Exclusive Interview: We Chat With Frozen Composer Andy Garfield

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m a big fan of Adam Green‘s Frozen. I think Brad (Mr. Disgusting) hit the nail on the head with his review. So I’m thrilled that I got the chance to do an interview with Andy Garfield, composer of Frozen. If you head on past the jump, you’ll be able to read about Andy‘s history with composing, the various techniques he uses while scoring, and what his drink of choice was during the Frozen composing process. Also, don’t forget to pick up your copy of the soundtrack here.


1) First of all, thank you very much for taking the time to answer some questions for Bloody-Disgusting. I’m personally a big fan of Frozen and the music you composed for it.
You’re more than welcome. Thank you for the opportunity. I’m so pleased you liked the film and it’s score.
2) Please tell me a bit about your musical history and how you became involved in composing Frozen.
I’ve been scoring professionally for 15 years or so, and writing music for many years before that. I’ve been working with Adam since 2004 or so, scoring HATCHET and nearly all of his side projects, in addition to doing sound design and mixing some of them as well. As for FROZEN, I was one of the first people to read the script, just a couple of days after Adam finished it. Typically while he’s writing, he knows exactly what the music should be, but with this, he really had no idea. When Adam writes, he typically puts names of our friends as names of the characters. Sometimes they stick, but most of the time they change by shooting. So when I read the script, I had vivid images in my mind of all these terrible things happening to our friends! I got really emotionally involved in the story as a result, and told Adam that whatever we do, we have to get the audience to feel the emotion that I felt reading the script and imagining our friends. I decided that the best way to accomplish that was with a legit ensemble of strings and percussion. We totally broke that rule and had piano and some low brass, but it was done in the spirit of the original intentions. With FROZEN being the highest-profile movie that I would potentially be involved in up to that point, I had an uphill battle to even be considered. Producers Tim Williams and Peter Block typically work with more established, higher profile composers than myself, so I had a lot to prove, basically just coming off of HATCHET. On Adam’s suggestion, I cut together a “collage” of sorts comprised of pieces of music by John Adams, Phillip Glass and Penderecki. With Adam swearing up and down to Tim and Peter that I could deliver exactly what I promised, I got the job. It was really low risk for them, actually. I didn’t get paid very much, and all my mockups had to be approved before any recording sessions, so if I completely screwed it up, they’d only be out my advance and could get another composer. Thankfully, though, that didn’t happen.
3) How do you enter the proper mindset for scoring a horror film?
I don’t know if there is a particular “mindset” for scoring any particular type of project. Like, for horror films, I don’t go out and kill puppies and then I’m all set! Typically, I’ll watch the film repeatedly to establish a certain intimacy with the project, and really get a feel for the pacing. Then, if there is time, I’ll often take a break from watching it, and just think about it for a while – anywhere from a few days to weeks. During that time, the score takes shape in my head – melodies, textures, everything. Then it’s just a matter of the time it takes to get the ideas out and performed along to the picture.
4) The soundtrack for Frozen stood out to me because it was almost entirely strings, similar to Bernard Herrmann’s score for Psycho. This lent a very warm sound that was in contrast with the bleak winter scenery of the film. Was this the intent?
I appreciate you noticing, and I appreciate the comparison! It’s MOSTLY strings, like PSYCHO – and that was the original intent, but as I mentioned, that didn’t really stick. The strictly strings score was a little too stark for the film – too much of a creative risk for a film that was already taking a lot of creative risks, so we filled it out with some percussion (which includes piano) and some brief low brass. It was decided very early that the score would have to be live strings, to create the warmth of emotion that the film was completely dependent on.
5) The track Alone has a haunting Middle Eastern sounding horn. Usually instruments of this kind are used as a way of connecting the music to the geography of the film. Do you find that horror allows these instruments to reflect feeling rather than placement? If so, how?
It’s funny you should mention that. That’s the only moment in the score I wish I could change. The instrument in that cue is a Duduk. It’s an Armenian reed instrument similar to a clarinet. For me, that cue is meant to emphasize how alone and isolated Parker is up on the lift overnight, left totally alone. I wanted a solo instrument there, and for some reason decided on the Duduk. It’s a beautiful, lonely and sad sound, and perfect for that scene – if the instrument had been in other parts of the score. I hate that it just comes out of nowhere and never returns. It’s just bad for compositionally speaking. But that’s not something that most people seeing the film will be thinking about. It works, but it doesn’t!
6) Another reason I enjoyed the soundtrack so much was because it sounded like something I would hear from the 60’s or 70’s classic horror films, as alluded to in the Bernard Herrmann statement above. What stood out about those scores was the scope of emotion, which I heard in Frozen, ranging from fear and desperation to sorrow and yearning to hope and triumph. How do you compose pieces that not only reflect these emotions, but also connect and naturally flow into each other?
Again, I appreciate you noticing! And to be mentioned in conjunction with the great Herrmann is amazing. For FROZEN, there are basically two types of music – the scary tension music in an atonal avant garde style, and the more lyrical melodic and minimalist style. One thing that ties the two styles together is the instrumentation. The two styles use the same instruments. As for connecting and flowing into each other, that’s sort of up to the narrative of the film. I didn’t see that as a particular challenge in its self, as the music was driven by the situation and characters. If that causes the music to flow together nicely, then great!
7) I personally feel that music is an unspoken, often unrecognized character when it comes to horror films. It has the ability to ensure tension and fear when nothing is occurring on the screen. Do you find that you use that psychological impact when you are composing?
The score for a film is all psychological. It’s there to tell the audiences how to feel about the action and characters. So yes, I use that daily!
8) Time for a few tangent questions: What is your beverage of choice when in the studio and why?
Well, at the time I was scoring FROZEN, my studio was almost directly above a Carl’s Jr. and at their fountain drinks dispenser they have Diet Dr. Pepper. I noticed a particular trait of this dispenser was that the syrup comes out in a separate stream from the soda water, and that if you hold the cup just right, you can get JUST syrup. I started making a Diet Dr. Pepper SUPER MIX – with MUCH more syrup than one is meant to have. That gave me superdoses of caffeine, which really kept me going!
9) What instrument do you wish was more present in music these days?
Taste and talent.
10) Who are some of your favorite/most influential composers?
Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Borodin, Brahms, Ravel, Debussy, Glass, Adams, Williams, Herrmann, Messiaen, Penderecki, Beethoven, Zimmer, Powell, Newton-Howard, Goldsmith, Stalling and many others.