Ronen Landa is a composer/music department pro. In addition to composing the score to David Marmor’s drama-tinged horror, 1BR (read our review here), Landa has been involved with projects like At the Devil’s Door (2014), Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008), The Pact (2012), and Mad As Hell (2014). He’s even done stuff for BBC’s Life series, the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards, and a little video game called Batman: Arkham Knight. If you wish to hear the soundtrack on Spotify, go ahead and click here!
1BR is an engaging story of a woman (Nicole Brydon Bloom: Here On Out 2019) who moves into an apartment complex only to discover that not everything’s as happy as it seems. It also stars Giles Matthey (Jobs 2013), Taylor Nichols (Jurassic Park III 2001), Clayton Hoff (Dead Things 2005), Alan Blumenfeld (Heroes TV series), Susan Davis (WarGames 1983), Earnestine Phillips (Here Comes the Boom 2012), and Naomi Grossman (American Horror Story franchise).
For a small taste of what’s in store, here’s the trailer:
PopHorror: The music in the intro to 1BR conveys a melancholy vibe. To what degree was that influenced by the script?
Ronen Landa: At the beginning of the movie, our protagonist, Sarah, is starting a new life in Los Angeles, but she is not exactly a bundle of bubbly excitement. We eventually learn that she is trying to regain her footing after a heavy loss and a difficult relationship with her father. With the opening theme, I worked to capture all of that; she has a certain innocence but also a certain sadness, and I think that mixture comes through in the piano melody. I wanted to establish a dramatic tone, but also hint at the troubles to come – there’s a lot packed into that theme.
PopHorror: The score has a number of shrill sounds. What are your suggestions for using those to escalate tension?
Ronen Landa: In a film like this one, the score is all about balance. If I lean on any one kind of sound too much, it creates a kind of immune response, and the whole experience is less scary as a result. It’s so important to keep the powder dry and then really bring it when the drama calls for an amped-up score. But the truth is that all kinds of sonorities can be scary in different ways – silence is the scariest of all. So there are endless ways to be creative and build tension while also supporting the on-screen drama.
PopHorror: For people that don’t know, what is the difference between composition and sound design?
Ronen Landa: On a basic level, score composition is about creating music that enhances and informs the film’s drama, while sound design deals with all the non-musical sound you hear like a car door closing or a fly buzzing around. Sound design can be almost musical, for instance when they are creating very rich ambiances. At the same time, music can start to venture far from the traditional sounds of the orchestra.
Sometimes the line between sound and music starts to blur, and that can be especially true in horror films. In 1BR, there are some disturbing sounds coming from the pipes, and I picked up on those in the score with some metallic percussion, so ideally, the two are working together to create a compelling aural experience.
PopHorror: 1BR seems to address hazing a bit, and definitely psychological abuse. Why do you think people do such things?
Ronen Landa: Well, throughout history, humans haven’t exactly always treated each other with the utmost respect. People seek power and control, they have a dysfunctional response to their own traumas, or they just fail to empathize. And some are just sociopaths. The depth of human misanthropy is vast, and I think when we are exposed to it in cinema and art. There is at least an opportunity there that will help us recognize our own misbehavior and grow in a positive direction as individuals and as a society. For whatever quirk of neurology, music plays an especially important role in developing that empathetic response to the characters on screen.
PopHorror: Do you have any favorite horror movies?
Ronen Landa: Growing up, I was not a huge horror fan. I’m too easily scared! So, getting involved in the genre really started with my career in a lot of ways, and I’ve grown to respect it so much. I think I will always go back to Psycho and The Shining; those two films are such perfect examples of all the visual, narrative, musical, and even philosophical elements of great horror. They are the classics, but they are classics for a reason.
PopHorror: What first got you interested in music?
Ronen Landa: I took piano and guitar lessons when I was young, and I think I always had a very strong emotional connection to musical sound. I was a voracious listener, and when I was a teenager, listening became nearly spiritual. I really felt the music elevating my consciousness – I hope that doesn’t sound too cheesy – but it was like that for me. It inspired me to want to bring other people that same sense of connection. I kept studying and experiencing more and more, and eventually, I realized that film would be the perfect medium for my work, because it gives me opportunities to explore all these musical avenues I love.
PopHorror: Because 1BR deals with the issue so much, I have to ask: How much should an individual surrender to a community, and how much should a community surrender to an individual?
Ronen Landa: This is a question being explored in some great dramatic fare I’ve seen recently, too. There is an Israeli show called Shtisel that deals with an artist finding his voice inside the ultra-orthodox community, and it’s so well done. If we zoom out, I think what we’re talking about is power and repression. What exerts power over you in your life? What is holding you back from realizing your potential? It could be a community, but there are also very healthy communal relationships. It could be your own mind. But it’s better if you can ask and answer this question for yourself rather than having the answer decided for you.
PopHorror: In the plot of 1BR, the totalitarian characters act as though their perspective is the way the world has always been. What are your thoughts on that?
Ronen Landa: That’s an interesting analysis. They probably have a point.
PopHorror: What other projects do you have underway?
Ronen Landa: I’ve been working on some non-horror projects recently, which is a nice change of pace. In addition to the 1BR soundtrack, I just released a soundtrack album for the dark comedy Yinz, an orchestral score that was amazingly fun to work on. I have been writing music for a show on Quibi and working on some music for an album project and potentially a musical. It’s great to flex different muscles all the time, it keeps me fresh, so hopefully, the next horror score will be just as inventive and exciting.
PopHorror: Are there any other films/TV shows you’d recommend people see?
Ronen Landa: As a parent of young kids in coronavirus quarantine, I think a disproportionate amount of my time is spent on shows like Daniel Tiger and Paw Patrol. But now that it’s out, I think everyone should see Swallow (read our interview with Swallow‘s production designer, Erin Magilla, here) which played at Fantasia last summer along with 1BR. It’s disturbing in the best way and shot so beautifully.
We’d like to thank Ronen Landa again for taking the time to answer our questions!