Composer Daniel Pemberton pushed a few boundaries and “made something really creative and different” when he scored 2018’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” When he returned to score the sequel, “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” he knew he would have to “push it as far as we can go.”
Pemberton says he had to build the score from the ground up, which was complicated. “You’re trying not to make a score that sounds like other film scores. You’re trying to invent your own language.”
Inventing that language took experimentation, research and failure. He explains, “I spent two years researching and developing this score, going through ideas, coming up with concepts and throwing them out.”
The first piece he wrote was a sketch that ended up becoming the cues that open and end the film. “You’re making a score that jumps around different worlds and characters, and everyone has got to have a theme and melody and sound, and yet, they’ve all got to interact with each other.”
With Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), Pemberton wanted to capture her “grace and balletic qualities.” He wanted a sound that reflected her rock band background and the look of her world, which was dreamy with drippy watercolors. “That was a big influence on how that should feel.”
He gave her a “‘90s, indie-synth, pop band sound. Her sound is a floaty synth sound, and that’s her melody.”
In comparison, Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac), a Spider-Man who lives in a futuristic Nueva York in the year 2099, was abrasive and technological. Pemberton says, “It’s very electronic, techno and synthesized.”
But landing on Gwen’s cue was a process of trial and error.
“If you look at Gwen, she moves very gracefully and very lightly compared to Miguel, who’s very heavy. So, you’re trying to reflect that. It was tons of approaches until we found the right one. I went through a million synthesizer sounds,” he says. “Early on, I tried it with female vocals, but it didn’t work. You try things out on this film, but it’s not good enough, and it’s a long experimentation.”
Gwen’s emotional storyline with her father was about capturing a sound of warmth. “It’s only five seconds when her dad hugs her, but I spent an extortionate amount of time on it. When the hug comes in, it’s a full orchestra for one chord but it makes that moment land.”
For Hobie Brown (Daniel Kaluuya), a.k.a. the rocker Spider-Punk, Pemberton gave him “feedback guitars, heavy drums and distorted bass. It’s punk.”
Meanwhile, the sound of Pavitr Prabhakar (Karan Soni), a.k.a. Spider-Man India, was heavily influenced by Indian instruments and the 1982 album “Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat” by Charanjit Singh. “It was insanely ahead of its time and was this futuristic Indian record. It sounds like acid house.”
As for Shameik Moore’s Miles Morales, his sound was steeped in hip-hop culture. “The record-scratching element that we developed in the first film was something we just expanded on for this.”
Listen to the score below.