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April 1, 2014

Soundtracked - "Under the Skin" by Mica Levi

Motion picture soundtracks have always fascinated me. In the Soundtracked series, composers and/or directors offer commentary on their film's soundtrack, and share insights into the creative evolution that melds music into the final film.

Mica Levi, who also records as Micachu, wrote the score for Jonathan Glazer's latest film, Under the Skin, which Variety called "a tour de force of sensual and sensory filmmaking." Here she offers a track-by-track breakdown of the film's soundtrack.

In her own words, here is Mica Levi's Soundtracked contribution for her soundtrack to the film, Under the Skin:

1. Creation

The creation of her. The music is like a beehive. It's complex, impossible, anarchic, relentless - continuing on despite us, despite her. There are about 8 strings playing quick sul ponte and tremelo fragments. The cymbol roll throughout the film represents the cosmos, the undeniable, something larger than humans and aliens alike, the solar system or whatever. This is her fundamental link to the universe. The strings are the life and activity of a life we know nothing about or couldn't describe.

2. Lips to Void

This is her hungry and on the prowl. She's working - selecting and seducing. The drum beat represents her thirst and her instinctive sexual hunger. The "seductive" melody is like her trap or net, her seducing tool. It's something she puts on like the lipstick, it's not something shes feeling. Jonathan Glazer called it her "perfume" which she sprays about to lure in the men.

3. Andrew Void

This is her in her prime, the perfume melody is at it's 100's in full swing. She's doing a good job effortlessly and the music in its richer version of this melody is supposed to emulate that.

4. Meat to Maths

This is really the energy of the human thing that is a resource for the aliens. The music is supposed to be a distillation process of that energy into a pure form. It's specific and high pitched and hard to listen to, as if it were burning too hot to hold as well.

5. Drift

She's thinking/changing, the music consists of a variation on the perfume melody but reflective. She's considering her role. She's starting to look at humans not just as targets. Perhaps shes starting to relate. She does another job but a bit distracted and half arsed -which induces an inspection from her supervise- a line from the alien creation material against her proving her "work" sex drums is a battle of interrogation vs her putting on a good show proving she's got it and she's on track. This is all going good but then she falls and by proxy is helped by people in the street. This her biggest encounter of human kindness so far. A C sharp get hocketed between several instruments with micro tone variations. This material is similar to the stuff used in the distilling process. It rings through whilst she observes humans and they start to join together whilst the first waves of emotions start to come in. Starting in the strings with a 5th swelling in to what becomes essencially a wavering triad whilst a glow of gold saturates the screen and an image of her face.

6. Lonely Void

Lonely has been a tough customer. She is already confused because she has just developed feelings. Her 'perfume' and luring techneques are failing on him - whether this is down to him or her isn't clear but she feels a difference in him. She still gets him but this version of the theme is more sad and reflective - her perfume is running out and she doesn't want him to go under.

7. Mirror to Vortex

Maybe she sees in herself something she has seen in the humans she has been observing. Acting on her feelings she takes action and releases Lonely. When music comes in it's the creation material. The reality of what she has done sinks in her - actions have threatened her species and they are on to her.

8. Bedroom

She's alone and safe. She looks in the mirror again and has feelings for herself as a human. It's the same swelling music as in the Drift but on its own. The buds of love or human energy / emotions.

9. Love

This is the full development of the swells in the bedrom and drift scene mixed with a melody that bends like her perfume seduction melody, as if its the same language but it feels different. It's a mix of synth and real strings. To get the right mix of real and fake but also because a synth can play a note forever and a human can't. This foreverness is something important and I think it mixes with how you feel somtimes when you are really swept up

10. Bothy

The bass is the cosmos at work. She's alone and under threat. Perhaps she doesn't know what or who she is and in this wild habit the untenable bass and warmth of nature is all she has for a moment. She is existing on this planet and exists in the cosmos. I wanted bass in there because I think it's like the most suportive foundational sound. I don't find it ominous, I find it absolute.

11. Death

Falling victim to her own actions, the perfume melody returns. Her perfume effect is out of her control. She had almost escaped it. The music here is a mix of everything she has experienced. Neutrons, alien, love, cosmos and her perfume lipstick costume - that all gets ripped off and out of her, into the open. She's left only to join the cosmos and become part of the sky.

12. Alien Loop

It's all a cycle and her story vanishes into it. The complexity of each fragment could be 1000 examples of he. Like looking at the milky way, we are back to untenable truth of the great unknown. We had zoomed in and now we zoom out. The swoops and bends of the love melody come in and out through all the complexities to remind us of her story.

Under the Skin links:

the film's website

Mica Levi links:

Micachu website
Micachu Wikipedia entry
Micachu Facebook page

also at Largehearted Boy:

Previous Soundtracked submissions (directors and composers discuss their film's soundtrack)
weekly music release lists
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
musician/author interviews

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