The upcoming movie Le Mirage won’t be what it is only because of Louis Morissette’s screenplay or Ricardo Trogi’s direction. Frédéric Bégin’s score will also strongly contribute in creating the atmosphere of the comedy-drama. “Ricardo had already placed two pieces of 19th Century classical music in his editing, Strauss’ ‘The Blue Danube’ and Bizet’s ‘L’Arlésienne’,” sats Bégin. “They’re very well-known pieces, but he used them in counterpoint. It also feeds into the aristocratic side of the characters who come from a moneyed environment.” In order to meet the needs of the director’s editing, Bégin re-arranged the classics and recorded them with the 69 musicians of the Prague Symphony Orchestra.
He then composed a few additional piece,s also imbued with that classical feel. Says Bégin: “I wanted to respect Ricardo’s initial musical intentions, and the result is that when you hear my compositions, they sound like you’ve known them all your life, yet…” Bégin explains that as the movie evolves, there’s increasing silence to create drama. “As a composer, you have to keep your ego in check in order to remain aware of what the movie actually needs. We have a back-up role, a bit like the rhythm section of a rock band. We’re there to back the ‘singer,’ which in this case is the movie.”
The musical needs of movies are diverse as the movies themselves, just as working with the same director for years doesn’t mean that any kind of routine has set in. Quite the contrary. Bégin met Ricardo Trogi just after graduating from Université de Montréal, where he earned a degree in Music. He composed a jingle for an ad Trogi was directing. A few months later, Bégin won the pitch that ensured they worked together again, this time for the music of a TV series titled Smash. This proved to be a defining moment for the composer. “Trogi’s first series was my first fiction project,” says Bégin. “You could say that experience was my birth as a composer. I sourced my writing in all those anonymous creations, themes I composed as a teen and young adult. Smash allowed me to get rid of all those piano riffs that had been haunting me for a long time.”
“We have a back-up role, a bit like the rhythm section of a rock band.”
The rest, as they say, is history. Trogi and Bégin collaborated on further TV series such as Les étoiles filantes and Le berceau des anges as well as on movies such as L’horloge biologique, 1981, 1987 and Le Mirage. But Bégin has also scored other films, notably Jean-Philippe Pearson’s Le bonheur des autres and Nicolas Monette’s Le journal d’Aurélie Laflamme.
The Trois-Pistole native now works in his home studio as well as at Studio Apollo, and says he likes being involved early in the creative process. “I know it’s a luxury,” he says, and cites the recent example of Interstellar, where Christopher Nolan tapped Hans Zimmer over coffee, asking him to start composing music for a movie about a father-daughter relationship. Nolan never mentioned that the movie was going to be a science-fiction one.
With Trogi, Bégin often has the opportunity of reading the screenplay long before a first cut is made. Such was the case for the TV series Le berceau des anges: Bégin started composing immediately after reading the scenario on the topic of baby theft. He was very moved by the story, especially since he was about to become a dad. “That was one of my more inspired sessions,” he says. “I wrote for two months before seeing even one image from the series. Surprisingly, everything fit perfectly. I was super happy, especially since I earned two nominations for that work.” The winners in those two categories will be announced this fall during the Gala des Gémeaux.
Bégin loves those moments of creativity that happen without a safety net. Currently, he’s working on stage music for a show celebrating the 100th anniversary of the presence of the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland. The show is directed by Olivier Dufour, an artist from Québec City world-renowned for his multimedia creations. Bégin is on board to underscore the narrative aspect of this performance music which tells the story, without words, of the parallel between a solo musician and an Olympic athlete. His music will be played over skating, fireworks and video projections. This challenge perfectly matches his constant desire to surpass himself.
“This music must intensely suggest, transport and punctuate without using any words,” says Bégin. “Operas had the same kind of goal and took years to compose. With this, I only have a few months. It’s a unique experience, but it’s so demanding that I realized I need composing for movies to reach a certain balance that is vital for me.”