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Mica Levi finds inspiration in nature and the cosmos for 'Under The Skin' score

Director Jonathan Glazer and composer Mica Levi attend the premiere of A24's
Director Jonathan Glazer and composer Mica Levi attend the premiere of A24's "Under The Skin" at The Theatrea at Ace Hotel on March 25, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.
Angela Weiss/Getty Images

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Filmmaker Jonathan Glazer’s thriller “Under the Skin” made a lot of Top 10 lists for 2014. Critics singled out Scarlett Johansson’s dark portrayal of a sexy alien who is sent to earth to capture male prey.

But the eerie soundtrack composed by classically trained British musician Mica Levi has been receiving the lion's share of praise and awards, including the European Film Award for Best Composer. Not bad for her first film score ever — Levi, 27, is best known as the brainchild of the band Micachu & The Shapes.

Levi was recently named co-winner of the 2014 Best Musical Score award by the L.A. Film Critics Association. The Frame's host John Horn caught up with Levi to talk about her musical approach.

What was the main inspiration for the score?:

The intention of the music is not to manipulate, but I was told to follow [Scarlett Johansson's character's] experiences in real time as much as I could. So I guess the movie is just staying true to what she's experiencing. She was the guiding force for everything really. 

On your track, "Creation," it sounds like a swarm of bees getting closer: 

Bees are what it was meant to be like. That music actually, it was supposed to be like another life form, like a really busy, complicated, but live thing that's not quite conceivable, but just active and sinister. 

What was the technique involved in creating that sound?:

So you got the energy that a person has playing very fast. It's very quick. And then the articulation of it, the kind of texture of it uses extended technique. So instead of trying to produce a nice, even, rounded tone, they're supposed to play as fast as they can independently of one another, so you get very complicated, illogical, active sound that way. 

I guess a lot of the score was influenced by nature, like the sea and the idea of a cosmos and stuff, but this specifically is just active life or life getting made. 

What piece are you most proud of from your score?:

I guess I feel kind of proud of "Love," but I feel proud of all of it. 

Why 'Love?' 

You know what, it's only just because people have said they like it. [Laughs]  It's not even my opinion.

You're holding your finger to the wind and it's blowing favorably on that track. 

Yeah, I was sort of answering it. I wasn't answering it from my perspective. It was just like, What do people like from it? People have mentioned that one to me a couple of times. 

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