One of the few good things to come from Ridley Scott’s 2013 noir The Counselor was British composer Daniel Pemberton, whose work drew the attention of Steve Jobs director Danny Boyle. What resonated with Boyle was how Pemberton pushed the boundaries by mixing original sound design with traditional orchestration in personifying Counselor’s gritty crime tones. For the director, that musical style was ripe for sonically portraying the nimble mind of the Apple founder, while also capturing the frantic pace of Aaron Sorkin’s three-act script.
For Steve Jobs, Pemberton originally toyed with the idea of using sounds from the Macintosh computer in the opening part of the film that is set around the Mac’s 1984 launch, but that was too limiting. So he rooted his sound in the era by using Yamaha and Roland SH-1000 synthesizers, which were primary instruments back in the day. “It’s almost nostalgic, but it’s a vision of the future,” he says.
For the film’s second act, set at the San Francisco Opera House, Pemberton played around with classical orchestration. He returned to introspective techno ambience in the film’s final 1998 sequence, capturing the emotional drama of Jobs sparring with Steve Wozniak as well as his teenaged daughter. For a warts-and-all story about a revolutionary genius, Boyle had Pemberton raise the tone to an optimistic sound, as we see Jobs make an emotional breakthrough with his daughter.
“Here we have an unconventional biopic, so we approached the music in a similarly unconventional way,” Pemberton says. “We took that great Apple slogan ‘Think Different’ to heart when approaching the score.”
To hear a sample of Pemberton’s score for Steve Jobs, click play below: