Volker Bertelmann

by the partae

What is your name?

Volker Bertelmann.

Where are you currently based?

Dusseldorf / Germany.

You just finished scoring your second film with Dustin O’Halloran after Lion. It’s called The Current War and recently premiered at TIFF, how is it working with Dustin? 

the work with dustin is great and we somehow always feel that our approaches are mixing very well.with current war the work was defiantly more intense but we were always pretty relaxed and wrote some very special stuff for both of us.

Does Dustin ask you to follow any certain criteria or are you given full creative control of the scoring?

oh….this is a 50/50 collaboration so i sent him my cues and he is sending me his and then we exchange musical ideas and the best ideas survives…..it is great to have a partner who is playing the same instrument but has a different style.this means we both can always offer different approaches.that helps the director to find a decision.as we mostly stayed in different time zones we can offer that 24h a day.

What do you find most challenging about scoring a film?

the most challenging is to find common ground with the director and the other decision makers who already spend months or years with the movie , while you come in pretty late in the game.to find the compromise between an artisitic but also functional approach is maybe the big challenge and also the discussion between commercial and rough.

i am interested in this as i don’t think there is in generell one or the other approach bad or good…..both can actually profit from each other.

What programs / equipment do you use?

i use pro tools and logic as sequence programs and to mention all my equipment is maybe a very long list.

but do keep it a little bit ore generell …i am using a steinway B grand from 1935 and a lot of great microphones.

i am using a roland jupiter 4 and a minimoog ….on current war we used as well modular synth from Make Noise and dave smith tempist.

How did you learn how to score?

i grew up in a protestant church that was very strict and i sang already in the choir in th cage of 6 ….i played the recorder in that age as well and i listened to a lot of classical music from bach.

harmonizing and playing music by ear was something that came naturally to me…..so in a way i was already writing arrangements in a young age…..i have never studied music and composition …..so i am always composing out of my instinct combined with a learned knowledge about the instruments.

How was the crowds reaction to the film and soundtrack at TIFF?

we received a lot of positive reactions for the score …even in the reviews ….cause the film itself was received very diverse.

Your in process of wrapping up the music for series: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunpowder_(TV_series) How did you become involved with this project?

i received a phone call from my agent about my availability for it and i wanted to try it out……i liked the time it played in and i wanted to find out how the work on a series works.i am very happy with the result.

How do you find inspiration when scoring for film/tv ?

i think i go early in the morning in the studio and open the scene i want to work with and i try to start with my instrument first.then i get deeper into the instrumentation.i try to keep away from movies of the same kind.

What has been you favourite project to date and why?

Lion was my favorite film project so fare because the working atmosphere and the collaboration with Dustin and Garth Davis was inspiring an uplifting.i think the energy was good to create something special.

Your going to score Hotel Mumbai what can we expect from this sound track? 

this film is pretty dark and violent as it is dealing with the terror attack of Hotel Mumbai .The sound track is pretty dark and rhythmical and at the same time the film is not at all about heroes besides the men and women who gave there lives to rescue others……so to find a mute in the music that helps the film to keep the tension and is not taking away from the storytelling and the acting is a big challenge.i think it is wonderfull to work with anthony maras on this film.

How did this project come about?

it came about that the director heard my music and it was temped in there…..he also worked in his earlier movies with prepared piano and i think he liked the sound of the treated piano a lot.

Who are you listening to at the moment?

at the moment i am listening to MIA.

How did you start playing music?

i started as i said before to play recorder in the age of 5 and when i was nine i met at a concert a man that played a chopin piece on the piano and i wanted to have lessons with him.my mom was so kind to actually make that happen ….and from that time i haven’t stopped playing the piano.

You’re touring the US later this month, are there any shows that your most looking forward to playing and why?

i love to play in all the places in the US cause the country is so big and all the places are special.i am excited in generell to play the tour because it brings me back to places that i like and where i know people…..i am big fan of the US since i was there the first time in 1994.

How do you prepare for each show? 

i am traveling and thinking what i am doing next…..i am trying to modify my set from show to show and i want to find a connection to my album that i am presenting.

What equipment and programs do you use when playing live?

i use no programm….i use a piano , 14 mics on the piano, a loop station , a couple of footpedals from eventide and boss and a submixer.that is mainly it.

What do you find most challenging about touring?

i think the most challenging is to keep the energy up and to give every city the most power you have.this is a matter of rhythm and how you start and end the day and what is happening in between……tour live can get easy out of control as everything is possible and you can experience things that you haven’t thought about in the morning …..so it is good to find a balance between the surprises and the discipline.

Favourite food and place to hangout?

LA , Hollywood Forever Cemetry, Chicago ….Lulas Cafe, San Francisco.



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