Taking the Emmy for Outstanding Sound Mixing last year, Amazon musical drama Mozart in the Jungle‘s sound departments should pose strong competition once again in the contest to come.
Traveling to Italy for several episodes, this unique portrait of professional musicians from creators Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, Paul Weitz and Alex Timbers branched out into new musical arenas in Season 3, including opera and electronic music, presenting new challenges for co-supervising sound editor Peter Carlstedt.
In Carlstedt’s case, the challenge comes less with the music and more with recreating the physical environments in which the music is played. Speaking with Deadline, Carlstedt gets into the classical music background that made him a perfect match for Mozart and the episode this season that took the show’s cast and crew to Rikers Island.
As you joined Mozart in the Jungle in Season 2, what creative opportunities did you see as co-supervising sound editor?
I got a phone call from Nick Forshager, who’s basically my better half—he and I are co-supervisors. He had been asked to take on the show, and we hadn’t worked together before, but we have some mutual friends
It was perfect timing, and just in terms of my background because I come from a classical music background. When I was in college, I went to a music conservatory and had a double degree in both performance, as a classical bass player, and also audio engineering.
I feel like in some ways I’ve come full circle, which is kind of cool. Having had that experience, knowing what it’s like to be a musician on that type of stage, in a concert hall, I think has helped me bring something to the show, just in terms of some of the details that we’ve tried to add.
The sound of musicians warming up on stage, or a violinist rosining her bow—these little details that we add, a lot of it is foley, and we’ve got a great foley artist. We actually had to invest in getting some musical instruments for our foley department, because foley artists usually have tons of props—everything you can imagine—but they don’t always have a lot of instruments.
The sound of somebody handling a cello, for example, is a very unique sound, yet it makes a big difference.
Did you need to bring in foley artists who come from a musical background, and understand the necessary nuances?
In our case, the short answer is no. We’ve been using Laura Macias, who I’ve worked with on shows in the past. I don’t know that she herself plays any instruments, and that brings up another point too—that the soundtrack, the sound preparation for this show, there’s a lot of blurring of the lines between the music department and the sound department.
We work really closely together with the music editing department, and they’re able to provide, for example, the sound of a trombone player warming up—oftentimes, they’ll give us a sample, something like that.
The sound of a trombone player blowing the spit out of his valve is something that Laura could do.
The show branches out musically this season into opera and electronic music. Did that present new challenges?
I guess from my perspective, it’s more about the environment that music is being presented in. The opera was cool because it was all set in Venice, which was fantastic, and they also ventured out into the countryside.
I must say, working with Monica Bellucci was really cool, but there’s a case where we did have to hire an actual opera singer to do the singing, because Monica, although she’s a great actress, she’s not an opera singer.
That was a bit of a challenge, just making sure that it looked believable. With the opera, we obviously tried to recreate that open-air Venice environment. We had our group of ADR actors, our loop group. We brought in a lot of Italian speakers, which was fun, so they could call out things in Italian. Little details like that I think really brought those Italian episodes to life.
And then Malcolm McDowell—Thomas Pembridge—he, of course, gets into the whole rave scene, which is very funny because it’s so completely against his character.
That was obviously huge crowds, and that was an opportunity for us in the mix. I was able to tell our music mixer, “You know, we actually need the music to be louder.” He was like, “Really? You need it to be louder?” [laughs] He also doesn’t come from that world. We had a lot of fun with that, recreating that crowd’s energy.
You had another loud, riotous scene to work with as the players go on strike.
Oh yeah, absolutely. I’d forgotten about that. That was also really good stuff, and we were able to add a lot of improvisation.
When we’re preparing the tracks, I focus more on the dialogue side, in regards to the ADR, and Nick focuses more on the effects, but there is a lot of overlap. During the mix, I’m pretty much in charge of tidying the mix and deciding what needs to be played, how loud, and oftentimes moving things around, especially with music.
It’s a team effort, and I’m lucky I’ve got such a good crew. It makes me look good.
How much ADR is required on a show like Mozart, which is full of onscreen musical performance?
