When I met Ken in Berlin for the first time in March 2006, I was one of several composers being interviewed for the job. What I most remember from that meeting is Ken’s love of storytelling, evident even when narrating the plot of his film in a small Berlin coffee house. At the end of the meeting he asked me if I would write a few demos based on the script. I said sure and went back to the film I was then working on, wondering how I’d squeeze in writing demos but also looking forward to the script.
If someone had told me then that my original demo would become the main theme from “The Drummer“, I probably wouldn’t have believed it. There’s a saying that a film’s script is never indicative of the musical direction the film is going to take, so writing music purely based on the script is a tricky thing. While I worked on the demo I consciously didn’t picture any particular scenes but instead concentrated on the contrast between the main character, Sid’s rebellious nature and the steady, serene life of the drummers. I also wanted to find a melodic/dynamic hook that would stick out. The excitement over the quality of the script and the musical possibilities an eventual film offered probably also contributed to the character of the recording. Even when I got the job I never expected the theme to remain as it was. Whenever I tried to sneak in some changes, Kenny made me change it back. So basically it remained the way it was first conceived.
Being involved with “The Drummer“ has probably been the most unusual experience I’ve had working on a film. Usually as a composer you get a rough or preferably a fine cut of the movie, and after spotting it with the director you start writing the music. With “The Drummer“, I started writing the music when Kenny was still filming, so I ended up providing him and the editor with some of the cues when they were working on the rough cut.
Andre Matthias in his home studio
Once I was given the finished rough cut, I wrote a lot of music to picture. It’s funny to note that in the end there remained only one cue in the scene it was originally intended for. The rest was either written for other scenes or not to picture at all, and then adapted to fit the scenes it was eventually chosen for.
It was a pleasure to work with Kenny as he always had a clear vision of what he wanted to achieve, and his musical instincts were as impeccable as they were surprising. So I was only too glad to function as some kind of musical conduit for his ideas and let him work the music into the film.
Top: Andre with engineer Jens Lück; bassist Eckhardt Hemkemeier and violinist Rodrigo Reichel
Bottom: Sandro Friedrich on Hotchiku recording in Switzerland
It has been a joy to work on “The Drummer“, especially with our fabulous musicians. A big thank you goes to Trey who recorded his cello passages with an enthusiasm and perfectionism that were a joy to behold.
Trey Lee, recording in Berlin
Guest Blogger – Rosa Li, Producer
I have known Trey, although not very well until now, for quite some time as his sister and manager, Ms. Chui-Inn Lee, is one of my best friends in Hong Kong. In fact she is one of the three original friends I made when I first came to HK, and through the years not only has our friendship grown, but we’ve also become business partners on several occasions.
Ken and I have seen Trey perform a couple of times in Hong Kong and greatly admire his talent and dedication. We had wanted to work with him on “Rice Rhapsody”, where Chui-Inn served as a co-Executive Producer. Because of the comedic nature of the film though, cello music did not seem fitting. Therefore, as soon as we started to develop “The Drummer”, we knew right away this would be an excellent opportunity to recruit Trey to make his “feature film debut” as a cello soloist on the original film score.
Cello soloist Trey Lee and writer/director Kenneth Bi
Towards the end of last year, when we were editing the rough cut in Berlin, Ken and I took a trip to Amsterdam and visited Trey. We stayed at his charming apartment in the center of town and hung out together every night for dinner; we had Ethiopian food, French, Indonesian, ‘American’ and Chinese (he cooked - it was delicious!), but no Dutch food, although we did have lots of Gouda cheese!
Trey and Kenneth; Trey and Rosa, in front of the American Cafe in Amsterdam
Here’s a music video of him recording the cello solos for The Drummer. Enjoy!