Joaquin Phoenix plays Beau, who finds herself on an Odyssean journey to return home after her mother’s untimely death. Aster hired the composer of “Midsommar” to compose the soundtrack for the film. Bobby Krilicbut unlike their last collaboration, creating the music for “Beau Is Afraid” was “a long and arduous process” as they tried to break the sound of Beau’s journey.
Here the two are arguing among themselves partnership and how a clue called “Suburban Dream” helped unlock the movie’s sonic landscape.
How would you describe your relationship and how has it developed since you first met?
Dahlia: I reached out to him because I wrote “Midsommar” while listening to his music, especially his self-titled debut album, Haxan Cloak. He placed me in a space that felt inextricable. I knew I wanted him to score if he was up for it. We got on well, we had the same taste in music and movies. We started by exchanging emails with “Midsommar” and he sent me back music and thoughts, but that didn’t produce the quickest results for the two of us to adapt.
King: Most of them were thrown.
Dahlia: I remember getting worried and the idea was to fly to Los Angeles to see if we could make things right. We started working together that first day and we recorded a third of the movie that first day. We realized that we needed to be in the same room together and found a very productive way of communicating face-to-face.
King: I remember Ari saying that first day: “Let’s both not be afraid to make a fool of ourselves or feel embarrassed or anything. Just be totally open and anything will happen. I think going into this with no expectations was the best way to start.
Dahlia: Frankly, the music Bobby sent was awesome, it just didn’t fit. Somehow, just communicating via e-mail was not working. But we found it useful when we started working together personally. It tends not to be through the words we communicate. There’s a lot of hand gestures.
King: This is tangible. I can feel it sitting there and play something if it works.
What happened to composing “Beau Is Afraid,” especially in the final act, played by Patti LuPone, with an epic scoring around her mother?
King: Opening the package is a difficult thing. This got me where I said, “Damn, that’s not the same thing” and it was a lot of hard work.
Dahlia: The movie is constantly changing and you are jumping from one world to another, and this tonal shift changes in each world. Rhythms change a lot and this still had to be harmonious. It was difficult for us to find these themes. There were many moments when we felt we had found it, and then we realized we hadn’t. It was a very long and tedious process in this regard. It was also an issue that we were spoiled at first. [“Midsommar”]because that came together quickly.
King: It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do… It got me going places I thought I couldn’t go, and it got me the extra mile.
Dahlia: Our original ideas were smaller than where we were when we arrived. It was also my first time to have a music editor, Katherine Miller and I must say she has been very helpful to both of us. While we were both banging our heads against the wall, he came and managed to connect the many threads that were running away from us.
King: When you’re in something where you spend hours of your day in a room, it was incredible that someone like Katherine could take a broad view of that material.
Dahlia: There were a few themes he had saved by relocating them because they didn’t quite work in their place. The mother theme is very strong and clear. But “Suburban Dream” is self explanatory. And at the end of the movie, there was a realization that the cue had to be tried, at least for the final piece of music, to bring about the feeling of a melancholy suburban dream.
King: We mixed it with a sound motif that appeared in each pitch. Unknown to Beau, it sounded like a siren that led him to the final act of the movie.
Dahlia: The Siren was what we knew to bring to an end. I loved that there was a sense of longing you felt with that piece.
What was the instrumentation behind this?
King: Low cello and viola. When Beau finds himself in that house, there is a sense of disconnection and displacement. The idea was not too much, but also enough. It started much more melodic with a violin. It was a downsizing process. The real challenge was to have things that could be precise but also, like in the movie, save a dime and surprise you and move fluidly between different places.