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Chops: Marc Ribot and Antonio Sanchez on the Art of Improvising to Film

Guitarist and drummer explain their approach to improvising music to accompany film

Antonio Sanchez, jazz drummer and film composer
Antonio Sánchez (photo: Andrea Boccalini)

When Antonio Sanchez recorded his score for Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), the uniqueness of the situation led him to assume that this would be a one-time thing—after all, solo drum improvisations are hardly common in film soundtracks. But that very idiosyncrasy, combined with the film’s Best Picture Oscar, opened a new career path for Sanchez as a soundtrack composer (his most recent work has been for the Epix TV series Get Shorty). Four years after Birdman’s release, he continues to tour the world accompanying the movie live.

“Iñárritu wanted the score to be improvised and very organic,” Sanchez says, “so that’s what I do live. I try to maintain the dramatic effect that was achieved originally, but every performance is completely different.”

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