Have you wondered about the striking music in “Missions,” the French sci-fi TV series? Mark Jenkins did, and here’s what he found out.
In fact, have you even seen the show? If not, please check it out – Etienne Forget’s electronic music score is… unforgettable.
“Missions” is on Shudder via Amazon Prime, or in the UK on the BBC’s iPlayer streaming website. Season 2 is now out.
Forget has been forging a place for himself not only in soundtracking science fiction – and documentaries, advertising and promotional movies – but in historical drama too. His arsenal of electronic instruments and software is backed up by a huge range of ethnic and other acoustic instruments, yet he had limited formal music education and aimed his musical career straight towards soundtrack work.
“I liked rock and folk like Nick Drake and Sonic Youth, but also electronic artists like Bjork and Autechre” notes the personal website of Forget. There you’ll also find is other credits.
Those include having scored the historical drama “Victor Hugo, Enemy of The State“ in 2018. His music for the first season of “Missions” was used for an ESA film to recruit astronauts.
Then in 2019, in quick succession, he scored “Insignificant,” a documentary, as well as “Missions” Season 2.
“When I started to write to images it quickly seemed to me that no two films called for the same musical approach, and that attracted me. As in directing, we can treat a narration in many ways – everything is a question of point of view. And the choice of an appropriate musical genre is the first one.”
Indeed, the two seasons of “Missions” seem to have quite different tone, content, and genre. The first season is more or less about a standard trip to Mars, as seen perhaps in the movies “Red Planet,” “Mission to Mars,” or Matt Damon’s “The Martian.”
That season’s themes are confinement and conflict, astronautical engineering, and spacewalking. The second season opens rather unaccountably on a lush and verdant forest planet (filmed on the slopes of Mont Blanc), with scenes of enigmatic alien appearances having much more in common with Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.” (Famously, they liked the temporary track – the Blue Danube Waltz – and threw away an Alex North score.)
Without giving away the plot too much, suffice it to say that one major character is Vladimir Komarov – the Soviet cosmonaut who in 1967 became the first man to die in space.
The more mysterious atmosphere of “Missions: Season 2” gives Etienne Forget a chance to work with more original and ambiguous electronic textures. Alternating with symphonic strings are repeated analog-like sequences; stabbing ring modulator sounds; and descending, sliding chords.
In the opening title sequence – which has something in common with that of another recent and brilliant sci-fi epic “The Expanse” – Forget’s theme crashes to a halt as it’s swept through a heavily resonant filter, before emerging again, just as the astronauts in the series do from the mysterious alien portals which carry them from one planet to another…
Forget seems to enjoy the challenge of adapting to a fixed brief rather than working on a totally open-ended album of music. “When it comes to the stage of writing music to the image, the film is shot, and in a fixed direction. The executives will not move, nor the costumes nor the interpretation of the actors. So the first concern is the interaction with the script, the direction and the characters. So we observe, we adapt…”
Forget isn’t one of those composers who have built up a massive bank of electronic instruments. In his studio there’s a good balance of hardware and software.
His software collection features Spectrasonics Omnisphere, a softsynth well-known for creating movie-esque textures. Among many other things, it’s used by Trevor Morris in his brilliantly atmospheric symphonic/electronic music for “Vikings.”
Forget’s software and mastering programs fill a page, but here’s a concise list of the main hardware and the other software running on his Mac Pro 8-core:
Various Native Instruments plug-ins
Various East West instruments
Something from FXpansion
Studiologic Numa master keyboard
Some Eurorack modules
Various ethnic instruments…
As always, even the most striking textures generated by this panoply of technology aim to serve rather than distract from the on-screen action. As Forget himself remarks, “In the end, only the film should remain.”
More about Etienne Forget’s music here –
All photos; Etienne Forget/OCS/Empreinte Digitale