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Bryce Dessner Discusses Composing “Mateo’s Freedom” for the Bardo Soundtrack: Exclusive

It's the composer's second collaboration with the Oscar-winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu after first working on The Revenant together

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Bryce Dessner Mateo's Freedom Bardo soundtrack
Bryce Dessner, photo by Peter Hundert

    When Bryce Dessner first worked with Alejandro González Iñárritu on The Revenant, one of the first lessons he learned from the director was “his incredible attention to detail for the smallest details.” Now, Consequence’s 2021 Composer of the Year has reunited with Iñárritu to score the soundtrack for the filmmaker’s latest project, Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths. Co-composed by Dessner and Iñárritu, the album features the track “Mateo’s Freedom,” which Consequence is exclusively premiering on Thursday (December 8th).

    Dessner tells Consequence that the poignant song was composed for a “long and powerful visual sequence in the film” without any dialogue. He says working on the piece was “very inspiring” and stemmed from a “detailed process of working closely with Alejandro on each moment.”

    “Often when working with film, you have to be aware of not overwhelming the dialogue so in this case (and a few others in the film) it was beautiful to create music which would be more foreground in the scene,” Dessner adds.

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    “Mateo’s Freedom” sees Dessner layering two separately recorded pieces of music “which interact on top of each other.” While putting the track together, he coupled “the prominent orchestral themes (strings, brass winds, and harp)” with “an ambient brass piece which hovers in the seams of the music.” He continues, “The beginning of the scene is carried by the strings, and at a pivotal moment a harp and winds enter. [At] the end of the scene, the horn has an important solo line.”

    Dessner further reflects on the collaborative process with Iñárritu, saying, “It’s incredible to see the depths and layers that make up each scene visually and in the sound design and music.” Bardo presents stunning cinematography from the director and cinematographer Darius Khondji, which Dessner describes as “deeply immersive, almost like walking into a landscape painting that is in motion.” The beautiful Mexican landscapes include a beach setting, which is where “Mateo’s Freedom” is played.

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    As Dessner explains, he tried to recapture feelings evoked by compositions like Debussy’s La mer or Messiaen’s Des canyons aux étoiles while making the track. “Many of my favorite pieces of music reference the sea or landscapes, and I tried to create this feeling in my music,” Dessner says.

    While Dessner’s close collaboration with Iñárritu on the soundtrack is a relationship that he values immensely, their venture couldn’t have been achieved without the help of Bardo’s sound designers. “Working so closely with Alejandro on the music is always such a joy for me,” he says, “and for both of us collaborating very closely with the sound designers Nicolas Becker and Martin Hernandez and also Milo Froideval and Dan Zlotnik who produced the recording of the score in Mexico with us and also contributed musically was an amazing part of the journey.”

    The full Bardo soundtrack is out on Friday, December 9th, ahead of the film’s Netflix debut on December 16th.

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    Get a first listen of Bryce Dessner’s “Mateo’s Freedom” below.

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