I met Alberto Iglesias when I was to conduct the music to his ballet Self. In conversations about the production and during rehearsals at the Teatro Real in Madrid, the idea came about to team up with Alberto on the music he was beginning to compose for John Malkovich’s debut film as director.

Conducting the soundtrack for a film was an additional step in the attention to tempo involved in ballet music. The accuracy of tempo in relation to dance movements is dwarfed when confronted with the 24 frames per second that drive movies. Alberto summed it up in one sentence: It must be conducted with a “click-track”. The rigorous idea of the click-track did, however, open an unexpected door. If all the music to the film’s soundtrack was to be fixed to a complex metronome, we could then record in different places. A common tuning had to be ensured, and this pre-requisite would allow everything to fall into place during the final edit. The idea presented important difficulties, but advantages too. It offered the possibility of working in Berlin with violinist Kolja Blacher who had a tightly packed agenda. I had recently worked with him in Beethoven’s Concerto and Prokofiev’s First. His unmistakable sound and his violin “Tritton”, a Stradivarius of 1730, would fill the soundtrack with a special radiance. We were also able to invite Dominik Wollenweber, an extraordinary English horn soloist from the Berlin Philharmonic, to interpret some of the solos from the variant timbre of his instrument. From there on, piano, accordion, and percussion could also be recorded separately and all that remained was the orchestra, which could accompany the set thanks to the magic click-track mediation. In this manner we were able to build a soundtrack, always choosing what we thought best for each part. The initial obstacle became key to the outcome. The film won the Nino Rota Award for the Best Soundtrack at the Venice Film Festival 2002.


Music: Alberto Iglesias
Conductor: Pedro Alcalde
Orchestra: Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid
Violin solo: Kolja Blacher
English horn solo: Dominik Wollenweber
Piano and accordion: Javier Casado
Percussion: Juanjo Guillén
Guitar: Javier Crespo
Prepared piano: Alberto Iglesias
Piano: Pedro Alcalde (“pasito lento”)

Sound engineer: José Luis Crespo
Sound engineer in Berlin: Wolfgang Hoff and Ekkehard Stoffregen (SFB-Berlin)


Title: The Dancer Upstairs
Director: John Malkovich
Writer: Nicholas Shakespeare, based on his novel
Cast: Javier Bardem, Juan Diego Botto, Laura Morante, Elvira Mínguez, Abel Folk
Countries: USASpain
Language: English
Runtime: 133′
Premiere: 11th January 2002
Festival: Sundance Film Festival