Classical Music Meets Metal in “Corrective Measures”—An Interview with George Streicher
Science fiction. Cyborg villains and a prison break. Bruce Willis, supergenius enthralled in a musically dynamic revenge plot. Fluidity between genres makes for a classic tale — even Star Wars brings together sci-fi, fantasy, romance, and the opera: in terms of both its story and its composition (music, visuals, wardrobe, etc.).
Dramatic confrontations and the quiet before the storm. Strange creatures in a prison. These are some of the ingredients of the 2022 sci-fi thriller Corrective Measures, directed by Sean Patrick O’Reilly.
In one of Bruce Willis’ last appearances on the silver screen in Corrective Measures, classical music (his character, The Lobe, listens frequently to Bach) meets heavy metal in a score equally dynamic as the action-forward plot. For today’s interview, we’ll be talking with the film’s composer—George Streicher.
George Streicher is a composer and arranger for film, television, video games, and live events. He has written original scores/music for features such as Corrective Measures, Go Fish, Arcana Studio’s Heroes of the Golden Masks, and Howard Lovecraft and the Undersea Kingdom. For television, he’s scored the Comedy Bang Bang series Total Badass Wrestling and contributed additional music to Nickelodeon’s The Smurfs.
George is currently based in Los Angeles, California. In our interview below, he discusses his work on Corrective Measures, genre overlaps, his creative process, influences, and Halloween music.
Andrew Cheek: First, could you share a little about your background in music and the types of projects you gravitate toward?
George Streicher: I come from a pretty musical family. My mom was a concert flutist, my dad was an amateur musician. I took piano lessons, played cello in school orchestra, and eventually learned guitar in high school. But my route into music was mostly through being a filmmaker.
I used to make and score my own short films as a kid. This continued all the way through college, where I started taking music more seriously and began studying it independently. I started scoring my friends’ and classmates’ films, and, one day, a producer reached out and hired me to score his feature. That’s really how I started writing music for film professionally.
As far as the types of projects I gravitate towards — it’s always been the ones that I feel present a lot of great opportunities for the music to elevate the story. And, of course, I’m drawn to projects that I feel confident about knowing exactly what they need musically, and I feel I’m able to deliver whatever that is.
AC: What was your approach to scoring the music for the Bruce Willis thriller Corrective Measures? Would you characterize the score in a certain way?
GS: Corrective Measures was a first for me. My first time doing a science fiction, action movie, my first time doing a live-action feature and one of the few times I’ve stepped away from strictly orchestral writing. So, when approaching the score, I worked very hard trying to find the right sound and the right attitude for the music.
Corrective Measures is a comic book, super-villain, prison break movie, so I knew the music had to be tough and it had to be fun. I wrote several themes for the film, one for each major character. Because the characters in the film were so distinct, I felt like they had to have their own themes, or at least their own motifs.
For example, The Lobe’s (Bruce Willis) motif is sort of a take on Bach’s toccata and fugue with a little descending piano melody and cello lines, since for most of the film he’s in his cell listening to classical music. And for The Conductor (Tom Cavanaugh), a super villain with the powers of electricity, it felt like a no-brainer to give him some kind of intense electronic / quasi-dubstep music in an unstable time signature.
I tried to give every character and stage of the story its own personality. The Overseer (Michael Rooker) is the warden of the prison, so he has that gritty southern slide guitar and a four-note motif that I use for him, as well as a kind of theme for the prison, San Tiburon. I tried to keep each theme and their presentations specific to the characters they were accompanying.
AC: What is the through-line or glue that ties together blending multiple genres in a single score, so that everything fits within the world?
GS: I try to keep the score consistent by either using themes or motifs that we’ve become familiar with throughout or using specific instruments. For example, there’s a scene in the film where we go fully electronic, almost dubstep. And that was a sound we hadn’t heard in the score at all up until that point.
So, to try and keep it consistent and not seem completely out of left field, I made sure to use acoustic drums, slide acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and electric bass in that cue; sounds that are present in almost every other cue of the score.
The music took another turn during the big prison riot at the end of the film. I thought veering into a more modern metal sound felt appropriately aggressive and high energy, but every once in a while we’d snap back into the dirty southern guitar sound to keep that character alive.
AC: Who were some of your main collaborators on Corrective Measures?
GS: For the most part, I worked closely with the editor and the director. In the beginning, after seeing the first cut of the movie, I went away and wrote demo cues away from picture. Every week or so, I’d send one to Sean [O’Reilly] and Elad [Tzadok] for any creative direction. I’m happy to say they seemed very enthusiastic about the score, and I had a really great time working with them. We also had a great music supervisor, Mike Burns, who selected some excellent songs for placement in the film.
