Slovenian composer Anže Rozman and composer Kara Talve (“The Simpsons”) return to the Emmy race with Apple TV+’s “Prehistoric Planet” season two. Narrated by David Attenborough and produced by Jon Favreau in conjunction with BBC Studios’ Natural History Unit, the series gives an in-depth look at the life forms flourishing in the Mesozoic Era in four distinct environments: Oceans, Islands, Badlands, and Swamps.
With over 80 millions streams of their “Prehistoric Planet” soundtrack, Rozman and Talve’s have achieved the rare distinction of mass appeal and critical praise. Their work on “Prehistoric Planet” recently won the Best Original Score for a Documentary Series award at the Hollywood Music in Media Awards (HMMAs).
Rozman and Talve have scored a wide range of projects thanks to their collaborations with Hans Zimmer and Bleeding Fingers Music, with Zimmer writing the main theme for “Prehistoric Planet.”
Awards Focus spoke with the award winning duo regarding their process for “Prehistoric Planet” and the instruments created for the series in order to transport the audience back 66 million years.
These custom-made instruments are a direct result of fusing fossils, bones, and rocks with modern orchestral instruments ( the Raptor Violin, Hadros Cello, and Fat Rex). Rozman is shown playing two of the instruments in the below clips, embedded at the close of the interview.
Awards Focus: The sound palate is incredibly rich and diverse for “Prehistoric Planet,” can you talk about building that scope of sound in season one and where you wanted to take the score in season two with these new worlds?
Rozman and Talve: Thank you! First and foremost, we have to compliment the amazing minds behind “Prehistoric Planet”, at the BBC and Apple TV+, who aimed to portray the dinosaurs as majestic and relatable creatures, rather than scary and dangerous as commonly depicted in the past. This concept heavily influenced the soundscape of the music. Collaborating with renowned composer Hans Zimmer and our score producer Russell Emanuel, we embarked on a journey to construct custom instruments using materials associated with dinosaur study today. Utilizing bones, replica fossils, and petrified wood, we crafted unique instruments like the Raptor Violin, Hadro Cello, Fat Rex, and for Season 2, our largest creation to date, the Triceratone. These extraordinary instruments were meticulously designed to transport listeners 66 million years back to the Cretaceous era, offering them captivating and unprecedented sounds. They were built by Charles “Chaz” Labreque. Concurrently, the lush sound of an 80-piece orchestra, performed by the esteemed BBC National Orchestra of Wales, evokes a sense of familiarity, allowing viewers to connect with the animals as they might appear in present times. Through this harmonious blend, we aim to convey the dinosaurs’ magnificence and grandeur!
AF: How has the pandemic effected how you record the musicians on the score and how you score as a collaborative team?
Rozman: We were lucky enough to attend the BBC NOW sessions via Zoom during the pandemic. We record the custom instruments ourselves, so no trouble there during the pandemic. Writing music can be a very isolating gig, but with this project, there was so much to collaborate on. I particularly loved getting one of Kara’s cues and recording some of the custom instruments. As a team, we fostered a culture of active listening, constantly providing feedback and exchanging ideas. This collaborative approach played a pivotal role in ensuring the cohesiveness of the score. It was truly a remarkable experience that allowed us to bring out the best in each other and create something truly special.
AF: Is there a key moment or environment in season two that you were most excited to tackle with score, and can you talk about the evolving process of scoring and implementing feedback from the producers?
Talve: Absolutely! It’s a tough choice, but if I had to pick one, the Badlands episode stands out prominently. The mesmerizing climate of the badlands served as a catalyst for a brand new theme specifically tailored for this episode, complemented by the introduction of a remarkable soloist. Mark Deutsch, the master of the Bazantar, skillfully performed the captivating main theme of the Badlands episode, showcasing his incredible talent.
We also made a little instrument we fondly refer to as the “Ocarina Organ,” which contributed low drones and chords, creating a distinctive heat wave-like texture for the climate. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to our extraordinary and open-minded producers, who not only welcomed but encouraged our exploration with the score, embracing our custom instruments and unique soloists. Their invaluable feedback proved invaluable, particularly in terms of enhancing the story arc and maximizing the dramatic impact.
Equally noteworthy are the thoughtful and enlightening spotting sessions we had with the directors. Since many of the dinosaurs were still in the process of being fully rendered, the directors took on the remarkable task of vividly describing the storyline, ensuring that we captured the precise emotional essence through our music.
AF: Can you talk about how this project got on your radar and the passing of the baton from Hans Zimmer?
