A strange and fascinating piece of abstract electronic music surfaces in a key sequence in The Hunger Games. The track “Sediment,” used to great effect during the movie’s “cornucopia scene,” was composed in 1972 by pioneering composer Laurie Spiegel, who used an analog synthesizer and old-school tape machines to create the sweeping, nine-minute epic.

It’s not the type of slickly produced music you’d expect to pop up in a Hollywood blockbuster that is breaking box office records around the globe.

“I didn’t have multitrack recording,” she said in a phone interview with Wired. “I had to do the mixing with two stereo reel-to-reel decks, and the only way to mix was to play something live, where one deck was playing audio while the other deck was recording the other machine…. You piled the tape hiss and noise for every generation you added.”

You won’t find “Sediment” on the official Hunger Games soundtrack, which was produced by T-Bone Burnett and debuted Wednesday at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200. The top-selling album features pop megastars like Taylor Swift alongside the Arcade Fire and other popular indie rockers.

But you can hear Spiegel’s work in the movie’s intriguing sound design. The legendary Minimalist composer Steve Reich makes a cameo appearance in The Hunger Games, too, thanks to his piece “Three Movements for Orchestra, Mvt. 1,” as performed by the Lower Austrian Tonkünstler Orchestra. Peel away further at The Hunger Games’ audio and you’ll find pieces by Icelandic composer Olafur Arnalds and Chicago instrumentalists the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble.

Spiegel said she worked out “Sediment,” which you can hear in the video above, using graph paper and a ruler to get the timing of the layers right.

“People who are in love with vintage analog now don’t understand what it was like to work with analog synths before computers, and before multitracks,” she said with a laugh. Multitrack recording existed in 1972, but it was still the province of studios and the very rich.

While recording “Sediment” in her tenement apartment in Manhattan, Spiegel used a semi-modular Electrocomp 200. She recalled having to turn her refrigerator off to keep the analog synthesizer in tune.

“I had to turn the refrigerator off, or it would ruin the take.”
“It was a five-room apartment running on a single 15-amp fuse,” she said. “When the refrigerator went on, half the oscillators dropped by a quarter tone…. I had to turn the refrigerator off, or it would ruin the take.”

Of all the eclectic music in The Hunger Games, Spiegel’s “Sediment” comes most out of left field. “I really don’t know how the whole thing happened,” said Spiegel, whose 1975 album The Expanding Universe is set to be reissued in the fall. “I got an e-mail from the licensing team at Lionsgate Films asking if they could license the sync rights for that piece for the film. I said sure, of course…. I quite honestly don’t really follow Hollywood films, or major releases that are commonly done now.”

Still, she said she admired The Hunger Games and its lead character, Katniss Everdeen.

“There are quite a few films and TV shows lately that actually have strong female protagonists, who aren’t just co-stars to a male hero,” Spiegel said. “We have yet to get to the point where we see a lot of female composers appearing in soundtrack credits, but maybe that will change.”

Via Wired & Matrixsnth