Society of the Snow (2023)
Society of the Snow (2023)
What Michael Says
I was about five when Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crashed and while I don’t have specific memories from when it actually happened, this was a story that certainly has been in my consciousness as long as I can remember. Looking back today it is quite remarkable to think that without social media, without 24-7 television, the world knew this incredible story.
Writing the score for Society of the Snow challenged me in ways that I never knew I could be challenged. I always treat the characters, animated or live action, as if they were real people. I attempt to write music for them by putting myself into their mind and soul. For this film, I felt an enormous responsibility to be as honest as I could about this traumatic experience that wasn’t just about sadness and loss—those emotions would come later—it was about waking up in an alien environment, it was about taking one step at an excruciating time, not knowing what the next moment would bring, it was about searching for solutions and for ways to make it through one long day after another. I was exhausted at the end of each day, going a lot deeper philosophically in order to find ways to achieve a truthfulness—realizing that I could never quite reach it—but hoping that I made the best attempt to express this for for not just the survivors, but more importantly the dead, who never had the chance to tell their own story. I was so grateful to be working on this with Juan Antonio Bayona who has a beautiful way of finding the humanity within tragedies. When working together we always discuss the inner thoughts of
the characters, their emotions, what are they going through, and how they feel. We almost never discuss music.
I used musical elements in the score that would just give us just enough sense to evoke the place— an Andean string instrument called a charango and the tambores de candombe— Uruguayan drums—which for me represented the heartbeat, the persistence to keep searching for a way out. The vocals are in Mapuche, an indigenous language of the region. The words chosen are translated as Mother Earth, Nature—because the place that brought them on the brink of death also helped to take care of them. These elements are used throughout to give us the essence of the place, but my real focus was on the emotions of those people who actually experienced this event. I recently had the opportunity to spend time with a few of the survivors—which was such a privilege, as they are so mindful of the memories that they still hold, over 50 years later, so close to their heart. I couldn’t help but think that this film not only asks the question “Who am I ?”—but even more so—“Who can I be?”
In some small way, I hope my contribution to Society of the Snow helps to underline the generosity, love and spirit of all those who boarded that plane on October 13, 1972.