Golden Globe win, Oscar nominations for Canadian composer

First aired on Q (22/01/13)

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Coming off a Golden Globe win and nominated for two Oscars, Canadian composer Mychael Danna never thought he would write music for movies. Danna was always interested in how music worked, he told Q's Jian Ghomeshi, but he wasn't much of a film buff.

In his earliest childhood memory, Danna is sitting alone on a pew in a big church, listening to his father rehearse a solo. "It wasn't the singing that attracted me," he said. "It was who put the notes together."

Soon, Danna was taking piano lessons. After his first lesson, he asked his teacher when he would be able to start composing.

Since then, the Winnipeg-born musician has almost 100 composer credits for TV and movies, including Moneyball, The Time Traveller's Wife, Little Miss Sunshine, and Life of Pi. The film adaptation of Canadian author Yann Martel's award-winning book has been nominated for 11 Oscars -- including two categories where Danna is nominated: best original score and best original song.

Danna has been working on Life of Pi for about ten years, when he first read the novel about a shipwrecked young Indian boy and his tiger. Five years ago, he and Oscar-nominated director Ang Lee started talking about how to tackle telling the complex story, which spans many different locations and relies on one actor to carry the feature film.

"Making it simple was the hardest thing," he said. "Complexity is kind of my go to position." But, with all of the complicated themes in the story, the music had to make the viewing experience beautiful and enjoyable, he explained. His job was to create a score that followed the emotional arc of the story seamlessly.

"The overwhelming feeling right now ... is that people love our film -- a film that many people, even us -- said couldn't be done," he said. "So, you know, the awardage is all very nice, but that is really the underlying kind of happiness here."

Danna, who says he has the perfect career now, has no complaints. Except, maybe that his son is rooting against him in at least one of the Oscar categories.

"My seven-year-old son, I think, is pulling for John Williams because of Star Wars," said Danna. Williams is nominated for best original score for Lincoln, which leads the Oscar race with 12 nominations.

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