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The Quirky, Creepy, and Captivating Sounds of The Super with Jens Grotzschel

Jens Grotzschel likes to embrace the unusual. It makes sense because his “left of center” compositions and instrumentation choices have given him a successful career in the film industry. The German composer traded a career in more “popular” music settings for that of film composer, following in a path similar to Danny Elfman whose unorthodox approach has set the bar for the past two decades of more. Grotzschel’s unique approach led the creators of 2017’s The Super to him in their search for something to sonically represent and accompany Val Kilmer’s character in the film. Though he was not the only composer on The Super, Jens has an undeniable sound that perfectly complemented Kilmer’s scenes in this production. Where others see everyday items, Grotzschel sees musical potential and The Super proves this in a remarkable way. Speaking with the film’s producers and Director Stephan Rick about the style of productions such as Stranger Things (Netflix) and the film It Follows, Jens presented them with ideas for a scene which utilized distorted and bitcrushed sounds with peculiar instrumentation. The team was convinced that Grotzschel (along with collaborating composer Stefan Schulzki) “got it” and immediately confirmed a green light on the film’s score.

A great deal of Jen’s inspiration came from Kilmer’s character Walter and the things which surround him. The actor’s portrayal of the disassociated and peculiar maintenance man resulted in Kilmer being the recipient of the Time Machine Honorary Award for this performance. In a very benevolent manner, The Super is ambiguous. The lack of clear definition in regards to the main character’s motivations and purpose in the story is not realized until its plot-twist ending. In a similar fashion, Grotzschel did not want the music to be clear and recognizable as a part of the story. Much of the instrumentation of the music was created with actual tools which were augmented and then manipulated with software. Recording an electric drill, Jens edited these sounds with filters and effects and put them in a sampler. At lower frequencies this produces a slowly approaching menacing sound while at the upper register resembles distorted screams. A jigsaw was similarly employed. When Stephan Rick requested powerful percussive beats in one unnerving scene, Jens rebuked actual drums in preference of a large hammer and paper moving boxes with altered pitches. Even though traditional instruments like Cello were used for the score, Jens preferred striking them with mallets rather than the customary bow technique.

Some of most extraordinary and ambiguous sounds in the film originate from the composer’s desire to be nondescript. Grotzschel composed and recorded a motif specifically for Kilmer’s character which was played on different sized metallic bowls. These were struck by mallets or drawn with a bow. The “prayer bowl” nature of this correlates well to Walter who is a spiritual character. Another incredibly striking sound (no pun intended) is the “tubephone” which the composer created for this film. With parts procured from his local hardware store, Jens constructed a series of plastic pipes of various length and thus differing pitches (similar to those seen in use by the Blue Man Group). Both of these uncommon approaches were then mutated via the software sampler Kontakt by Native Instruments.

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