Composers Rebekka Karijord and Jon Ekstrand talk about the complex process behind scoring Hulu’s Greta Thunberg documentary I Am Greta.
Welcome back to the Spool’s weekly interview podcast, More of a Comment, Really…, where editor-in-chief Clint Worthington talks to actors, filmmakers, composers and other figures from the realm of film and television.
How do you put the urgency of the climate crisis to music? For Nathan Grossman‘s documentary I Am Greta (now available on Hulu), an intimate look at teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, composers Rebekka Karijord and Jon Ekstrand were inspired to take some less-than-traditional routes. Rather than creating something melodic and passionate, the two drew on their own backgrounds with experimental compositions and sound design.
As a result, they crafted a driving, atmospheric score that not only cuts to the looming specter of climate change, but to the specificity and focus of Greta’s unique mind. String arpeggios loop around the action like the thoughts swimming around Greta’s head, while Karijord’s ‘voice organ’ (an instrument she crafted herself from the sampled voices of dozens of male, female, and non-binary singers from around the globe) connects her struggle to the natural world she’s trying to protect for herself and her generation.
There’s a sense of melancholy tinged with noble purpose in the score, bured in the mix of echoing synths and pizzacatto strings, layered throughout with the almost percussive ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ of the voice organ. It feels like we’re thrown into the always-racing mind of Thunberg, while also feeling the ticking time bomb of our environment quickly running out. It’s effective, evocative scoring, which elevates the film beyond the perfunctory auspices of a lot of issue docs of its type.
Listen to hear our interview with Karijord and Ekstrand on crafting the unique sound of I Am Greta, from the unique instruments they used to the way their collaboration has grown over several projects together. We also dig into one of the film’s most important cues, “Fridays for Future,” and how it became one of the most important tracks for locking down the ethereal, atmospheric tone of the score.
(Note: this interview was recorded during that tetchy, uncertain week of the presidential election in nearly November, so keep that in mind when that subject comes up.)