I was fortunate to get this unique project by Giovana Olmos. The film deals with the subject of gender transformation, death, and family dynamics and challenges narratives in the understanding of gender. It also used a great deal of underwater photography. A lot of bold images, colour, rich in symbolism. Giovana approached me with the reference of Simon and Garfunkel’s El Condor Pasa (1970), which at first sounded to me like a dozen mandolins playing simultaneously in a village square, and then an additional guitar over dubbed on top drenched in reverb. I was like: “how am I going to re-produce this?”

Then I remembered that my Screen Composer’s Guild Mentor Nicholas Schnier had a mandolin-like instrument called the Charango. So I guessed I could reproduce the ensemble effect through overdubbing. First, though, I would have to write the music using virtual instruments, get approval, then record.

We went through many iterations and finally settled on a final version with orchestral bass-section, felted piano, guitar, charango, and an organ pad to fill in some harmony. This score had somewhat of a classic approach to it in the sense that I composed a theme and used fragments of it all over. You can hear the complete theme in two different arrangements.

I called Réné Portillo to help me out with the score and he did a great job playing all the stringed instruments.

When I got to the end of the session I ran into a problem because despite our best efforts we could not get that sustained stream of sound out of the Charango. Dave Duong, the sound designer had been able to simulate it with guitar overdubs, but the Charango, no. I could try the guitar – it could be close, but not really. So I’ll be honest I was in a panic. I needed something that sounded like a village square full of Charangos. So I typed “Charango ensemble” into Google and lo and behold, Spitfire Audio had such a thing! It sounded EXACTLY like what I wanted. Like, EXACTLY.

Here’s the solo guitar version: