"Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation" may be a super high-tech spy film, full of car chases and explosions and all the out-of-this-world gadgets that you can only dream of having, but when it comes to the music, composer Joe Kraemer wanted the score to be as retro as possible.
To find the sound for the newest iteration of the "Mission: Impossible" franchise, Kraemer went all the way back to the original '60s TV show, he told MTV News.
"I went back to Los Angeles and watched a great many episodes of the original TV show," he said. "I decided it would be interesting to make a score that could have been recorded in 1966 in terms of technology, in terms of instrumentation, which meant no synthesizers. If I wanted to do anything that felt electronic, which I did, I would have to find an acoustic way of creating that."
The inspiration came directly from Tom Cruise, with whom Kraemer had worked when he scored "Jack Reacher" in 2012.
"When I first arrived in London [for "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation"], Tom's first note to me when I saw him on the set was that we were going to go retro with the music on this one, and that he wanted a lot of percussion," Kraemer said. "So, that’s sort of been my mantra since I got the gig, you know, always sort of be thinking about the classic sound of Mission Impossible, and percussion in that case."
Kraemer took inspiration from minimalist composers like Philip Glass and Steve Reich.
"There’s a high-tech sequence involving a break-in to an underwater vault and it just felt like it needed something electronic, but I really was determined to do my best not to break this rule that I set for myself and that’s where the inspiration of the more minimalist music really came into play. And once [director/writer] Christopher [McQuarrie] heard it, he really liked it and actually had me expand it to other parts of the story as well, so it’s become a texture that’s woven in the story from beginning to end."
He used instruments in unconventional ways to coax new sounds out of them, like rubbing a superball across a cymbal to make an almost unidentifiable moaning sound. Other rare acoustic instruments were also called into service.
"They have a piano at one of the studios in London that has an extra octave on the bottom, and so it goes an octave lower than a normal piano goes," he said. "And the string is so long and so thick that it really doesn’t sound like a note anymore, it sounds like a thunk. So I actually took a towel, a cloth towel, wrapped it around a string and then played the lowest note in a rhythmic, repetitive way and it served as a sort of almost motor sound for the underwater sequence… We sort of strove to find little ways to do it."
Of course, being a composer, it's hard not to think of everything musically, including people you meet. So what instrument would represent Tom Cruise?
"For him as a person, as much as I know him, I would write the melody for him on French horn but I would need an orchestra behind it in support. So he wouldn’t be a French horn solo, but the French horn would be his voice in the tune," Kraemer said. "There is a reason that he is so good at playing sort of stand-up, sort of noble, people that he plays, his characters tend to always do the right thing and to me the French horn is the most sort of noble sounding of the instruments."
"Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation" is in theaters July 31.