Cloud Atlas


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Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas is the most ambitious project I have ever worked on. As if Perfume wasn’t challenging enough, my friend Tom Tykwer collaborated with Lana and Andy Wachowski on an adaptation of David Mitchell’s groundbreaking novel. It’s a project Hollywood initially rejected, so it became the biggest independently financed movie ever produced. The movie is 165 minutes long. 99% of the music was written and produced by Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek, and myself. The “Cloud Atlas Sextet,” a piece of music that is part of the storyline of the novel, was arranged in many different ways and is even featured as most of the source music (music that is playing as part of a scene.)

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Bonus Tracks

  1. Frobisher's Audition Modern 1:27
  2. Frobisher's Audition 1:46
  3. The Cloud Atlas Sextet for Choir 2:36
  4. The Cloud Atlas Sextet for Piano 4:00
  5. Luisa, We Gotta Be Together! 1:56
  6. The Cloud Atlas Sextet Impressionist 3:29

From left to right: Andy Wachowski, Johnny Klimek, Lana Wachowski, Reinhold Heil, Tom Tykwer. Photo credit: Michael Roud

Official Cloud Atlas Website
Cloud Atlas Trailers

Bonus Material:

1. Frobisher’s Audition Modern (original version, performed by Ragna Schirmer) [Bonus Track]

In the movie these are the first few notes Frobisher plays after Ayrs sings his little melody to him and asks him to play it back. Frobisher instantly creates a piece out of it that is reminiscent of Bartok or other contemporary composers of the time (1930s). Ayrs hates it and interrupts him rudely. This is the piece that Frobisher had in mind, but never got to play.

2. Frobisher’s Audition (original version, performed by Ragna Schirmer) [Bonus Track]

This is the version I had planned for the moments following the above. Frobisher sees that Ayrs is about to kick him out and crush Frobisher’s grandiose scheme of becoming his amanuensis. But he quickly shifts gears and extemporates a much more conventional piece, hoping to impress Ayrs. This version leans on the great romantic composers (as much as I could) and shows off much more virtuosity than the shorter version we used for the movie. But it’s all the same thematic material.

3. The Cloud Atlas Sextet for Choir (MDR Radio Choir conducted by Kristian Järvi) [Bonus Track]

In June and July of 2011 we composed the Sextet and arranged all kinds of versions of it, many of which were actually recorded with the MDR Symphony Orchestra and Choir in Leipzig.

This one for a cappella choir was never used in the movie, because there was just no spot where it could have possibly fit in. As much as the Sextet takes on a pseudo-religious aura in the story (even more so in the novel) this piece was just a bit too Catholic for this movie that breathes the spirit of secular humanism. For fans of the score of Perfume: The Story of a Murderer it might evoke memories of the Crowd Embrace. You can hear my background as an organist during my high-school years!

4. The Cloud Atlas Sextet for Piano (performed by Ragna Schirmer) [Bonus Track]

Parts of this recording (also from Summer 2011) can be heard in the movie, when Frobisher composes the Sextet (you see him from afar through the window in Ayrs’ chateau) and when the movie crosses over to Timothy Cavendish sneaking around Ursula’s house, wondering what would have been if he hadn’t been too embarrassed to stay in touch with her.

This version is the mother of all Sextet pieces. It was written in June 2011 and all other versions have been derived from it. Kudos to Ragna Schirmer for this lovely performance.

5. Luisa, We Gotta Be Together! [Bonus Track]

This is a source music piece. It plays for a short bit when we first see Luisa Rey exiting a party being followed by a drunk who wants to convince her that they are soul mates. The music playing in the background at the party is reminiscent of late 60s/early 70s rock, but is entirely based on the melody of the Cloud Atlas Sextet. Here is a 2-min version that I jammed by myself on the computer. Not an expensive production since there was no budget for such nonsense. But fun to do.

6. The Cloud Atlas Sextet Impressionist [Bonus Track]

This piano version of the Cloud Atlas Sextet was an effort to bring the theme closer to a decidedly impressionist style. The beginning of it actually made it into the movie, for the scene where Luisa Rey climbs out of her submerged Beetle and ascends from the depth of the ocean, then leading into the original version as we cut to Frobisher playing it on the piano and Ayrs entering the room.

It is a slow-motion rendition of the theme and doesn’t have all the parts that the original has, but it features a cool turnaround where for the return of the theme all minor chords turn major and give it a slightly uplifting and subtly triumphant note. That part is not in the movie.

Enjoy!