Composer John McDowell on the creation of the music for Sold

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To create the sounds of Sold, director Jeffrey D. Brown worked with composer and musician John McDowell. Mr. McDowell seemed a perfect fit for Sold because he previously worked on and created the acclaimed soundtrack for the Oscar winning documentary Born in Brothels. For Sold, he took his work for Born Into Brothels and created a new sound full of harmony while keeping to the roots of Indian classical music and it perfectly frames the scenes in the film.

Recently the film ran a campaign on Indiegogo, which was an extension of their efforts to raise money not only to get the film released to more theaters in March, but also to raise money to support and fight child trafficking. Though the time is over, in an exciting event, the film’s campaigning is once again being highlighted on Indiegogo ( on #GivingTuesday, which is December 1st. We thought that since one of the perks of the film is a copy of the soundtrack, we would talk with the composer and find out more about the music of Sold. Read on to see how created the sound and why he feels this film is so important!

What made Sold a film that you wanted to contribute too?
The message and mission is so important. Also I love working with Indian music and the immense depths it brings.

I know you did the music for Born into Brothels, what did you take from that experience to put into creating the music of Sold?
I’ve been working with World music for some time now and I liked starting with some of the ideas I developed in Born Into Brothels and pushing them further. For example, in traditional Indian classical music there’s no real harmony in Western terms. I found ways to create more harmony while adhering to the principals of raga musical system.

What sort of brief did they give you?
I saw a rough cut and heard Jeffrey’s inspired call for action.

How was it to work with director Jeffrey D. Brown?
Jeffrey’s enthusiasm and positive nature is compelling. He is sort of a pied piper, which you really have to be in order to do this kind of project.

15nov_johnmcdowell-01What guided you during the creating of the music?
The film and story guides. The story is tough and hard to experience but there is always hope and salvation.

How do you approach creating music for a film like this – what goes into your process?
Usually the music sections are predetermined from the cut but there is some flexibility. I usually speak with the director about how the temporary music is or is not working. Then I look for a pallette of instruments to use throughout the film. In this case, it was a small orchestra of Indian and western musicians.

Since it is a Hollywood film, but set in India, was your guiding line to keep it deeply rooted in the sounds and music of India?
We didn’t want too much straight ahead Indian classical music but it is very much an integral part of the composition.

Tell us about the instruments you brought in to make the music come alive.
I rarely use synthesized sounds unless they are really called for. 90% of the music is played by real people, top level musicians. That’s where the deep moods and soul comes from. I often have musicians have one eye on the film when they are recording.

From the director, to the producer, to the actors so many people have been changed by the experience of being a part of this film. Did that happen to you?
After the work is done and you see the film in a theater then you sense what an impact it has. Especially this film.

What do you hope this film will do for this human rights tragedy?
Make a difference but more than that, help stop child sex trafficking, slavery of any kind.

They are using Sold as platform to make a change in the world. Your thoughts on that?
It has a good chance of making a huge impact for change.

15nov_johnmcdowell-02How important do you feel are films like this?
Very important.

What do you think music can do for a film?
As they say, watch a film and turn down the sound when there is no dialogue and see what happens.

What do you think music can do in the world? What do you hope it can do?
Music is a great unifier, there’s not much violent music in the world but rather music that soothes and moves people.

What is it like to see your music within the film once it is all done?
It’s an odd feeling watching and listening knowing every note and instance behind the music. It’s a private experience but then you let it release into the world.

What do you hope audiences will take away with them after seeing Sold?
Get involved to support the cause!

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