J. Ralph scores new doc “Chasing Ice” on the Arctic’s rapidly eroding glaciers
November 12, 2012 by Dana Feldman
by Dana Feldman
“I’m obsessed with creating and capturing moments of pure truth with music,” film composer J. Ralph (Academy Award winning films The Cove, Man on Wire) says of the new documentary directed by Jeff Orlowski entitled “Chasing Ice.” Ralph created the original score in addition to writing and producing the original end-title song “Before My Time” performed by Scarlett Johansson and Joshua Bell. “These people risked their lives to make this film,” he adds. “It’s as if James created the ultimate security camera for the Earth.”
He’s speaking of the award winning acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog (National Geographic) who went on a quest with a team of young adventurers to capture the brutal Arctic’s rapidly eroding glaciers. Balog and his crew’s photojournalistic heroism, risking both career and life in pursuit of capturing the undeniable truth of one of the biggest issues facing our planet, was a mission to deliver hope to our carbon-powered and dependent planet. Per Robert Redford of the film, “You’ve never seen images like this before. It deserves to be seen and felt on the big screen.”
His process, he explains, involves looking at the images and themes of a film before going to his piano and guitar to create the music that will coincide. “I write music that will sound like what the images look like. I respond to that and that’s what I connect with.” Of the disturbing images in “Chasing Ice”, Ralph says that seeing them reveals the distinctive truth of what’s happened. “It’s about capturing a real moment of truth at its rawest and purest core with music the same way James captured it with film.”
Of writing beautiful music to such devastating images, Ralph explains that for him it’s always about a song distilling a film’s imagery into a musical narrative so the audience can reflect upon what they’ve just seen and meditate on what they feel. For “Before My Time”, Ralph wanted to create a feeling as intimate as the stark and devastating images of which it would be set against onscreen.
A one-time skeptic in regards to climate change as well as a cynic about the nature of the research being done on the subject, Balog discovered through an Extreme Ice Survey the undeniable evidence of the daily catastrophic changes happening to our planet. Deploying revolutionary time-lapse cameras to capture a multi-year record of these ever-changing glaciers, these haunting images compress years into mere seconds capturing ancient mountains of ice in motion as they tragically disappear at a heart-wrenching rate.
“Chasing Ice” premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival where it won for Excellence in Cinematography as well as the recent win for the 2012 Environmental Media Award for Best Documentary in addition to Audience Awards at the 2012 South by Southwest, River Run and Hot Docs film festivals.
Ralph’s most recent works include the original song “Hell And Back” performed by Willie Nelson from the Academy Award-nominated and Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning documentary “Hell and Back Again”; scores for the soundtrack to the documentary “Wretches and Jabberers”; and the score for the independent film “Maladies” starring James Franco and Catherine Keener.
A self-taught musician and producer, he’s written and produced music for numerous Grammy winning artists, Oscar winning films and The President of the United States, Barack Obama. A fellow of Yale University and the only composer ever to win two consecutive A.I.C.P. awards, he has several works included in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection of film and media in New York City and is the founder of the scoring collective The Rumor Mill, a production company and record label.
CHASING ICE opens in Los Angeles November 23rd with a national rollout to follow. Watch the official movie trailer.
photo credit: C. Taylor Crothers