Christian Davis: The Composer Behind the Score of “The Nameless Days”
Heaven of Horror recently had the opportunity to speak with composer Christian Davis about his remarkable score for Vertical Entertainment’s new horror film, “The Nameless Days.” In this interview, we delve into Davis’ creative process, collaboration with sound designers, and the challenges he faced in crafting a captivating score for this unique film.
Setting the Stage: The Plot of “The Nameless Days”
Before we delve into the details, let’s take a moment to understand the premise of “The Nameless Days” provided by Vertical Entertainment. The film follows the journey of Rahui, a young immigrant, and his pregnant sister who are attacked and separated by a demonic spirit during their perilous trek across the U.S. border. Determined to survive and rescue his sister, Rahui must confront the malevolent spirit that seeks to deny her the joy of motherhood in this gripping horror tale.
Listen to the full score here.
Unraveling the Creative Process: A Conversation with Christian Davis
Starting the Journey
When Davis embarks on a film like “The Nameless Days,” our conversation naturally begins with the question of where he finds his starting point. Davis reveals that he first immerses himself in the movie, watching it multiple times to let the ideas flow. He then engages in a dialogue with the director to understand their vision before commencing the composition process. Interestingly, Davis shares that he typically begins with the most crucial scenes, recognizing their influence on the overall musical narrative.
A Collaboration of Sound
We move on to discuss Davis’ collaboration with the sound designers, particularly his involvement in creating sounds for the demonic spirit. Davis mentions that due to time constraints, he didn’t have the opportunity to work closely with the sound designers. However, he delivered the music in stems, allowing for adjustments and balance between the sound and score during the mixing process. Davis does reveal his contribution to the “spirit” sound, incorporating ancient Aztec rattle sounds known as “Ayoyotes” to signify the approaching presence of the malevolent entity. He also incorporated the eerie “Aztec death whistle,” which resembles a breathy scream, adding to the ominous atmosphere.
Serving the Story: Davis’ Main Job
As we explore Davis’ role as the composer, he emphasizes the importance of serving the story and realizing the director’s vision. Davis compares scoring a film to solving a puzzle, where experimentation and repositioning of musical elements are necessary until they harmoniously align with the narrative. His ultimate goal is to ensure that the score effectively communicates the story, considering it a failure if it falls short in this regard.
Creating Unease: The Synth and Beyond
Our conversation takes an intriguing turn as we discuss the eerie and unsettling moments in the film, particularly the scene where the spirit ominously closes in on the characters. Davis confirms the use of a synth to create a continuous uneasy melody during these intense moments. However, he also reveals the inclusion of brass, strings, and distorted guitars, all working together to intensify the sense of impending danger. Davis shares that his intention was to create a full and rich sonic experience, amplifying the tension for viewers.
The Pressure of Horror: Delivering the Score
Given the prominent role of music in horror films, we inquire whether Davis felt any extra pressure while composing for “The Nameless Days.” Davis acknowledges that he always experiences pressure when working on any film score. The anxiety of facing a blank page can be daunting. In the case of this particular score, Davis explains that he ventured into new territories, pushed by the directors’ desires for something sparse and experimental. Though the process was challenging, he found it exhilarating. Nonetheless, the pressure to deliver a score that meets the film’s demands remains ever-present.
Maintaining Balance: Conveying Stark Emotions
Davis speaks extensively about the delicate balance required when combining intense chase music with softer moments that convey deep emotions. He cautions against being too literal in these tonal shifts, as it can diminish the impact and veer into a cartoonish territory known as “mickey mousing.” Davis confesses that achieving the shift while keeping it subtle is a process of trial and error until it feels just right, effectively capturing the intended emotions.
The Art of Timing: Finding the Right Volume
We move on to discuss the use of ambient music in the background, which becomes more prominent during specific moments in the film. Davis explains that determining when to increase the volume of the ambient music is a collaborative process. Sometimes, he might turn it up too early, and feedback from the directors, Andrew and Matt, is crucial in finding the perfect balance. While collaboration is vital, Davis acknowledges that, in the end, it remains the director’s call to make the final decision.
The Wisdom of Experience: Learning from Rupert Gregson-Williams
Christian Davis had the privilege of working with acclaimed composer Rupert Gregson-Williams, known for his scores in films like “Aquaman” and “The Gilded Age.” When asked about his most significant takeaway from this collaboration, Davis shares invaluable advice received from Gregson-Williams. He learned the importance of always doing another pass to refine and enhance a composition. Davis witnessed Gregson-Williams’ relentless pursuit of better music, even when a piece already sounded fantastic. This lesson motivated Davis to persevere and iterate in his own pursuit of musical excellence.
Collaborative Dreams: The Director’s Chair
Concluding our conversation, we ask Davis about a specific director he would like to work with in the future. Interestingly, Davis expresses a different perspective, highlighting the joy of collaborating with talented directors throughout his career. He hopes to continue growing and working alongside them, contributing to their success as they tackle bigger and more ambitious projects. Davis emphasizes the value of long-term collaborations, where trust and understanding deepen, leading to even better films and scores.
Christian Davis’s exceptional score for “The Nameless Days” is a testament to his creative talent, adaptability, and commitment to storytelling. Through our conversation, it becomes clear that Davis approaches each project with dedication and a drive for musical excellence. His collaboration with the sound designers and directors exemplifies the importance of teamwork in creating a cohesive and immersive cinematic experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1: What inspired Christian Davis to pursue a career in composing film scores?
A: Christian Davis discovered his passion for composing at a young age and was captivated by the power of music in elevating the storytelling experience in films. Inspired by the works of renowned film composers, Davis knew that bringing his own compositions to the silver screen was his true calling.
Q2: Did the unique nature of “The Nameless Days” present any specific challenges for Christian Davis?
A: “The Nameless Days” pushed Christian Davis to explore new musical territories, requiring him to compose in a sparse and experimental style. This presented a welcome challenge and an opportunity for growth as Davis ventured into uncharted creative realms.
Q3: How does Christian Davis strike a balance between his personal artistic vision and the director’s vision?
A: Collaboration is key for Christian Davis. While he brings his own creative flair and expertise to the table, he recognizes the importance of realizing the director’s vision. Davis strives to strike a harmonious balance between his own artistic sensibilities and the narrative requirements of the film, always prioritizing the story above all else.
Q4: How did Christian Davis contribute to the ominous sounds associated with the demonic spirit in “The Nameless Days”?
A: To enhance the menacing presence of the demonic spirit, Christian Davis incorporated ancient Aztec rattles called “Ayoyotes” and the eerie “Aztec death whistle” into the score. These unique elements added an unsettling layer to the overall soundscape of the film.
Q5: What advice does Christian Davis have for aspiring composers?
A: Christian Davis advises aspiring composers to embrace the process of continual refinement. He stresses the value of doing multiple passes on a composition, pushing beyond the initial satisfaction to uncover new layers and nuances. Davis encourages young composers to relentlessly strive for improvement, as that extra effort often leads to exceptional outcomes.