Many musicians are trying to find the right sound, but for composer T. Griffin that cliché takes on unexpected depth and dimensions. In addition to his lauded solo pieces and work with the band the Quavers, Griffin has earned esteem scoring a number of moving independent films, including Prodigal Sons, Children of Invention, and a number of works with Jem Cohen.
His latest projects are Liza Johnson’s Return, a powerful account of soldier Linda Cardellini’s homecoming opening on Feb. 10, and Marshall Lewy’s California Solo, which will premiere at Sundance on Feb. 25.
California Solo demonstrates Griffin’s commitment to discovering new approaches, always striving to create music that belongs to a film – a score “that only that movie could make.” The film involves a withered 90’s rock-star (Robert Carlyle) who suddenly must face a past from which he’s complacently retired. To match the “numbness but also the comfort” the former star is feeling in his new life, Griffin sought to create a score “like an echo of an echo of ten thousand dressing rooms.”
To forge California Solo’s sound, Griifin employed a technique that he has elsewhere referred to as “porch techno,” whereby he manipulates found objects to create sounds in unexpected ways. “I used old boutique vintage guitar peddles to disorient the sound of an electric guitar as much as I could and see if we could get something that had the feel of an electric guitar but wasn’t the cliché.” The result is a sound that he calls “dirty,” in the most celebrated sense of the word.
Because Griffin believes that films should be “one single element” of image and sound, finding the right sound depends in part on finding the right film. In selecting his projects, Griffin favors those films with “a real sense of adventure and aesthetic ambition from the filmmaker.” His proclivity for films that seek to “elevate the art form” dovetails naturally with the time he has spent as a fellow at Sundance Film Institute’s Composers Lab, an experience that he calls “absolutely amazing.”