Across the Spider-Verse composer aims to ‘outdo’ original with opera, punk rock, and ‘crazy sound design’
Flute players look away; Daniel Pemberton says there are none inside Spider-Man: About the Spider-Versethe sequel to this summer Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
“There’s a scoop for you now,” the composer joked over video chat. “There are no woodwinds anywhere Spider-Verse 2.”
Pemberton spoke to Polygon on his day off from both scoring and About the Spider-Verse and prepare for Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse live in concert on March 17 in New York City — share what is made In the Spider-Verse such a standout experience, why a live orchestral screening of it had to take place in Brooklyn, and even a few teases for About the Spider-Verseat.
It might be hard to remember, now that In the Spider-Verse has an Academy Award under his belt and a growing list of movies inspired by his signature comic-influenced look, but there was a time when most people knew it as “that other Sony Spider-Man Movie, The Animated. No, it’s not in the MCU.”
Even Pemberton says he struggled to get his friends to see the movie — and then they’d call him a year later to tell him they finally watched it and be blown away.
“It was really interesting to see how people didn’t really care about this movie,” he said. “They just thought, Oh, I know what this movie is. And that’s the fun part about it. I think everyone feels like they discovered this movie; it’s their movie.”
Pemberton’s kinetic, inventive, energetic and emotional score was a not insignificant part of that love. Sequences like Miles’ leap of faith — a combination of the orchestra featuring Blackway and Black Caviar’s “What’s Up Danger” — and a chase scene in which Miles yo-yos the unconscious body of Peter B. Parker through Manhattan, scored by recording a full orchestra to vinyl and then bring in a DJ scratch it to the scene — have gotten a kind of public love that didn’t always point to the parts of a movie score that aren’t radio-ready singles.
“It’s probably the most complicated, crazy score I’ve ever written,” says Pemberton. “It changes every 20 seconds, ranging from noir music to jazz to orchestral music. It’s a good embodiment of me as a composer in that I try to take things from everywhere and put them into my music.”
And for Pemberton, making a score that comes from anywhere was just his way of honoring the real world In the Spider-Verse – New York City – and pay it back for how it had inspired him.
“Brooklyn is home to Miles, and it’s home to such a cross-fertilization of music, which is what the movie is about. From a musical point of view, New York is embedded in the DNA of this score.”
Pemberton recalled seeing London DJs scratch for the first time. “Those DJs were inspired by New York’s hip-hop culture, bought it over to London; I’m a kid in London, I see. Years later I’m in New York, with this score that has been influenced all over the world with all these different ideas. New York has such an interesting culture of classical music, hip hop, techno, disco, so many different music cultures; New York is a melting pot of them. The (In the Spider-Verse) scoring is the same for me.”
And while Pemberton hopes the In the Spider-Verse live show can become a series and travel to multiple cities, he knew that if he did it just once, it would have to happen in Brooklyn to come full circle.
“I want people who have never seen an orchestra to see an orchestra,” he told Polygon. “I want people who have seen an orchestra but never seen anyone scratch records – I want them to see that. I want to bring all these worlds together. Hopefully die-hard classical fans who have never seen anyone scratch turntables, hip-hop heads who may not have seen a string section. That is the holy trinity of this live show: orchestra, electronics and turntables.”
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse live in concert will kick off at the Kings Theater in Brooklynbut if you can’t be there, there is still Spider-Man: About the Spider-Verse to look forward to.
Pemberton said he is very aware that he needs to “surpass” what he did In the Spider-Verse for the long-awaited sequel. But he has an ally there About the Spider-Versethe extended story.
“The first movie was just Miles’ world, and in this new one we’re going into a lot of different universes, each of which has its own sound and its own art style. I would say in the first one we scratched the orchestra; in this one we twist it. We built weird technology to do certain things with sound. (Spider-Man) 2099 is a major character in this movie, and his world is much more technological, and his sound world is much more electronic, so there’s a lot of electronics in the score. It’s just been searching, How do I make this feel fresh and exciting? If I do the same as the first time, it won’t be fresh and exciting.”
Is it hard to score a movie set in a multiverse? “I’ll tell you something, that’s right,” Pemberton replied. “It makes shooting schedules incredibly complicated. (laughs) Because you’re trying to jump through very different styles that are only maybe 10 seconds into the movie.
Where are we going in the new Spider-Verse? Pemberton says he’s leaning more towards Puerto Rican vibes this time around, as a nod to Miles’ maternal heritage, and teased a whole list of things to expect: “Drum solos, opera vocals, punk rock, Indian percussion, techno drums, extreme time- stretching, emotional orchestration, arpeggio synths and crazy sound design.
Spider-Man: About the Spider-Verse will hit theaters on June 2.