Usually, we try to use original production sound whenever possible, and we’ve got a good production mixer, although strangely enough, our Italian production mixer was just phenomenal. We liked him even better, but our guy in New York is fantastic.
There are a lot of times when they want to change a line, and then, of course, we have to loop—we have to do ADR for that. I would say, in terms of the amount of ADR, between 10 and 30 lines per episode, and that’s all the principal characters, not including group ADR. Even then, oftentimes we might loop a line, but then when we get to the mix, if our mixer can dig out the original and the producers like it, then we’ll go with that.
Usually, ADR is not done for performance. Usually, it’s done for either line changes or for technical reasons.
I understand there’s an interesting story behind the prison episode this season. Can you explain what happened?
I believe that whole idea was Roman Coppola’s, but it was based on Jason [Schwartzman]’s character. As you know, he plays B. Sharpe.
That was a really cool episode. For one thing—and I didn’t know this when we were actually starting to work on it—but all of the prison inmates are actual inmates at Rikers Island. When you know that, it’s even more moving to watch, because they were genuinely moved. They got to witness his performance, and as you saw, this was completely new to most of them.
From a sound standpoint, we were told from the get-go that Roman wanted this to be a documentary and that he wanted to use all natural sound that was recorded while they were filming. There was a certain amount of editorial, but we didn’t really add much to it. Pretty much everything you heard was what they recorded while they were there, which is pretty cool; it’s not common. It made our job in some ways easier, but it was very slice-of-life. It was very cinéma verité.
How many of the actors on the show are actually musically trained?
Gael gets coached when they’re filming, and they have a track that they’re playing back to, so they’re listening to a track, and most of them are just faking it.
Looking at my cast list, Joel Bernstein, who plays Warren Boyd, he’s not a violinist. He does a pretty good job most of the time of looking like he’s playing, but as you know, it’s tricky.
Dermot Mulroney, he’s an actual cellist. He really plays, and he’s really good. In fact, I didn’t know this about him—that actor actually sometimes plays with orchestras that do film scores. He’s actually in the orchestra, which is pretty cool. You have to be good to be one of those guys.
What were the moments you were most proud of, from a sonic perspective, in Season 3?
Every episode has its challenges. I think the stuff in Italy, I really like the way that turned out, especially the outdoor concert with Monica, just in terms of the overall ambiance that we captured. That, to me, was really moving, and also actually comedic as well, because she’s basically threatening Gael. [laughs]
Those Venice episodes, in general—little things, like being in a gondola, and the creak of the oars. I love the little details. When we have an opportunity to throw them in and they actually pop out in the mix, that’s a cool thing.
What were the most difficult physical environments to recreate?
It’s hard to say what’s the most challenging. Every episode, we run up against things that you wouldn’t necessarily think are challenging.
A lot of the downtown New York stuff can be really noisy, so we have to use some tricks to make the dialogue pop out when you’ve got all these cars, taxis passing by, buses, and pedestrians.
Our dialogue editor actually has a business of doing sound restoration. We’re lucky that we have him because he’s able to do a lot of the dialogue cleaning.
Andy D’Addario, our dialogue mixer, also is really good at digging out dialogue that, when we first heard it, we were like, “Oh, we’re going to have to ADR this.” And then we actually are able to use the original, which is nice.
So that’s a challenge, I would say, just recording in noisy environments, whether it’s New York or Venice. We shot in Mexico City—that was also a big challenge.
Mozart has been renewed for a fourth season. Do you know when work will resume on the series?
Beginning in August, we have our first spotting session for Episode 1 of Season 4. I need to start talking to the producers to find out what our schedule’s going to be like.
As you know, like with a lot of series now, they release the whole thing on one date, which is cool, but for us, it’s a little challenging because the producers tend to have this idea that, Well, we don’t have to finish any of these episodes until whenever the release date is. Because of that, they tend to keep monkeying with episodes that should be locked and in the can. TV, in general, is challenging because of the time constraint, but I’m looking forward to Season 4.