Tunefulness and Textures
Posted Apr 11, 2022
Wu Tsang’s MOBY DICK couples lush, vivid moving images with a dynamic, textured original score, composed by Caroline Shaw and Andrew Yee with Asma Maroof, performed at The Shed by Members of the New York Philharmonic. Shaw, who became the youngest composer to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2013 for Partita for 8 Voices, has opened classical music to new audiences by working with filmmakers, ballet choreographers, pop stars, and more. In the weeks leading up to the North American premiere of MOBY DICK; or, The Whale, Shaw reflected on the collaborative work of composing the silent film’s score.
Designing the musical environment for a film as nuanced and complex as Wu Tsang’s MOBY DICK begins with questions enclosed in questions, ultimately guided by a combination of instinct and engineering. We—Caroline Shaw, Andrew Yee, and Asma Maroof (with Nate Thatcher)—dove deep into Wu Tsang’s singularly vivid interpretation of the familiar Melville tale. With one foot in last century’s tradition of music for silent film and another in a more contemporary handling of pitch and timbre, the musical score tilts and sways amid old-fashioned tunefulness and throbbing textures. Just as the visual aesthetic of the film hints at the tension between artifice and actuality, we sought a sound palette that could further bring that tension into focus. The score was constructed in collaboration with Wu Tsang, who guided many of these choices.