But, in regards to making the score, I had a great team behind me. Jesse Haugen performed all the guitar and bass parts, as well as some additional synth production. Kevin Brown tracked the drums, and Larry Briner performed some cello parts. For the mix, I went to my long-time collaborator, Michael Bouska. All of these guys brought my score to life in so many ways, and it was a thrill to work with them.
AC: How did that collaborative process factor into both the music and storytelling of the final film?
GS: Sean and I have worked together many times, and he’s a great collaborator. When I first saw a cut of Corrective Measures, they’d incorporated a lot of really great old country-western and southern rock songs into the film, most of them about prison and prison life. They worked so well with the various montages they had built around them that I thought it would be appropriate to give the score a kind of gritty, southern vibe to it.
So, antithetical to what you’d expect from a movie about super-villains, I avoided going the orchestral route and tried to keep the score sounding smaller and tougher. This also allowed me to record all the main instruments live (guitars, bass, drum kit, cello, piano, etc.), which really helped elevate the score and give it authenticity and attitude.
“With film, you’re telling a long-form story, so you really have to pay attention to the shape of the narrative, where you are in that narrative, and how things develop musically over time.”
AC: Do you have a fun fact or bit of trivia you’d like to share about working on Corrective Measures?
GS: Since The Lobe listens to a lot of classical music in his cell, I designed a drum kit from sounds of me beating on the body of a Steinway grand piano and the body of a cello. I pulled those into my DAW, processed them, and created a drum kit specific to his character.
There are also a few moments where I use a special synth effect I created by looking into the frequencies that various brain activities resonate in. I dialed a synth patch into 30khz and added a bit of distortion so it became more audible. I use that effect whenever The Lobe is using his power, his mind, in a scene. It’s subtle, but it felt appropriate to have that in there.
For the character of The Conductor, I sampled a lot of sounds of electrical arcs and zaps and created synth leads to use in his cues. There’s also quite a bit of prison cell door slams and metallic sounds layered into the percussion to help reflect the prison environment the film takes place in.
AC: You also have written music for a number of other films, video games, television shows, and even live events. What overlaps and differences do you see between the different media in terms of your creative approach and the sound produced?
GS: Writing for film is definitely more restrictive, whereas writing music for events, games, or library music is more open-ended. You seem to have a lot more freedom in those. With film, you’re telling a long-form story, so you really have to pay attention to the shape of the narrative, where you are in that narrative, and how things develop musically over time. You’re restricted to the shape of a scene, a performance, whatever it may be.
And while I love being able to write whatever I want and have no restrictions, I do think I tend to enjoy writing for film and television more than any other medium. I think those limitations bring out the best in me creatively, and there’s nothing quite like it when it works.
“I think my goal in every score is to respond to the film emotionally and try to translate that into music.”
AC: More broadly, who are some of your biggest artistic influences, musical or otherwise?
GS: I’ve always really admired the work and path of Michael Giacchino. My understanding is he started as a filmmaker / movie geek and eventually found his way into music. I feel like I relate to that more than I relate to my other influences. There’s something about finding your way into music through film or theater.
For me and so many others, Williams, Horner, Elfman, etc. were kind of that “gateway” into the world of symphonic music and all its forms. In the same way I suppose the films of Spielberg, Scorsese, and Coppola were a gateway into discovering films from the 30s, 40s, etc.
AC: Would you say you have a characteristic sound or goal behind your music? How would you define that?
GS: I’m not sure what my characteristic sound is; I try to change with every project and morph into whatever composer I feel that film or show needs. I think my goal in every score is to respond to the film emotionally and try to translate that into music.
There’s a few scenes in Corrective Measures where I thought the performances were really great. And I thought to myself “How can I take this to the next level?” In some cases like this, you just completely stay out of the way. But in this case, I decided to double the energy and I think it delivered a highly entertaining sequence.
AC: What advice would you give to aspiring composers or musicians?
GS: Don’t wait for a movie job to start scoring; just write, write, write, and challenge yourself. And go to every party you’re ever invited to.
AC: Are there any upcoming projects you’re working on that you’d like to tell us about?
GS: I’m working on a live orchestral Halloween album — a fun personal project that I started writing and recording for back in 2020. Looking forward to releasing that this October.
Corrective Measures (2022)
In the world's most dangerous maximum-security prison filled with supervillain inmates and corrupt staff, tensions rise…
AC: I think that’s it. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
GS: Check out Corrective Measures on Tubi and keep an eye out for the soundtrack album — coming soon!