Alexandre Desplat scores David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Posted on August 11, 2008 by Dan Goldwasser

Recently, award-winning composer Alexandre Desplat was at the Sony Scoring Stage to record his score to the highly anticipated drama, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Directed by David Fincher, the film is an adaptation of an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story about a man who lives his life backwards, starting old and ending young, and stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett.

Alexandre Desplat conducts the Hollywood Studio Symphony

Composer Alexandre Desplat discusses the music with director David Fincher

The emotional and evocative score was performed by an 87-piece ensemble of the Hollywood Studio Symphony, which Desplat conducted. There were numerous featured solos, including Clayton Haslop on violin, cellist Andrew Schulman, saxophonist Dan Higgins, harpists Marsha Dickstein and Katie Kirkpatrick, harmonica player Tommy Morgan, accordionist Frank Marocco, and pianists Randy Kerber and Brian Pezzone.

The Hollywood Studio Symphony performs on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Bass harmonica player Tommy Morgan

The saxophones and lead saxophonist Dan Higgins

Some of the cues in the film took a long time to record, because they were so delicate and exacting. Scoring mixer Shawn Murphy had the microphones open wide to capture every nuance, and one cue featured just two harps, two pianos and a cello – the orchestra sat patiently through the performances, applauding after every take. Orchestrator Conrad Pope was on hand throughout, both in the booth and on the stage, to assist Desplat when needed.

Andrew Schulman plays a cello solo

Harpist Marsha Dickstein

Contractor Peter Rotter, harpist Marsha Dickstein, pianists Randy Kerber and Bryan Pezzone speak with Alexandre Desplat

Orchestrator Conrad Pope, composer Alexandre Desplat, and assistant orchestrator Philip Klein

For one cue, a percussion sound wasn’t yielding the desired result, and Desplat went into the back of the stage, where he and percussionist Wade Culbreath went through a few different instruments before coming up with the right sound. Some unique musical sounds were formed, by using cimbalom, bass harmonica, baritone saxophone, and even some accordion. An original Fender Rhodes electric organ was also used.

Greg Goodall plays the gong drum

In the booth, Murphy expertly pulled all of the elements together, and music editor Joe E. Rand, assistant music editor Steven Galloway and ProTools recordist Erik Swanson made sure that things were progressing at a steady pace. Director David Fincher was also at the sessions to give feedback when needed. Additional orchestration was done by Clifford Tasner and Philip Klein.

Stage recordist Adam Michalak, orchestrator Conrad Pope, scoring mixer Shawn Murphy, and assistant orchestrator Philip Klein

Contractor Sandra Kipp, assistant music editor Steven Galloway, director David Fincher, composer Alexandre Desplat and music editor Joe Rand

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button will be released by Paramount Pictures on Dec 19, 2008.

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