Most people think the only way to create a film score is from instruments, but that’s not the case at all. Music for films can be made out of anything, really.

Musician Emil Richards (Mission: Impossible, Jurassic Park) became well-known for supporting this theory. Emil was constantly banging on objects everywhere he went, to see the sounds each item would produce. Before his death, composers such as Danny Elfman and Michael Giacchino would come to regularly for these sounds. He is also the man behind the famous finger snaps in The Adams Family theme.

When it came time to score Shudder’s Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever, the sequel to the 1994 Danish horror film Nightwatch, composer Ceiri Torjussen knew he wanted to do something unique with non-musical sources, as he does with a lot of his sci-fi and horror projects. Since moths are present in both this film and the original, Ceiri recorded moth wings and buzzes and found that when manipulated and slowed down, produced a sinister rhythm. These recordings quickly became one of the signature sounds in the score.

In the below interview Ceiri discusses everything from his Nightwatch: Demons Are Foreverscore to creating new sounds from uncommon places.

Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever feat. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau | Official Trailer | Coming to

Editor's notes: the following interview is edited for length and clarity.

No Film School: First off, what led to your career in music?

Ceiri Torjussen: Music is what I’ve always done since I was a pretty young kid. I studied and loved the natural sciences also, and my mum wanted me to study medicine. However, I knew I’d be way too absent-minded for a ‘serious job’ like that, and would most likely leave a scalpel inside a patient or something.

I started out playing the trumpet and sax in youth orchestras, bands, jazz groups, etc. I also had piano lessons but I found practice too boring, so I started to improvise and compose my own pieces. That led to me writing a string quartet at about the age of 16, and from then on I was pretty smitten with the idea of becoming a composer.

Also, my dad was a director/producer for our local Welsh TV station and made mostly documentaries. My first gig was doing little bits of music for one of his documentary shows and that was the first time I used a (very early) digital sequencer to create music. I then did a degree in music at York University in the UK, followed by a Masters in (classical) composition at USC in LA, where I also started scoring short films for the students at the film school. My first real gig out of school was orchestrating for composer Marco Beltrami (Scream, Terminator 3, A Quiet Place). I learnt so much orchestrating and later writing additional music for Marco, especially since he had a similar background to me in composing concert music.

NFS: Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever is a sequel and the first film was scored by another composer. Did you use any of the same sounds that were in the first film or did you want to go in a completely different direction?

Torjussen: We went in a completely new direction. Ole didn't want me to reference the original film in terms of themes or 'sound', so I had pretty much a blank slate from which to start.

'Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever'Shudder

NFS: Did the director, Ole Bornedal, have a pretty clear idea of how he wanted the score to sound in pre-production or did you have more room to experiment? What did your collaboration with Ole look like?

Torjussen: I was actually brought onboard way into post, once they already had a rough cut of the film. Ole was very open-minded about how the score should sound. He did give me some notes as to where he thought music could come in and out, so these were some good guideposts to start from.

Also, a cool thing about this film was that Ole and Anders Villadsen (his editor) had used almost no 'temporary music' as they were editing. This was very refreshing for me since most of the films I score often come with a temp score from early in the edit. It's nice not to feel influenced or creatively stifled by a temp score so I'm thankful for that!

NFS: How would you describe the Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever score?

Torjussen: Spine-chilling and terrifying! Ole originally said that he wanted an electronic score, but this approach evolved as we progressed through the film. The final result is a mixture of hard-edged electronic sounds alternating with gentler cues featuring piano, strings and softer ambiences.

NFS: Did you give any of the characters their own themes? If so, can you talk about those?

Torjussen: Yes, I did. My “themes” are not always melodic though. Emma, the lead character, does have a rather lyrical theme, first heard on piano. However other characters’ themes are much more abstract. For example, the arch villain, Wörmer, has a slowly undulating texture of low bassoons, bass clarinets and dark analog synths. Kind of a sinister wheezing which I thought was befitting this old, evil character.

Ceiri Torjussen in studio.

NFS: We heard you incorporated sounds from moths into the score. Can you elaborate on this?

Torjussen: For the creepy character of Bent, we thought it would be fun to represent him as some kind of insect. Since moths make an appearance in both this and the original film, I decided to use moth wings and buzzes as the basis for a new, unique sound to represent Bent.

I recorded some local moths near our house in Topanga Canyon and was able to manipulate the source sound by pitching it down several octaves and varying the speed. It turns out that moth wings end up having a cool, sinister rhythm if pitched and slowed-down intensely. This became one of the signature sounds in the score.

NFS: Did you use any other sounds from non-traditional “found objects” in the score?

Torjussen: I made use of “infinite glissandos” a lot. The idea is to have a pitch that sounds like it’s constantly ascending or descending ad infinitum. I did this using Shepard and Risset tones—superimposed sine waves that continuously slide up/down and seem to go on forever. Doubling these synthesized sounds with things like violins created a creepy effect that continuously built tension.

NFS: Are moths the most unique object you have ever used for sounds in a score? Or do you try to do something unique like this in all your film scores?

Torjussen: In almost all of my scores (especially in my horror and sci-fi scores) I like to create original sounds from non-musical sources. I approach it as a creative challenge: “how could I make this insect, this iron girder or this bonfire come to life musically?” It means thinking about how the particulars of a sound’s frequencies and timbre can be exploited.

With software these days we can dissect a sound completely then put it back together again, but in the process bring out the features of a sound that we’d like to emphasize and that could be ‘playable’ on a keyboard, say. In the case of my moth for instance, an interesting feature for me was how, when the wings flapped at a certain velocity you heard a specific pitch. Then when you slowed the sound down, the pitch started to disappear and you just heard a percussive noise. Transitioning form ‘percussion’ to ‘tone’ (or vice versa) was an effect I used a lot. I could also drop the pitch of the flapping artificially which then gave me a sinister ‘throbbing’ sound—very useful and quite haunting.

'Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever'Shudder

NFS: What was the most challenging scene in Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever to score?

Torjussen: Ole needed me to write some music for the hospital Halloween parade (when Bent is trying to escape the hospital via an impromptu parade of patients using toy instruments and hollering. The music needed to synch with the dance and shouts of "Hey!" on screen, so it was a bit tricky. I managed to find a tempo that worked in the end though, so I wrote a new piece and we recorded it at my studio using my collection of toy instruments, some ukulele and tuba. The cue features my 7-year-old daughter, Anwen, on plastic piano-horn, party noise-makers and mini pan panpipes.

Also, Anwen, my wife Tricia, and I contributed some shouts to the cue which synch up to those on-screen. This was definitely the most fun cue to write!

NFS: Did you learn anything in particular from working on the film?

Torjussen: I had to learn a bit of Danish since I didn’t get a copy of the film with subtitles until about a month into scoring. I had to rely on the script, a Danish translation app and a lot of guesswork to figure out what the hell was going on. I guess you learn from all your experiences.

You can check more of Ceiri Torjussen's work here:

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