Since the cues existed by themselves — there were no tight segues to other cues, only crossfades and whatever — it was a lot easier. They hooked me up with a DVD of the ﬁlm. I was familiar with the movie anyway; I’ve always been a ﬁlm buff. I always thought of the Rhythm Devils, Mickey Hart’s drum group, and of course “Ride of the Valkyries,” when I thought about the music in this film. When I went back and studied it in preparation for the re-release, the synth music sounded a lot like [Japanese synthesist Isao] Tomita to me.
As it turns out, Francis’s original concept for the score, which is brilliant, was to have Carmine compose the score for orchestra, and then have Tomita realize it for synthesizers. There’s a cue about two-thirds of the way into the movie where it’s obvious that the temp music [music used as a placeholder, usually strongly having the vibe the director wants to hear in the final score] was Tomita’s version of the first movement of Holst’s The Planets—”Mars, The Bringer of War.” What Carmine did was to sort of cop that feel, in the time-honored Hollywood tradition [laughs].
Francis did meet with Tomita to discuss the project, but Tomita was famous at the time for taking an extraordinary amount of time to complete new works; when you’re doing string sections by overdubbing monophonic violin lines, it just takes time, you know? When it became clear that that idea was not going to work [the production of Apocalypse Now was infamously, hopelessly behind schedule already], Francis handed it off to a bunch of synthesists in the Bay Area, and had David Rubinson, who ran the Automatt studio in San Francisco, produce the score. Nyle Steiner came in with his experimental EVI [Electronic Valve Instrument] late in the game and played the main three-note motif that’s used throughout the ﬁlm. Francis co-wrote the music by singing ideas to his dad the same way he did with me many years later. He actually has an amazing musical mind. Recently, in the midst of all the other hundred and one things he’s got going on, he learned how to write melodies on manuscript paper. He’s quite the Renaissance man.
Redux is the cut that Francis always wanted to release. Now that the ﬁlm is part of cultural lore, he wanted to go back and make the version that he always wanted. Carmine had orchestrated part of the score for the French plantation sequence, which is the single biggest chunk of deleted work recut into the ﬁlm, but it was never recorded. For the rest of the sequence, there were only piano sketches.
When I got the gig, I made a trek up to the Coppola archives in Napa, and brought back two big boxes full of Apocalypse manuscripts and synthesis notes and track sheets and what-have-you. But there weren’t any indications of what synths were used. From listening to cues on the DVD, and from doing record production and geeking out on equipment, I now have a pretty good ear for what did what. I could kinda tell, okay, that’s a Minimoog, that’s a double-tracked ARP String Ensemble, that’s four Minimoogs, here they’re abusing a Urei 1176, and so on.
We ended up extending the rules a little bit to include not only gear that was used in the original score, but also gear that could have been used in 1979. Francis is surprisingly mellow about this whole process. There wasn’t a directive that I had to be faithful to period gear and techniques. He just said, “Make sure it sounds like Apocalypse.” My interpretation of that was, “Well, let’s ﬁgure out how they did it then and do that now.” I used a celeste in one of the cues; it doesn’t appear anywhere else in the score, but it was available in 1979, so it was fair game.