Thomas Beckman, who studied classical viola at UBC, recently wrote and recorded the soundtrack for the film Colours of Edziza.
The film premiered at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival. The documentary follows an eclectic team on their expedition through northern B.C.’s Mount Edziza Provincial Park.
As his first film score, this project marked an exciting departure from Beckman’s previous work. Although Beckman said his decision to pursue music “was clear from a pretty young age,” he did not necessarily envision himself producing film soundtracks.
“I had a band, Sons of Granville, and I suppose that was my first official experience writing music,” said Beckman. Beckman went on to busk on the streets of Vancouver, both with his band and on his own.
When approached by the filmmakers and asked to write a score, Beckman quickly set to work on creating a composition that would accentuate and encapsulate the ideas behind the film.
“Without going into too much detail, the film is 40 minutes about a bunch of people who decided to traverse one of the northern sections of B.C.,” said Beckman.
The expedition brought together a team of Tahltan natives, Canadians and others from around the globe. As the diverse group trekked through the remote terrain, its members worked towards mutual respect and understanding. These notions of teamwork and empathy run through the film and are reflected in its soundtrack.
“The idea was to see how well they could communicate and work together as a team, despite coming from such different backgrounds,” said Beckman. “I thought the music should have a degree of tension as well as a degree of interesting harmony … and also the sense of soldiering on -- there’s a real sense of trudging through very difficult landscapes.”
Beckman’s composition took further form as he saw pictures of the Edziza region. As suggested by the film’s title, the terrain is dramatically coloured due to the region’s heavy mineralization. According to Beckman, his score attempted to “conjure up the aspects of big massive spaces, mountain ranges, beautiful distances.”
Having had no previous experience in film scoring, however, Beckman struggled to create an end product that aligned with the filmmaker’s objectives.
“You have to really get inside the director’s head, be sure you understand what it is they’re trying to create. It’s a balance between following your own creative impulses but within the constraints of their artistic vision,” said Beckman.
Beckman reflected warmly on his years at UBC, the highlights of which included his first recital and his participation in the UBC musical ambassador program. He credited one professor in particular with helping him build his confidence as a musician.
“My professor, David Harding, was a great teacher and he gave me a large sense of hope. And in music, it’s not always very easy to have hope,” said Beckman.
Beckman is now working on his second film score, and the Colours of Edziza soundtrack is soon to be aired on Laurie Brown’s CBC broadcast The Signal.
“As a musician, you should never just think that all you can end up doing is playing in an orchestra or teaching. In actual fact, there are many opportunities around that. I would encourage UBC musicians to think outside the box, to not be too concerned with how people see them, but rather be concerned more with how they can get themselves out there, meet people, form unlikely collaborations,” said Beckman.
Or, at the very least, “email bomb a couple people."
Beckman’s soundtrack for Colours of Edziza is available to stream and purchase at thomastheviolist.com.