„When I listen to the recording today, I have the feeling that it’s breathing!“ – Frank Strobel about his collaboration with Alexandre Astier and the recording of „Kamleott“.

Online article on the website of the CNC, the centre national du cinéma et de l´image animée.

Frank Strobel, a great conductor who commutes between France and his native Germany, recorded Kaamelott's music last year with the Orchestre national de Lyon: "Kaamelott - Premier Volet". He tells us about his very special collaboration with Alexandre Astier, both director of the film and composer of the soundtrack.


How did you get to know Alexandre Astier?

I am very closely associated with the National Orchestra of Lyon, which I have conducted for about twenty years. One day I was asked if I wanted to work on the soundtrack of the film Kaamelott. Of course I was interested! I met Alexandre in Lyon, where he lives. He is an extremely nice person and I immediately felt a connection with him. We talked at length about the project and how he envisioned recording it.

Did you already know the series and its universe?

Yes, I did! Even though I'm German, I had heard of it. Alexandre showed me some clips from the film from the beginning, but only a few. Our way of working was a bit unusual. You know, I have a lot of experience in the field of film music: in the 90s I was the conductor of the German Film Orchestra Babelsberg, with whom I recorded over 100 feature films. Usually the music comes at the very end of the process. Everything is ready, from editing to post-production, then it's the orchestra's turn and the final mix. Except that Alexandre doesn't work like that. He is a genius who can do absolutely everything: Director, actor, producer, scriptwriter and therefore composer. He is even able to write the orchestration.

In France, only a few people know that Alexandre Astier is a composer...

I have to tell you that this was a big surprise for me. Especially because he has such a strong opinion of the orchestra. Together we very much appreciated the quality of his writing. And he wrote for 96 musicians, which is a very big orchestra! He has a total understanding of music.

Which is rare in film.

Extremely rare. I've never met a director who is also such a gifted musician. Anyway, his idea was that he wouldn't complete the edit until the music was recorded.

We rehearsed with the clips he showed me and he gave his opinion: "Faster, slower, tempo changes..." I think he had a lot of fun with the process. And when we finally finished, he was able to start editing the film. Doing it this way is a really amazing and refreshing way!

Did this way of working put more pressure on you?

No, actually the opposite. It made me feel freer. Normally you have to follow a certain structure that is imposed on you. The pace has to be the same as when you edit the film. Here, with Kaamelott, I had the freedom to find the storytelling of the music and make suggestions to Alexandre. I had an idea of the final content, but because the film wasn't edited, I was able to set up a very interesting creative process.

Alexandre Astier is known as a very demanding director and actor-director who likes to control everything. Was he open to surprises during the shoot?

Oh, of course he was. But it's true that he has a very precise idea of the function of music in his films. One day he was able to tell me very precisely in two minutes of recording time what he liked and what he didn't like. And that's because he uses the right vocabulary. Very often we don't understand each other with directors because we don't speak the same language. Alexandre could tell me exactly which instrument should be a little less loud, or which part should be modified. So this project remained a challenge, but with a partner on the same level, everything changes.

When he arrived with his notes, he asked you to do some tests with the orchestra as soon as possible?

That varies depending on the composition. First of all, the production was a bit special because of the pandemic. We were supposed to record in March 2020, but that was not possible. We postponed several times, until August 2020. I think we had to record about forty takes in total.... And what I told you before is not quite true: a few sequences were already edited and I recorded those directly with the pictures. Except that towards the end he told me that he would cut everything back to the music anyway! (Laughs.) All the other pieces were decided between us, but Alexandre showed me some rushes and gave me the context to the meaning of the scene. And sometimes I had total freedom. I could let the music live and the musicians give me something unexpected without pushing them in a certain direction. When I listen to the recording today, I have the feeling that it breathes. And that's good for the film, because even if the viewer doesn't consciously perceive it, he feels it.

Alexandre Astier is a big fan of the composer John Williams and of Star Wars. How much of that can be felt in his music?

The general influence of John Williams on film music is obvious. But the connection with Alexandre is certainly in the use of leitmotifs, which he particularly likes and which Williams used a lot in the Star Wars saga. It's a technique that allows the story to be told through music. But Alexandre has his own style, with sometimes very floating musical moods. And he can go very well from something very medieval to something much more military.
Have you seen the final cut of the film with the music?

No, I don't even know if the editing is finished. I have the impression that nobody knows! (Laughs.) Anyway, I'm very, very excited to see how it will look, to finally see the result of our joint work. The sooner the better!


The soundtrack to "Kaamelott - Premier Volet" is available on physical media and also on streaming platforms.


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