores, including the ones for ‘The Promise’, ‘Flood’ and ‘A Poet in New York’.

Tell us about your experience of conducting an orchestra on a boat at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations that happened in 2012?

Conducting my interpretation of a movement of Handel’s Water Music was unforgettable! I loved every moment - especially as it was a very rainy day, but everyone still made the effort to come to the river and wave and cheer as we played to them! It was a huge honour to take part in such a special and memorable occasion. Since the Jubilee, I have also performed my ‘Jubilee Gigue’ in concert too, where it was much warmer and more comfortable for the musicians!

Have you heard any Indian music? If so, do you like any?

Yes, I have heard Indian music and I always find it hugely inspiring. I like the music of A.R. Rahman who wrote, among many things, the score for Bombay Dreams with my friend, lyricist Don Black. Some years ago, I also composed the score for ‘The Nehru-Gandhi Story’ – a UK documentary series in which I used some Indian instruments, including tabla and tanpura. One day, when I have some free time, I would love to learn more about Indian music – the tradition, and the instruments.

Would you be open to collaborating with an Indian music composer?

Of course! I am always open to new collaborations, as long as the project excites me and it is something that I feel I can contribute to.