Matt Morton on Using Old-School Tech to Score “Apollo 11”

Apollo 11 Music Composer Matt Morton. (Photo Kate Sweeney)

Welcome back to More of a Comment, Really…, a weekly interview podcast hosted by Clint Worthington! Every episode will feature interviews with actors, filmmakers, producers, and more, giving you the skinny on the latest films and TV.

It’s impossible to overstate the impact of the Apollo 11 mission on the collective cultural and scientific consciousness: for many, Neil Armstrong and “Buzz” Aldrin’s 1969 moonwalk could be considered mankind’s greatest achievement to date. It’s an event burned into the hearts and minds of many of us, one that demonstrates the strength of the human will and the fragility of space travel all at the same time. For its fiftieth anniversary, editor/filmmaker Todd Douglas Miller painstakingly recreated the ins and outs of the mission, from takeoff to the crew’s safe return, in the gripping CNN doc Apollo 11.

Central to the doc’s appeal, alongside its exclusive use of gorgeous archival footage (including previously unseen 70mm footage), is its pulse-pounding score courtesy of Miller’s longtime collaborator Matt Morton. In keeping with the doc’s approach of preserving the period-appropriate immediacy of its subject, Morton composed, engineered, and mixed the score for Apollo 11 with era-specific music equipment available at the time of the mission, including first-generation Moog synthesizers. What results is a tense, immediate work of composition that keeps you on the edge of your seat, mining incredible tension out of a historical event whose outcome we already know.

We already celebrated the doc as an honorable mention for one of the best films of 2019, but January’s as good a time as any to talk to Morton about the process behind scoring Apollo 11, the painstaking process behind finding the era-appropriate equipment, and scoring a documentary like a thriller. Take a listen!

(More of a Comment, Really… is a proud member of the Chicago Podcast Coop. Thanks to Overcast for sponsoring this episode!)


Liked it? Take a second to support The Spool on Patreon!