Talve: Bleeding Fingers maintains a longstanding relationship with the BBC, and even with this history, we still pitch for each project. The main theme for the show was crafted by Hans Zimmer and Andrew Christie. When Russell informed us that we would be entrusted with scoring the series, we were both profoundly humbled and overjoyed. Writing music for a prestigious nature program had forever been a shared dream, and the added element of dinosaurs in this particular endeavor felt like the perfect culmination of our aspirations. It truly was the cherry on top!
AF: In season two, you have some very diverse atmospheres across the four episodes, I particularly loved the Oceans episode. You capture a sense of majesty with the ocean creatures and I’d love to know the instrumentation you chose to do that. What were some of the key conversations around that episode?
Rozman: The oceans episode is indeed magnificent! We can’t talk about Oceans without mentioning the Subcontrabass Flute, played by Stefen Keller & the Subcontrabass Saxophone, played by Doug Webb. These two instruments were key in portraying the awesome size of the Mosasaur. . Something about the low, resonant sound of this flute worked really well with the massive sea creature. We also made a lot of custom synth pads and arpeggios that can be heard in the World of Ammonites sequence. To evoke the ethereal underwater ambiance, we would sometimes cut out any high-end from the orchestra, so that the score would sound like its underwater.
AF: There are so many lively sequences involving the schools of fish, can you talk about your approach there with score and mirroring the frantic energy on the screen?
Rozman: The Hesperornis and Phosphorosaurus scenes have beautiful representations of such fish flock gatherings. It’s almost like watching a Van Gogh impressionist painting coming to life with the different colors flashing in front of your eyes. So I try to find inspiration in my impressionist composer heroes such as Ravel, Respighi, and Debussy who were so great at creating wonderful orchestral flourishing textures. Its basically very finely “organized chaos. And these seem to fit so well in representing the masses of fish. In the Phosphorosaurs scene, instead of woodwind textures, we used analog synth arpeggios to represent the bioluminescence of the fish. Similarly, as we did in the Bioluminescent ammonite scene from Season 1
AF: Over the course of Islands, Badlands, and Swamps, where were some key choices that helped reflect the diversity amongst these biomes?
Talve: We did our best to distinguish the episode musically. The Badlands episode in particular has the most unique sound of them all. We used our whole array of custom instruments from the Triceratone, FatRex, and Raptor violins to help accent the bizarre landscape this episode features. As mentioned before, the Bazantar plays a huge role in this episode. In the Velociraptor and Tabosaur scenes, for example, it was multitaked playing full chords sounding like an entire otherworldly orchestra. We have also drawn inspiration from the musical language of the geographical area of the episode (mostly Asia). The orchestral strings are also often doubled with the Turkish oud and saz, Persian setar, and Indian sitar. Getting the opening of the episode right was also key since we immediately wanted to portray the harsh and bizarre volcanic landscape these animals had to travel through. So for the opening ‘braams’ we used several didgeridoos, duduks, contrabass flute swells, and zurnas stacked on top of each other to portray the “breathing” volcanic fumes.
For the Islands episode, which happens mostly on the island of Madagascar and central Europe, we used a lot of plucked instruments in conjunction with our customs. There are also quite a few more “intimate” moments, like the adalatherium scene. In this one, for example, we tried to feature a female choir (*we tried to avoid using human voice in the score as much as possible) to help represent how these primitive mammals are in fact of human’s earliest distant relatives! instruments, the Oceans episode is the most orchestral out of the 5, while the swamps episode’s sound could be best described as a mix of the Islands and Oceans.
AF: What has it been seeing this glowing reception for “Prehistoric Planet” and can you tell us what we should look for next in terms of your creative endeavors?
Rozman and Talve: We are filled with immense gratitude and profound humility as we witness the overwhelmingly positive response to the score. The opportunity to compose music for a show of this caliber is already a dream come true, but to see an audience that is not only captivated but also genuinely curious and inspired by the music is beyond words. It reaffirms our purpose and makes every moment invested in this project worthwhile. We consider it a tremendous honor to have been entrusted with this remarkable show, and our deepest hope is that it serves as a wellspring of inspiration for fellow composers. Moreover, we are elated to witness the well-deserved recognition the show itself is garnering for its groundbreaking CGI and its masterful storytelling of the world of dinosaurs. It is a testament to the collective efforts of a truly exceptional team.
Both Seasons of “Prehistoric Planet” Are Available to Stream on AppleTV+.