A sci-fi thriller set in the future, AD ASTRA stars Brad Pitt as an elite astronaut who travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his missing father and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet. His journey will uncover secrets that challenge the nature of human existence and our place in the cosmos.
Max Richter’s ambitious score brings together strings, electronics and vocals to create an epic soundscape that underpins the emotional power and scale of the movie. He first began writing the music to AD ASTRA almost two years ago, in the initial phase of the film’s production.
“I first saw a rough-cut of the film in early 2018 and was immediately intrigued,” Richter recalls. “I knew I wanted to be part of the world James (Gray) was inventing in AD ASTRA. After James, Brad and I had discussed some initial thoughts, I began by making sketches away from the picture, exploring the themes and psychology of this material in musical terms. These ideas evolved through a collective process of experimentation. James has excellent musical taste, and a refined sense of how sonic and visual objects can inform one another. He’s also fascinated by the expressive possibilities of experimental music production, so was an ideal fellow traveller on this musical voyage of discovery.”
The composure was inspired by the NASA Voyager probes that left Earth in the 70s, destined for the outer planets – a journey similar to that of Brad Pitt’s character in the film. He incorporated sounds transmitted from Voyager 1 and 2 into the fabric of his music.
Max Richter explains: “This ‘location recording’ approach allowed me to use actual material recorded at the sites depicted in the story: when Brad is travelling past Saturn or Jupiter for example, we can actually hear music made from the data the Voyager probes transmitted from that site. The music thus illuminates the story in two ways at once: it illustrates what’s happening in the story a traditional film score way, but it also documents the journey in an entirely new way, by incorporating actual material gathered on the trip.”
Complementing the extended post-production process of the film, Max Richter created two iterations of his AD ASTRA score. The first material, derived from the Voyager data, was written in early 2018 and recorded in January 2019 at AIR Studios in London, while the second recording took place in the summer of 2019. The key components of Max’s score are created through the use of strings and electronics, with added warmth from a female chorus. Together these elements intertwine with the striking visuals of the movie.
There are some wonderful pieces on the album, Max Richter takes the source material and delivers a voyage of suspense, wonder and ambient bliss as we travel through a universe into the unknown. The combination of classical orchestration and electronica come together harmoniously creating a lucid image of the emotional journey the film takes. The complex task of purveying the transitions from darkness to light, danger to awe over the course of the album show the musical talents and meticulous detail we have come to expect from Max Richter. It is always a danger that a score may fall short when presented on its own, but the compositions throughout have the strength in their musical character to allow them to retain their essence even when away from the cinematic visuals. ‘Ad Astra’ is an impressive piece of work that tells a story on its own, so immerse yourself and experience its ethereal journey, across vast solar systems to the edge of new worlds.
Watch a clip from AD ASTRA featuring Max Richter’s music HERE