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Home | Interviews | Exclusive Interview: musician/composer/operatic singer, Alia Synesthesia (Haxan)

Exclusive Interview: musician/composer/operatic singer, Alia Synesthesia (Haxan)

 Häxan Original Score: Horror & Opera Edition

Why did you choose HAXAN to re-score?  


I was always fascinated with Haxan, in part because it is a very peculiar combination of documentary and horror fiction. It is bizarre yet humorous, blasphemous yet critical. And in the way, it’s also a hybrid cinematographic work that doesn’t firmly sit within a cohesive genre, which I can personally relate to and gravitate towards. Plus, of course, the film deals with witches and witchcraft, which was one of my favorite topics to study from a historical perspective. It is fascinating and unsettling to explore the mythos behind witch hunts.  

I was “dancing around” the idea of approaching the re-scoring of Haxan for a while, to be honest. It seemed intimidating because it’s almost a 2-hour long film, and the score took a lot out of me in order to do the film proper justice, but I am glad that it turned out the way it did. 


How long did the HAXAN re-scoring take?


I approached this project very gradually, so I want to say, it took a couple of years, but this process wasn’t a dedicated, focused effort: I scored parts of the film, stored them away for a while, and then came back to them in between other projects. Once the score was finished, I launched a kickstarter campaign in order to help me re-record the entire soundtrack because everything I had in place were rough demos. The re-recording part took about a month. 


What was the most difficult part of this re-scoring?


I want to say, production choices. I have worked with and produced a lot of different genres of music from dark ambient to metal to electronic/goth tracks and each genre has a very specific set of conventions and production techniques that make it stand out and belong. When I was composing Haxan, in a way, it didn’t belong to any genre but shared characteristics of many genres at the same time. Making production decisions was both the most difficult and the most rewarding part of the re-scoring process because I had to justify (to myself) all these decisions I was making. 


When did you start your journey into opera?


I made a conscious choice to pursue operatic singing when I was 12 or 13. Before that, I had a lot of exposure to classical music and opera as well, but my primary instrument was piano. Eventually I switched to vocal lessons at my music school and ever since, I didn’t look back or tried to pick up any instrument lessons up until my university years. I was fascinated with opera because of its theatricality and highly technical vocal techniques. If you think about it, the operatic singing sound is very unsettling and haunting in itself but somehow, culturally it became a kind of high class “nostalgia” genre that is quite strict, conventional and sterile at the same time. 

So the long answer to this question would be – I was fascinated with opera since childhood, but halfway through my operatic journey, my ambitions have changed: I am most excited about re-imagining opera in contemporary contexts instead of preserving the original dignified sterility of operatic music in classical context. And of course, there are a lot of people who already are doing that and their work is leaning on the side of “horrific” rather than cultured. Diamanda Galas comes to mind, for example. 


Why is your music a good fit with the horror genre?


My music is a combination of modern production, genres and styles that are already popular in horror culture, with a bit of extra bone chilling impact that operatic singing delivers. Operatic singing is not commonly used for horror film or game soundtracks, but if you think about the voice as another textural, atmospheric instrument – it can add extra goosebumps-inducing dimensions to the music because operatic vocal technique is so dramatic. I already mentioned Diamanda Galas in the previous question, but that would be one example of operatic singing being situated firmly within the horror realm. 


I like using my voice as “an instrument” – not the kind of instrument that aims to overshadow and draw immediate attention to itself, but the kind of instrument that creates, shapes and defines the atmosphere. My musical and vocal performances are often described as “haunting” and “siren-like” mesmerizing, and I think these qualities directly relate to horror: as a genre, horror is meant to haunt, captivate and explore scenarios that are beyond the imaginaries of ordinary life. 


What is your earliest memory of becoming a fan of horror?


I was 3 and my parents were watching Nightmare on Elm Street. Maybe they thought I was too young to remember or mentally process the film, but shortly after watching, I had my first ever nightmare. And honestly, ever since I was obsessed with the horror genre, because, in a way, it helps me process the world around me. If you think about it – everything we fear on a human level is encapsulated in horror media in one way or another, and it’s fascinating to explore this dimension of the human psyche.


Would you like to re-score any other classic horror films? Which ones? 


Yes! I am currently debating which film I should rescore next, and I do have two contestants for the upcoming release (they both deal with similar themes). I would prefer to keep my choices ambiguous for now, but my next release will involve vampires in one way or another. 


Where else can horror fans hear your music? 

The best place for now would be my bandcamp, which contains a variety of music releases (not only soundtracks or horror works). But there are a few podcast and film project arrangements in the works, so hopefully soon horror fans would be able to hear my music in a variety of horror projects. 

To check out my demo reel (as opposed to a potpourri of different compositions and releases), you can go here: https://alia.horrorandopera.com/ 


What is your dream horror project?


Dream horror project…this is such a huge question and I have quite an imagination. I always was fascinated with mixed-media or immersive projects. The kind of projects that involve more than one media to keep fans immersed in the narrative. For example: video or podcasting and interactive sites where fans can solve mysteries or puzzles. This kind of storytelling is obviously resource intensive and ephemeral, but thinking of how much time we will be spending online and alone now, which is due to the consequences of many jobs moving online in the past couple years, I think this type of engagement has a lot of immersive benefits. I would love to be involved with immersive multimedia horror projects.  


What does the future have to store for Alia?


It is hard to predict what future holds, but currently I am planning out my next release for Horror & Opera as well as working on a kickstarter campaign for a video game with horror themes. With regards to contracts and collaborations, I can’t say much yet but there are some exciting projects in the works that I might be able to share publicly soon. 

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