Netflix’s award winning show Wild Wild Country is the best things I’ve watched in 2018. Directed by brothers Chapman and Maclain Way, the documentary series focuses on the Rajneesh movement led by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (later known as Osho) and specifically on the commune that the movement built outside of Antelope, OR in the early 80s. I talked to a third Way brother, Brocker, who composed the soundtrack for the series, now out on Western Vinyl.
How familiar were you with Osho, his teachings, and what happened in Oregon prior to working on the show?
I wasn’t aware of his teachings or what happened in Oregon before my brothers came upon those boxes of tapes that they saw at the Oregon Historical Society. I was slightly aware of the extension of the counterculture movement in 1970s in India, and the different gurus, but that’s just from knowing about influences of Indian music on minimalist music, but I didn’t know about Osho.
How did your brothers involve you in the project?
They were extremely excited about this story once they had seen the footage. Chap and Mac (Brocker’s brothers Chapman and Maclain Way) started compiling it slightly and they immediately gave me a call: “You have to come by right now and see what we’re doing…”
This is just how they do it—whether they like an idea or not—they will immediately edit some of the footage together in montages and put music that they like behind it. They were excited about this project, in the beginning just aesthetically, then we all knew that this was probably a project we’re going to pursue. Everyone started talking about this story and that’s how I got introduced to it, in this kind of manic research, just diving in for a couple months.
When did you know that you had found the right direction for this soundtrack?
There is a moment in our other projects when you gain a lot of confidence as a composer, and it was the same as Wild Wild Country: Once we start to understand the drive, and what the characters really believed in, then there’s a major shift musically for all of us.
In the beginning, there’s a tendency to put, I would say, contemporary art music that we all love over these montages, but that’s really before we have an idea of what is happening. The moment that we start to understand these motivations and where’s the story is going, the score starts to become a little more traditional, while gaining energy at the same time.
Then we’re able to use some musical signifiers that take the audience down the route that we’re used to with these characters because we have more confidence in what we’re trying to say. At the same time, I think, my brothers go through a transition themselves, and the music is completely tied to it. So often talking heads—you could call them in characters I guess—are difficult to “like” in the beginning when you are working with them and putting them together, especially with non-professional actors. So the moment you go from “what is this character?!” to diving and trying to support them as they are, the music just follows that so well.
You were using the word “characters” a minute ago. In the first episode, Sheela uses an analogy: she was the soprano in the opera, Osho was the tenor, and Oregon was the stage. Were you ever tempted to assign themes to each character?
Of course. We did plan to do that at first, but never affixed themes to different characters. There are things that repeat that throughout the series, but they are much more attached to the world these characters think they’re living and really believe in. Those ideas come back all the time but in terms of specific operatic ideas like fixed themes that did not happen.
The thing that was borrowed from the operatic part, was the sense of grandeur to that section, and I did push that a bit, so it did feel a little bit like a stage
There were also Indian music and Americana/Western music—two sensitive things that I was working with—and they both had a really strange interaction. I don’t want to fully say that Indian music was in it because in the music, as we understand it, isn’t in it, but it is in a ghostly way, and that’s the same thing with the Americana composing style. We were using some famous minimalist compositions as placeholders, and those were so heavily influenced by Indian music as well as the intellectual hippy movement that did follow Osho, you know. So to me it doesn’t directly point to Indian music, but it points to a time and a culture that we hope we got.
Something that comes out immensely in episode six—including through your music—is the feeling of compassion for every character involved. Am I correct in sensing this?
I think that there’s another goal which is just adjacent to being empathetic that results in this feeling of empathy. The goal is really about Mac and Chap’s relationship with the audience and what they’re trying to do for the audience. They love documentaries that bring the viewer down to the level of the characters and makes the audience see something of themselves in these people, and maybe, in a humble way, we are forced to learn about ourselves. At the end of this experience, you’ve been taking down these different paths and you go “man, I could’ve seen myself doing something like this,” or “I understand something that I wasn’t willing to understand prior to that.”
Wild Wild Country: Original Music From The Netflix Documentary Series [OST]
Out now on Western Vinyl