After the worldwide success of A. G. Iñarittu’s “Birdman" which won 4 Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Best Director), Antonio has been performing his Grammy winning and Golden Globe nominated original score around the world. These are unique events where the film is projected as Antonio executes the drum score live. Each performance is completely unique because Sanchez’s original music was improvised almost in it’s entirety and although the dramatic effect achieved in the film is duplicated, the organic aspect of the performance requires that the improvisational spirit be left untouched.
The film's original music segments are a drum score consisting entirely of solo jazz percussion performances by Antonio Sánchez. The score is offset by a number of well known classical music pieces, including Mahler and Tchaikovsky. Iñárritu did not regard the particular choice of classical pieces as important. Nonetheless, the choice of classical music was strongly oriented to highly melodic scores taken predominantly from the 19th century classical repertoire (Mahler, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Ravel). Iñárritu stated that the classical components come from the world of the play, citing the radio in Riggan's room and the show itself as two sources of the music. The classical music segments also included two compositions by American composer John Adams. Several jazz compositions by Victor Hernández Stumpfhauser and Joan Valent counterbalance the original music composition by Sánchez. The drum sections comprise the majority of the score however, and were composed by Sánchez. Iñárritu explained the choice by saying they helped to structure scenes, and that "The drums, for me, was a great way to find the rhythm of the film... In comedy, rhythm is king, and not having the tools of editing to determine time and space, I knew I needed something to help me find the internal rhythm of the film."
Iñárritu contacted friend and jazz drummer Antonio Sánchez in January 2013, inviting him to compose the score for the film. His reaction to writing a soundtrack using only drums was similar to Lubezki's thoughts of shooting the movie like a single shot: "It was a scary proposition because I had no point of reference of how to achieve this. There’s no other movie I know that has a score like this. Sánchez had also not worked on a film before, nevertheless, after receiving the script, he composed "rhythmic themes" for each of the characters. Iñárritu was looking for the opposite approach however, preferring spontaneity and improvisation. Sánchez then waited until production moved to New York before composing more, where he visited the set for a couple of days to get a better idea of the film. Following this, a week before principal photography, he and Iñárritu went to a studio to record some demos. During these sessions the director would first talk him through the scene, then while Sánchez was improvising guide him by raising his hand to indicate an event – such as a character opening a door – or by describing the rhythm with verbal sounds. They recorded around seventy demos, which Iñárritu used to inform the pacing of the scenes on set, and once filming was complete, spliced them into the rough cut. Sánchez summarized the process by saying "The movie fed on the drums and the drums fed on the imagery. The official soundtrack was released as a CD (77 min) in October 2014, and as an LP (69 min) in April 2015.
When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released their longlist for the Academy Award for Best Original Score in December 2014, Birdman was absent from the list. The previous day, Sánchez received a note from the award committee explaining the decision, quoting rule fifteen of the 87th Academy Award Rules, noting "the fact that the film also contains over a half an hour of non-original (mostly classical) music cues that are featured very prominently in numerous pivotal moments in the film made it difficult for the committee to accept your submission". Sánchez launched an appeal, and along with Iñárritu and the executive vice-president of Fox Music, they sent letters to Charles Fox, the chair of the Academy's music branch executive committee, asking that the committee reconsider their decision. One of the points they raised was that the committee incorrectly calculated the ratio of classical to original music, which after being clarified Sánchez thought he was "on really solid ground”. A response from Fox on December 19 however, explained that a special meeting of the music committee was held, and although its members had "great respect" for the score and considered it "superb", they thought that the classical music "was also used as scoring", "equally contributes to the effectiveness of the film", and that the musical identity of the film was created by both the drums and classical music. Ultimately, they did not overturn their decision. Sánchez said that he and Iñárritu were not satisfied with the explanation.
This is a list of some of the awards the original score won and got nominated for:
Golden Globe (nominated)
Hollywood Music in Media Awards (won)
Satellite Award for Best Original Score (won)
Critic’s Choice Award for Best Composer (won)
Venice Film Festival Scores Award for Best Original Score (won)
Indiwire’s Critics Poll (nominated)
International Online Cinema Awards (nominated)
Las Vegas Film Society Awards (won)
Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards (won)
San Diego Film Critics Society Awards (nominated)
Alliance of Women Film Journalists (won)
Austin Film Critics Association. (won)
Awards Circuit Community Awards (runner-up)
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards (nominated)
Denver Film Critics Society (won)
Georgia Film Critics Association (nominated)
OTHER FILM NEWS
After the success of Birdman, I was asked to write the music for a couple of new films:
A very interesting Spanish political documentary by the great Spanish director Fernando Leon De Aranoa:
“Politica, Manual De Instrucciones”
A comedy written by Stephen Fry and directed by John Jencks.
These two endeavors were a lot of fun to write for. There are some more projects lining up for the future.
I was also honored to participate in Don Cheadle’s directorial debut “Miles Ahead” where I perform in the last scene of the film alongside Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Esperanza Spalding, Robert Glasper and Gary Clark Jr.
Also did a few fun commercial spots for Kirin Ice Tea, Nissan Noodles (Japan only) and Johnston and Murphy.