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One year after graduating from the Master of Music in Scoring for Film,Television, and Video Games, Bernardo Castro ‘15 was appointed to compose the score of Las siete muertes, the latest feature film by Spain’s award-winning director Gerardo Herrero. Based on the novel La muerte lenta de Luciana B by Guillermo Martínez, the plot follows the struggles of Clara, a character who lives in fear after her loved ones die one after the other in mysterious circumstances. To solve this puzzle, she contacts a journalist who will help her in the journey to decipher this enigma.
Castro landed the job thanks to Lucio Godoy, program director of the Master of Music in scoring for film, television, and video games. Godoy knew Herrero from working with him in the past. As the film is a coproduction between Spain, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic, there was a contractual obligation to hire a Mexican composer. “Gerardo Herrero got in touch with Lucio to ask him if he knew anyone that would be suitable for the job, and he kindly recommended me. Then I had to go through an application process,” says Castro.
He pitched a demo for one of the scenes of the movie, and he was later invited to travel to Madrid to watch a screening with the director and the producers. “A few days after this meeting in Madrid, I was notified that I had been selected to compose the score,” he says.
Once selected, Castro had to face what he calls the biggest challenge of all: deliver the score in only five weeks. “This included composing almost 50 minutes of music, recording it with the orchestra, and mixing it, all in one month. It was a really intense process,” he recalls.
Gathering a Berklee Team
Other challenges included assembling a team of people to work with, coordinating the team, hiring the orchestra, and creating a budget plan. Castro hired fellow classmate Emanuele Contis M.M.‘15 as the producer of the score, and Contis suggested taking on board another alumnus, Michele Busdraghi M.M.‘15, as the main orchestrator. “During the final stage of the process, I also recruited Adriano Aponte M.M.‘15 and Dan O’Neill M.M.‘15, who are two other great friends from Berklee, to help us out with the music preparation. Finally, for the mixing and mastering process, I called Pablo Schuller, who was my mixing teacher at Berklee,” says Castro.
To interpret the film’s mood, Castro had several conversations with Herrero, Godoy—who agreed to supervise the score—and editor Teresa Font. Castro explains that Herrero really emphasized that he wanted the music to be subtle and unobtrusive, but at the same time it needed to support the feelings of fear and uncertainty that Clara is experiencing throughout the film. “I composed with these ideas in mind, so I used a 41-piece string and woodwind orchestra and then added some electronics and sampled sounds,” says Castro.
The recording took place on November 11 and 12 at Studio 22 in Budapest, Hungary. Castro chose the Budapest Art Orchestra because he had already worked with them many times before, first as a student at Berklee and then at a professional level. Castro and Contis flew to Hungary for the recording after planning the session thoroughly, so they knew exactly how long they could spend working on each cue. “We made a list of priorities to make sure that we recorded all the really important music first, like the opening titles music and the music for scenes that didn’t have any dialogue in them,” he says.
For Castro, the knowledge acquired throughout the master’s degree program were vital to successfully accomplish this job. “Since the beginning, we were exposed to composing and recording with top-level orchestras and musicians, and we were also in charge of all the stages of production. Thanks to this training at Berklee, I managed to pull it off in such a short amount of time,” he says.
He adds that the year he spent in Valencia was one of the best of his life as he got “to meet amazingly talented people from all around the world,” fostering collaborations on projects such as this one. “The city has a very high quality of life, and the campus facilities, world-class studios, and sense of community that exist at Berklee Valencia forge an inspiring environment,” he recalls.
Castro currently works at Trafalgar 13—a music production house based in Barcelona that specializes in music for visual media—where he started as an intern. “Towards the end of the master’s degree program, I learned through the International Career Centre that they were looking for an intern specifically from Berklee, and after three months there I was offered a full-time position as a composer/music producer for visual media,” he shares. So far, he has composed and produced music for an animated series and for several commercials, orchestrating and coordinating remote recording sessions with the Budapest Art Orchestra. He was also responsible of editing the music for the film El ciudadano ilustre, which won a Goya Award for best foreign picture.