The score to Juan Antin’s Pachamama is one of escape and dreams as composer Pierre Hamon finds flutes, pipes, whistle vessels and instruments dating back over 2000 years to create the music. The film tells the story of two children who set out to find a totem pole stolen by Incas.
The magical animation will stream on Netflix in June, but I caught up with Hamon to talk about how a chance meeting with Antin led to him composing the score for the animation.
How did you approach composing the music for Pachamama?
The story of Pachamama is incredible. I actually met Juan over three years ago. He was coming to France to look for producers and it was something he’d been wanting to do for over 15 years. He ended up living about 100 meters from my home.
He was worried about the music for the film. He wanted the music to be rooted in a lot of Colombian sounds and Renaissance music. He thought it would be hard to find a composer in France who could do that. He met me through my wife. She was giving riding lessons and one day he called my home to book a lesson and we ended up meeting.
I had some condor feathers in my hand and we started talking. He ended up proposing I try working on the music for his film. He told me about the story and this was before the animation had been done. He only had designs and artwork as well as the outline. I started thinking about it and because he lived so close to me it became a strong collaboration.
You talk about the condor feathers. Talk about your sound toolbox to create the score.
From the beginning, I didn’t expect I’d be doing the music. I just proposed ideas because I’m a musician. I’m more a musician in the field of baroque, renaissance and medieval music and so we discussed the music ideas and we wanted this to be an homage to the Native Americans and to have real instruments from that civilization and not have an orchestra with modern instruments.
The idea right from the beginning was to not have European instruments used in the film until the Conquistadors arrived.
We would only use instruments from pre-Colombian times.
The opening theme is so beautiful as the world of Pachamama is introduced to us. What instruments are we hearing?
We used instruments from Central and South America. I used whistle vessels that are instruments from North Peru and these whistles are magical. They were used in the sound of the birds. The birds and the concept around them were that the birds are super and are important to the world as they soar in the sky.
The bird sounds you hear in the animation are made from whistles. I used a lot of flutes and a lot of pan pipes. We used pan pipes from the Nazca Civilization. They used so many ceramic pan flutes that had such a mysterious scale. I used those pipes in the ancestral cave scenes.
It was so important to have authentic sounds and instruments and some were as old as 2000 years.
And then there’s a sound shift when the conquistadors arrived.
We wanted to have minimal use of harmony before their arrival. Harmony is a European concept. So, when they arrive, the string, trombones, and guitar instruments were used. The sounds were inspired by authentic musical roots.
How was that collaboration with Juan on this?
I wrote all the music and collaborated with Juan. He knew exactly what he wanted. He knew about the characters and where he wanted the music in relation to that. It really helped that we lived so close together.
Whenever I proposed something, he was so open to that. When you do music for film, you have to do at least 5 different options, but he always loved the first suggestion. It was such a great and easy collaboration.