MIAMI — The composing duo Robl + Sutta (www.AdamRobl-ShawnSutta.com) recently scored the original soundtrack for Grasshoppers, LA-based filmmaker Brad Bischoff’s directorial feature debut. The emotionally-charged drama made its debut at the 18th Annual BendFilm Festival in the narrative category. Bischoff, a native of Chicago, shot the film in the city’s suburbs. Set in a gated community that is all but deserted for the winter,
Grasshoppers opens with couple Nijm and Irina (Saleh Bakri and Iva Gocheva) hatching a plan to ditch work and visit every house in the neighborhood. With each visit, another drink is poured and startling revelations of their relationship are revealed.
Bischoff called on Adam Robl and Shawn Sutta to compose a score, giving it a depth and texture that enhances cinematic look captured by Daphne Qin Wu. The music complements the film's aesthetic with a range of styles, from European classical to modern ambient.
“We began discussing the score with Brad long before shooting began, on-location in a suburb of Chicago,” explains Sutta. “The director/writer had a very specific artistic vision of the world he wanted to create around his characters and how the music could be crafted to draw the audience into their story.”
“The opening music is a carefully calculated theme,” Sutta notes. “The cue echoes the couple’s mood as they start the day with unbridled exuberance about their future – with just the slightest foreshadowing hinting that things are not as they seem. The soundtrack begins with the rich tones of a refined piano-driven, classically-orchestral sound, blended with textures created by guitars and synthesizers, adding a modern feel.”
Robl and Sutta are both multi-instrumentalists and composed parts for the piano, violin, viola, cello and double bass that serve as the foundations of the score. The sound of a woodwind section was created on a Mellotron – a vintage instrument that plays recordings of flutes on mechanical tapes inside a keyboard. Played by Robl, the Mellotron adds a quality reminiscent of film scores from another era.
As the film progresses, the music subtly shifts, gradually becoming more emotionally intense with a foreboding underpinning as viewers are drawn deeper into the emerging drama. The tone of the score begins to unravel as the tension between the intoxicated couple escalates, revealing the realities of their melancholy lives.
“While Nijm and Irina’s fundamental views of their future put them at odds, their deep romantic bond is unwavering throughout the storyline – and the film's score,” explains Sutta. “We transitioned the music from classical to a modern ambient feel, with a style and texture that builds on their deep emotional connection.”
All of the music for the score was performed by live musicians and recorded in Robl and Sutta’s studio. The pair used a mix of technology, including Neumann CMV 563 microphones, Schoeps m221b microphones, Gordon Microphone Preamps and Nagra IV-s tape machine, with recording in Logic Pro.
The feature was edited by Jack Bishop, with Cindy Takehara providing sound design. Sutta and Robl also co-own Audiocastle, a music company dedicated to creating original music for commercials.