March 22, 2019

Catching Up With…Pedro Bromfman


Composer shares about iconic scores and creating new niches.


Catching Up With…Pedro Bromfman

Pedro Bromfman wrote the score to RoboCop that opened on Feb. 12.

The times and story may be different but lets be sure of this: Robocop is still awesome. The updated version may not be as buoyant as the 1987 version but director Jose Padilha’s commentary on technology and defense reflects the times we live in. Helping to bridge that gap is film composer Pedro Bromfman.

Topanga Messenger: Robocop is obviously a reboot but the franchise has a certain cult status attached to it. Did you listen to Basil Poledouris' score or did you avert your ears?

Pedro Bromfman: Having watched RoboCop for the first time as a teenager and being a fan of the original soundtrack, there was no way to avoid it. In fact, I decided to go back and watch the 1987 movie again when I found out we'd be working on the reboot, and Mr. Poledouris' score shines through the entire film. Having said that, the new RoboCop is a very different film, taking place in a very different time. Sensibilities have changed, technology has changed, film music and filmmaking in general have significantly changed. This time around, our main character goes through the struggles of his transformation having his mind intact. He is much more vulnerable and human than the original RoboCop throughout most of the movie. Those differences alone significantly influenced the score and sent me in very different directions. José Padilha and I kept having conversations about how RoboCop is not your typical hero, he is "bad ass", but he is a very dark and haunted character. Throughout the process and throughout most of the film, we've made a conscious decision to stay away from a blatantly heroic score and heroic themes. Except for maybe in a few action sequences and, of course, for Mr. Poledouris' original theme, that we've decided to re-visit in a couple of scenes during the movie.

TM: With that in mind, the original is very horn and string driven, this one feels more percussive. Was that intentional? How did the process come about?

PB: From the very beginning we knew this score would have to be a hybrid, like Robocop himself. We wanted to blend electronic and acoustic instruments, computer generated sounds with an 80-piece orchestra and live percussion. I've also tried to use very different instrumentation and unique sounds throughout the score. Many times, when dealing with more recognizable instruments, I'd process them beyond the listener's recognition, creating yet another sort of hybrid.We did use a lot of percussion in the film. Being from Brazil, percussion is usually an important element in most of my scores, sometimes being utilized as the propulsive element in the music and,at other times, appearing as punctuation and as sound effects.We also had a 54-piece string section and a large brass section recorded for the film. Although, most of the time, the orchestra is being used in a more subtle way when compared to the original RoboCop. Especially when it comes to the horns, where I stayed away from the higher registers and the more heroic qualities of the instruments.

TM: Robocop was a franchise before and certainly could be again. How do you balance serving the film and creating identifiable character hooks?

PB: My job is exclusively to serve the film and the director's vision. We have several new themes in RoboCop but, at no point, do I think of them as pieces of music that are independent from the film. Of course, as composers,we are always happy when our music has a life of its own and the soundtrack is appreciated by music fans. But throughout the process that is never in my mind. The film itself and my conversations with the creative team, primarily the director, determine what the score calls for as far as instrumentation,character themes, etc…. A film composer understands that his job is to get the audience emotionally engaged with the film, in some instances that requires very dark, noisy and un-hummable pieces of music.

TM: To me, there are some classic soundtracks from the ‘80s still influencing action films today. Are there any that inspire you?

PB: Certainly, Basil Poledouris' scores for RoboCop and Conan, Jerry Goldsmith's scores for Aliens and Total Recall and Alan Silvestri's Predator and Predator 2 are fantastic/ground-breaking scores. Although to me, the most influential film composer has been Ennio Morricone. I remember watching Cinema Paradiso, certainly not an action flick, and being completely moved by the story and the painfully beautiful music Mr. Morricone created for it. The Mission, Once Upon a Time in America, The Untouchables,not to mention his spaghetti westerns—Ennio Morricone is simply brilliant!

TM: What’s next?

PB: I've finished RoboCop and a much smaller European film earlier this year and, to be honest, I'm still not certain what I'll be doing next. I'm likely doing the music for a Netflix show later in the year and I'm meeting on a few different movies as we speak.