In coming up with the score for Netflix’s limited series, “Self Made,” Larry Goldings made some wild discoveries about how music was played around the turn of the century. “You wouldn’t see a drum set in 1910. The bass drum that they had was left over from the marching band days, so you had somebody playing a huge bass drum and just isolated other instruments that were set up,” he explains in our recent webchat (watch the video above).
He already had a good amount of knowledge about jazz music but doing the research for this project took it to a completely different level, knowing that it would have really irked him if someone else in a similar situation didn’t do the proper research. “I wanted to get some of those details right. It always bothers me in movies when they don’t and [the producers] really appreciated that.”
Goldings is an accomplished musician in his own right. His skills have been featured on the works of numerous artists including John Mayer, Sia, Beck, India.Arie and James Taylor. “Self Made” marks his second entry into the scoring field with his first being the 2013 indie film, “Dealing With Idiots.” “Self Made” tells the story of Sarah Breedlove, who goes from being a domestic worker to running a thriving hair care empire for black women (under the name “Madam C.J. Walker”) and in doing so becomes the first women in America to achieve the status of a self-made millionaire.
For Goldings, a lot of the score for the Netflix limited series starring Octavia Spencer came down to finding the right balance between cues that were emotional in nature versus instrumental ones that served as a preview of the hip-hop element that was being used in the licensed music. “Within the first episode we figured out a sound that mixed genres and utilized a back beat sound alongside the more standard kind of emotional cue so that everything kind of worked together,” he says. He added that the soundtrack was not intended to have a heavy jazz sound so that element was often kept in the background.
Goldings did draw up initial ideas for the score based on the script but sometimes what he originally composed would not work with what had been shot, but he had access to a vital tool that helped him see these issues very early on. “Early on they were sending me dailies from the shoots in Toronto.” It was the first time he had ever seen dailies and they proved to be an immense help in getting the score right. “I don’t think a composer usually sees them and even that was helpful to write music to get a very solid feeling of how it was going to look, how good the performances were,” he adds.
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