Q&A with composer Dickon Hinchliffe on his Winter’s Bone score

Tell us about your background. You are a founding member of Tindersticks and have done quite a lot of soundtrack scoring. You’ve kept busy!
We formed Tindersticks in the early 1990′s and I was with the band until about four years ago.  My first experience of film composing was with the French director Claire Denis who asked us to score two of her films – NENETTE ET BONI  and TROUBLE EVERY DAY.  After these I then scored VENDREDI SOIR (FRIDAY NIGHT) on my own and realised that film music was what I wanted to do in the future.  My first American feature was FORTY SHADES OF BLUE  that won at Sundance and I’ve been composing for film ever since in both the UK and the US.
How did you get involved with Winter’s Bone?
I had worked with the editor of “Winter’s Bone” – Affonso Goncalvez – on two previous films and he suggested me to Debra and Anne as a possible composer.  I read the script and saw an early cut of the film which I loved and after some conversations about approaches to the music I wrote some ideas that I took out to New York and things went from there.
The original soundtrack for Winter’s Bone features quite a lot of songs interpreted/performed by Marideth Sisco (amongst other artists). In creating the score, did these songs have any influence on your writing?
Yes, the songs had a big influence.  I knew straight away that the score should sit alongside them and the two work together – not by being overtly similar, but by being complimentary.   My first reaction was that the music I wrote should use instruments common to the region that are played by the band in the film – violin, guitar, banjo, mandolin.  But at the same time I didn’t want the music to be a pastiche of Ozark styles and knew from the offset that the score would be quite different to the songs as it would engage directly in the different shades of suspense and sense of impending violence and tenderness that run through the film.  Debra had some drones in the temp score that pointed the way to an abstract, minimal score and what I did was to create drones and fragmented melodies using the local instruments, but played in a different way.  For example playing harmonics and drones on the violin and slow motifs on the banjo.   I augmented these with bowed electric guitar and bass and electric guitar feedback.  There are no sampled or digital sounds in the score.  We talked a lot about the banjo and the need to liberate it from its history in film music.
How is it different doing soundtrack scoring compared to working in a band environment like you did with Tindersticks? Or is it not different at all?
The biggest difference is that with a film you are entering a world that has already been formed to a large extent.  Only abstractly in terms of music, but very concretely in terms of a narrative story, characters and environments.  When writing songs and music in a band environment you can start with your own world, albeit shared with other members of the band.  But in some ways I find writing for film similar to writing music to lyrics, only its the dialogue that becomes the words of the song.  Music can engage with the poetry of the dialogue.
What projects are you working on next?
I’m currently finishing a film called “The Fields” directed by Ami Mann then I’m working on a documentary with James Marsh who made “Man on Wire”, after which I’m working on the pilot to Michael Mann’s HBO series “Luck”.

Dickon Hinchcliffe

Dickon Hinchliffe is a founding member of Tindersticks – the seminal UK band for which he composed music, played violin, guitar and keyboards. His orchestral arrangements were one of Tindersticks’ most distinctive features. From 1993 to 2005, Dickon was involved in ten of their releases including their self-titled debut which was named Melody Maker’s album of the year. Dickon began scoring films when French director Claire Denis approached Tindersticks to write the score to her film Trouble Every Day (which starred Vincent Gallo). He has scored several other films including Forty Shades of Blue (directed by Ira Sachs) which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2005. Five years later, the magic was repeated by Director Debra Granik’s film Winter’s Bone – which Dickon scored, winning the 2010 Sundance Grand Jury Prize.

Tell us about your background. You are a founding member of Tindersticks and have done quite a lot of soundtrack scoring. You’ve kept busy!

We formed Tindersticks in the early 1990′s and I was with the band until about four years ago.  My first experience of film composing was with the French director Claire Denis who asked us to score two of her films – NENETTE ET BONI and TROUBLE EVERY DAY.  After these I then scored VENDREDI SOIR (FRIDAY NIGHT) on my own and realised that film music was what I wanted to do in the future.  My first American feature was FORTY SHADES OF BLUE that won at Sundance and I’ve been composing for film ever since in both the UK and the US.

How did you get involved with Winter’s Bone?

I had worked with the editor of Winter’s Bone – Affonso Goncalvez – on two previous films and he suggested me to Debra and Anne as a possible composer.  I read the script and saw an early cut of the film which I loved and after some conversations about approaches to the music I wrote some ideas that I took out to New York and things went from there.

Winter's Bone Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Winter's Bone Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

The original soundtrack for Winter’s Bone features quite a lot of songs interpreted/performed by Marideth Sisco (amongst other artists). In creating the score, did these songs have any influence on your writing?

Yes, the songs had a big influence.  I knew straight away that the score should sit alongside them and the two work together – not by being overtly similar, but by being complimentary.   My first reaction was that the music I wrote should use instruments common to the region that are played by the band in the film – violin, guitar, banjo, mandolin.  But at the same time I didn’t want the music to be a pastiche of Ozark styles and knew from the offset that the score would be quite different to the songs as it would engage directly in the different shades of suspense and sense of impending violence and tenderness that run through the film.  Debra had some drones in the temp score that pointed the way to an abstract, minimal score and what I did was to create drones and fragmented melodies using the local instruments, but played in a different way.  For example playing harmonics and drones on the violin and slow motifs on the banjo.   I augmented these with bowed electric guitar and bass and electric guitar feedback.  There are no sampled or digital sounds in the score.  We talked a lot about the banjo and the need to liberate it from its history in film music.

Winter's Bone Original Score

Winter's Bone Original Score

How is it different doing soundtrack scoring compared to working in a band environment like you did with Tindersticks? Or is it not different at all?

The biggest difference is that with a film you are entering a world that has already been formed to a large extent.  Only abstractly in terms of music, but very concretely in terms of a narrative story, characters and environments.  When writing songs and music in a band environment you can start with your own world, albeit shared with other members of the band.  But in some ways I find writing for film similar to writing music to lyrics, only its the dialogue that becomes the words of the song.  Music can engage with the poetry of the dialogue.

What projects are you working on next?

I’m currently finishing a film called The Fields directed by Ami Mann then I’m working on a documentary with James Marsh who made Man on Wire, after which I’m working on the pilot to Michael Mann’s HBO series “Luck”.

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Winter’s Bone Original Score by Dickon Hinchliffe is available now as a digital download. Click HERE for samples and to purchase.

For more info on Dickon and his upcoming projects, visit his website HERE.