‘Kinds of Kindness’ Composer Jerskin Fendrix Delivered Four Hours of Unsettling Piano and Choir Music for Yorgos Lanthimos

Just as he did for Yorgos Lanthimos‘ “Poor Things,” English composer Jerskin Fendrix has supplied an offbeat, musically provocative score for Lanthimos’ new film, “Kinds of Kindness” — except this time it’s all piano and choir instead of the strange, electronically processed sonorities of “Poor Things.”

“Kinds of Kindness” was even more challenging, Fendrix tells Variety. Instead of a science-fiction drama about a reanimated corpse with a child’s brain, this was a trio of weird, decidedly absurdist tales featuring the same cast with only the most tenuous of connections between them.

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The assignment came at the end of 2022, while he was still doing final recordings and mixes for “Poor Things.” He was invited to visit the New Orleans set, do a cameo in one segment, then return to England armed with just a casual suggestion from the director: “Maybe just piano and choir.”

But finding a way into the story was difficult. “I generally write from a very emotional point of view, whether it’s my own emotions or those of a character,” he says, “usually quite a big feeling, and then working out the best way of expressing that, very concisely or very exaggeratedly.

“I read the script and really struggled with what the emotions of the characters were, what their motivations were,” Fendrix said. He even talked with co-star Jesse Plemons while on the set, about his interpretation of the characters “and how he was trying to navigate this really bizarre psychological landscape.”

Failing at his attempt to ascertain the emotions of the characters, Fendrix went in a new direction. “I was trying to think about the space between the emotions. For the piano pieces, I wanted to explore whether the spaces between the emotions were very empty and absent, and with the choir pieces, whether the spaces were very saturated and noisy and insanity-inducing. That was the main principle.”

Fendrix himself plays the piano, and the segments range from classically styled to slightly dissonant to insistent single-note repetition. (He’s also playing the piano in a hotel scene with Plemons, a pleasant number that’s titled “Hotel Cheval” on the soundtrack album.)

As for the choral material, he sought words from co-screenwriter Efthimis Filippou, who penned a series of poems that proved useful. They dealt with “parts of the body, eyes, mouth, hands, blood, that sort of thing. The choices are quite horrifying,” he says, and the 24-voice London choir conveys moods that range from medieval to strangely modern and are often unsettling.

Fendrix ultimately delivered about four hours of piano music, and most of his choral material made it into the final cut. The end-title song, “King Lear,” has no connection with the score and is in fact a demo of a song that was destined for Fendrix’s next album, due out in 2025.

Just this week, Fendrix was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The honor comes after Fendrix landed an Oscar-nomination for his “Poor Things” score.

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