If you’re into the indie rock scene, then you may know guitarist Bryce Dessner from his work in the Grammy-winning band The National. But indie guitar is but a small fraction of the enormous musical talent he holds. A renaissance man of music, Dessner’s orchestral, chamber and vocal compositions are featured across the world. He has worked with Philip Glass, Paul Simon, Sufjan Stevens, Jonny Greenwood and many more.
Just talk to him for 10 minutes on the phone as I did, and he’ll rattle off a literal who’s who of modern and classic composers that he admires and calls influences. Some I know. Some I’ve literally never heard of, let alone knew how to spell their names.
His more recent collaborations with some of the world’s most celebrated directors now bring him new acclaim as a cinematic composure. Building off of his experience co-composing the score for Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant (which brought him Golden Globe and Grammy nominations), Dessner recently brought us the percussion-heavy score for Andrea Berloff’s The Kitchen. He’s also receiving wide acclaim for scoring Netflix’s Oscar contender The Two Popes, directed by Fernando Meirelles.
Here, Dessner talks to me about working in the world of cinematic compositions, and the joys of working in two vastly different worlds as The Two Popes and The Kitchen. He discusses the challenges in composing the score to a dialogue-heavy film like The Two Popes. He also talks about the approach he and director Fernando Meirelles worked out to reflect the two voices of the film: a classical, European world juxtaposed with a more earthy, Argentinian-based sound.
The Two Popes drops in limited theaters on November 27. It will begin streaming on Netflix on December 20.