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Score Includes AI ‘Deep Fake Voices’

Composer Tom Holkenborg looked at his sonic palette for “Mad Max: Fury Road” as a massive rock opera. For the prequel, “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga,” he thought it needed a sonic shift.

Holkenborg, also known professionally as Junkie XL, lit up a cigarette as he joined Variety from his Amsterdam home and studio to discuss his vision. “The music is commenting on how Furiosa sees the Wastelands and what is happening to her,” he explained. Not only did Holkenborg want the music to feel like a first-person perspective score, he wanted things to be more restrained.

He noted the lack of music for the first six minutes of the film as one example of holding back.

“Furiosa” follows the eponymous heroine, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, who is kidnapped by Chris Hemsworth’s Dementus, a new villain. Dementus and his biker bandits take her across the Wasteland in his quest for dominance.

Towards the middle act of the film, the iconic 12-wheeler known as the War Rig comes under attack. “We don’t know Furiosa is in that truck. The moment we start seeing her, that’s when the music comments on that,” Holkenborg said. He continued, “When she’s holding on for dear life under the truck, she’s not going to hear big brass, strings and heavy percussion. She just has a thumping heartbeat and thinking, ‘What do I need to do to make sure I get out of here?’”

The pulse sound was created on an old Buchla synthesizer.

“It has such a unique character to it, and I knew it was going to be important for this film,” the musician said. The Buchla was used as the heartbeat sound throughout the soundtrack, and its rhythm varied from “fast, to uncontrolled, to even hesitant at times, almost like heart palpitations, to echo the heartbeat of Furiosa,” he explained.

Additionally, the music needed to be rooted in nature, the Green Place where Furiosa lived early on with her family. For that, Holkenborg used a woodwind instrument named the duduk, which had been foreshadowed in “Fury Road.” “It comes from the earth, you feel the sand in your hands,” he says.

The Australian didgeridoo was also essential to Holkenborg’s score.

“We clearly see that this saga is actually taking place in Australia. When we zoom in on the Green Place, it’s clear we are smack in the middle of there,” he said. William Barton, a member of the Aboriginal community, was picked by Holkenborg to play the instrument throughout.

Holkenborg even incorporated elements of AI technology into the score. Rather than run from it, he chose to engage with new ideas. “I used AI to make deep fake voices from another voice. I’d actually used it, not for voices, but what if the source sound was a drum rhythm, and what if the destination sound was an electric guitar? But the software doesn’t know what to make of it. So it gave us a happy accident that we used throughout the score,” says Holkenborg.

 

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