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Interview: John Lunn


Interview: John Lunn

John Lunn is best known for his work on “Downtown Abbey”. He had two scores out recently, Electricity and Grantchester and we had a quick chat about it.
Why film music? Why music for that matter? Did you always know you wanted to do that?
I kind of fell in to Film music, I worked with most of the contemporary dance ensembles in London so I developed an ability to deal with musical narrative. I knew from the age of 14 that I was going to work in some branch of music, there was no question of anything else.
I really enjoyed Electricity. I am a big fan of electronic and minimalistic music. How did you approach writing this score?

The director and I decided that the only recognizable instrument would be a piano, everything else would be heavily blurred, a bit like Lily’s world, it was my decision to mainly use analog instruments, no sample libraries whatsoever and a computer was only used to record the final mix. I should have kept a blog at the time, there were many obstacles but also many advantages, the unpredictability of analog, the problems of tuning actually give those sounds much more presence then their digital recreations.
Was there more music recorded for Electricity, more than 30 minutes?

I think there was but it was more sound design which didn’t really lend itself to a soundtrack album.
I liked the voice inserts in Grantchester. Did you make the decision to include them? do you think they help the music ?

It was my decision, when I was remixing those tracks for the album I realized that they had been written so carefully for those particular Sermons that it made sense to include them.
What do you enjoy writing more: music for movie or TV? Do you find writing for TV gives you more freedom of creation?
I enjoy doing both but I do particularly like the ability to develop my musical material over a longer period of time like you do with a long running TV series.
Electricity is minimalistic and moody; Grantchester is serious and elegant. How much of this is the subject and how much is you? Which score represents you better as a person?

They’re both mainly the subject, but Electricity is probably closer to my voice. If I was left to my own devices that’s the kind of music I would chose to do.
Do you have a dream project, something you wish you could work on?

I think I’m good at Film Noir but I haven’t done one for a while.
Do you enjoy listening to film music in your free time? Which 2014 score impressed you?
Only very rarely do I listen to Soundtrack albums, but I do watch a lot of films. I particularly enjoyed the music for Nightcrawler and Gone Girl but especially the use of music in Ida which I thought was the film of the year.
Do you read reviews, are you curious what people think of your compositions of how it makes them feel?

Sometimes, though I’m more concerned with how people feel about the whole film rather than just my music. It’s a massive collaboration.
Are you able to enjoy the finished product of a project you worked on or are you done with it once the composing process is over?
Usually I get too close to a project but with a certain distance I am able to appreciate the finished product.
What’s next for you?

A new 8 part series called The Last Kingdom set in 8th century England for BBC America, series 6 of Downton followed by a second series of Grantchester.
Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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