Searchlight: Brian Reitzell

Born in 1965, Brian Reitzell probably isn’t a name most are familiar with. A former member of the punk band Redd Kross, Reitzell shifted his talents over to soundtracks, and hasn’t looked back, apart from the occasional side project. His soundtracks include his work with the Sofia Coppola films The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation, and The Bling Ring, but horror fans are probably more in tune with his work on 30 Days of Night, and more recently, the Hannibal television series, and American Gods on STARZ.

A quick scan of my music playlists reveals a deep appreciation for movie soundtracks. While some people pick them by the films they like, I tend to add as many as I can from the composer. I believe there’s a method to their madness, and by listening to what they’ve done before, often you can find the same themes repeating again and again, giving a little more of the person behind the music. The thing about Reitzell is that most of his music is natural, using real instruments. A percussionist, he utilizes his knowledge to tap into the viewers subconscious. Watch any episode of Hannibal, and you will hear how he heightens the scenes not with sound effects, but with actual musical instruments, merging those cues directly into the score. He even incorporated a bullroarer into the Hannibal soundtrack. This ancient instrument was used as early as the Paleolithic period, and Reitzell recorded it over four microphones to capture the roar in surround sound.

Reitzell’s love for natural sound creates some interesting instrument choices in the studio. He’s used sheet metal, saw blades, plastic bottles, even a shopping cart for a specific cue on Friday Night Lights. It’s safe to say that if he can see it and get a sound out of it, Reitzell will find a way to get it into the music. And though he loves using real instruments, sampling sometimes comes into the mix to enhance the effect, such as the human cello in the Fromage episode of Hannibal. With American Gods, Reitzell worked with some of the best in the business to capture all the musical references Neil Gaiman mentions in the novel, including Shirley Manson, Mark Lanegan, and Debbie Harry of Blondie, using synth and digital tracks to nail the soundtrack to perfection.

For me, it is Reitzell’s soundtrack work for Hannibal that hits the sweet spot for writing sessions. The tracks are so moody, so intense at times, and when you’re needing that ambient background to set the dread, it’s so easy to get into the scenes you’re working on. The series soundtracks are available online or wherever you buy your music, and have been culled from the hours of music produced from the seasons to the very best tracks, with each season containing two volumes. Six hours of Hannibal means you’ll never have to worry about running out of music if you’re in the middle of a marathon session. Of course, all Reitzell’s soundtracks are incredible, so I highly recommend you give him a listen.



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1 comment

  1. Great article Bob, like many writers, I too favour soundtracks to write to, but, while I love the music for Hannibal, I have yet to buy any of Reitzell’s work. I’m just about to go an rectify that now though, thanks for the recommendation.

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