Sound Q&A: Fiddler on the Tracks

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What do you do if you need fiddle music to make a train fly? BBH/London tapped British composer Deborah Mollison, a veteran of film/TV scoring, who has had orchestral commissions from the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Britten Sinfonia, to pen a rollicking folk tune for its latest Vodafone spot - a Noam Murro-directed story about the slowest train in the world, which is made faster by "fun," exemplified by an increasingly frenzied melody. We spoke to Mollison, who divides her time between studios in London and L.A., about bringing the sound of this quirky spot to life.

What was your goal for the music in the spot?
Deborah Mollison: To achieve the vision of creative director Nick Gill, who wanted to have a folk feel combined with an orchestral canvas.

How was the track created?
The timings were all realized in my head, then played into Logic to create a synth mockup that could then be honed to suit Nick's thoughts and editorial changes to the picture. Once we had a finalized version, music was printed and we recorded live-to-picture with an orchestra. The violinist in the visual is playing the folk song but of course he's not the violinist we used for the recording. Much care was taken for visual and audio synchronicity.

Was it always the idea to use fiddle music?
Yes, the violin was integral to the whole.

Did any existing music act as an influence or inspiration for this composition?
An obscure Russian folk song that Nick discovered, which then inspired the track as a whole.

What was the most challenging aspect of this project?
The timing. It was all about trying to make it sound like a natural progression in musical terms, when in fact there were a lot of dramatic "hits" to cover. Fortunately, we got there.

What's your favorite piece of violin music?
Cesar Franck's Sonata for Violin and Piano. I also love string quartets. I used to play violin in a string quartet when I was about 13.

What about violin concertos?
Siblelius or Tchaikovsky? It's too hard to pick.

If people really like the music in this spot, do you have any suggestions of more fiddling stompers for them to check out?
I think there's lots of foot-stomping violin music in works by composers such as Sarasate, Paganini and Bartok. It has to be a personal thing. It's fun to try new things to see what you like.
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