Milan Records today releases Occupied City (Original Motion Picture Score) featuring music written by cellist, producer and composer Oliver Coates for Oscar and BAFTA Award-winning director Steve McQueen's latest documentary. Informed by Bianca Stigter's book Atlas of an Occupied City (Amsterdam 1940-1945), the film provides a portrait of the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam set against recent years of pandemic and protest. It was a serendipitous collaboration between composer and director: McQueen was unfamiliar with Coates prior to the film but discovered his music playing in a department store, prompting him to bring Coates on board for Occupied City. Coates began the composing process with only a brief introduction to the film's thematics, instructed by McQueen to write more personal pieces rather than scoring direct to picture. Combining cello with moving, ambient synth work, the resulting 11-track collection is a sensitive sonic companion to the onscreen story, reflecting on past, present and future with an evocative meditation on devastation and resilience.
Speaking of working with director Steve McQueen, composer Oliver Coates says, "He [McQueen] told me to make music about me, my family, and some deeper metaphysical questions rather than focus on scoring his film. I think he was looking for a vibrational match that could forge a synergy between music and picture without forcing or directing any emotions from me. The music acts like interludes from the voiceover in the documentary, so it doesn't feel like documentary music at all, but intimate interludes in a grand meditative portrait of Amsterdam and the resilience of its people."
Director Steve McQueen adds, "He [Coates] is very instinctual and quite special, and what I love about his music is that it does have a way of bringing the past into the present. There's a search for the future in what he's doing but you feel that it is steeped in history. His music has an anchoring quality but there's also an impulse to explore and experiment."