1. Is it difficult composing South Asian music?
I like music that blends into something new. When I came to New York City from my small town years ago the first music I was exposed to was Karsh Kale and Talvin Singh. And what they do I would not strictly call South Asian. They are blending and exploring. What I love most about South Asian forms of music is the “Om” sound. It would be difficult for me if I was specifically trying to compose classical forms of South Asian music. I really only use Tablas, Sitars, etc. as textures. It is never the center of the piece for me. The masters of those traditions have their own rules to follow and break.
2. How do you go about creating music for movies?
I love to lock myself away in my studio and get lost. Usually I go with my gut instinct. I trust in the melody that is humming in my head. So my process centers around that. The initial inspiration may have nothing to do with music. I get inspired by other people, ideas, news, events, and memories. The music helps me capture those moments.
3. What drew you to compose music for Sita Sings the Blues?
The first scene I saw was “Whose Knocking on My Door?”. I was immediately entranced. I thought it was one of the most unique animations I’d ever seen. I loved the eye-popping colors and trippy design. I also loved the hilarity of this brave Sita character singing and dancing amongst the chaotic violence.
4. Can you talk about the composition behind “Sita in Space”?
The first order of business was to create a song that could begin the film. Nina (director) explained how the audience would be zeroing in on the earth from deep space. She wanted a Bhangra-esque beat but with more of a “Pink Floyd” rock quality to the composition. So “Sita in Space” was born. I sent it to Nina and then about a month later she sent me back the video, edited to the music. I was blown away. The opening scene was done. Amazing.
5. How did the song “Agni Pariksha” develop?
This is the incredible music video halfway through the film that follows Nina’s own breakup via email. For this music Nina wanted pure pain combined with the fierceness of a passionate woman scorned. So I came up with the tune and had Reena Shah sing the part. Reena’s voice is mournful yet powerful. We got the lyrics from Reena’s mother, Laxmi Shah, who is also a gifted singer. Her Hindi poem really tied together the entire experience for us. And Nina’s gorgeous animation takes it to an entirely new genius level.
6. Why should people watch Sita Sings the Blues?
Regardless of where you are from in this world each of us has parallel stories to tell. It seemed to me that “Sita Sings the Blues” created a new kind of story art woven from other styles. You can’t quite describe a film like this, you’ve just got to see it. And despite of any controversy that may surround a film that uses its own interpretation of folklore, this film will stand the test of time and continue to amaze and influence new culture. I feel honored and blessed to have been a part of it.
Find out more about Todd Michaelsen at www.toddmichaelsen.com
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