Nate Omdal: Soundtrack to the Film Enemy Within

Originally published in Earshot Jazz December 2014

Bassist Nate Omdal likes the “Italian cooking” style of music creation – put the right ingredients (musicians) together in the pot (studio) and the results can be delicious (spectacular sounding). In the case of the soundtrack for the short narrative dance file Enemy Within, it was Josh Rawlings on piano, Begin Scarseth on violin, Maria Scherer Wilson on cello, and Nate Omdal on double bass in the PONCHO Concert Hall at Cornish College of the Arts being sampled by “bitter barista” rapper/producer Matt Watson a.k.a. Spekulation.

Omdal composed and rearranged stripped down dramatic harmonic cadences from Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni and Aaron Copeland’s orchestral suite Appalachian Spring. Clean performances of these sketches formed the building blocks for mixing and morphing by Omdal and Watson to represent the film’s narrative of a dancer representing insecurity as she stalks and challenges three other dancers struggling with beauty, self image and confidence. The film spans ballet, modern, and dubstep dancing and the soundtrack became the basis for the film’s choreography.

Film music requires melodic material that can fit and bend to the shifting harmonies underlying the emotional arc of a story. Typically, soundtracks are created after the filming is complete. Often the musical craft is invisible to the audience and except for certain masters like John Williams (Star Wars), Ennio Morricone (Cinema Paradiso), and Bernard Herrmann (Vertigo), soundtracks are seldom contain memorable compositions absent their visual stories. Listening to film music without the film is a little like admiring an automobile engine instead of driving a car to get where you need to go.

The visuals for Enemy Within are powerfully beautiful so please hear the music in the context of the film. The movements, bodies, lighting, staging, editing and sound effects are works of art in themselves. But because the dance was created to fit the music rather than the other way around, the music preceded the filming. That said, the soundtrack consists of five acts and music for the end credits.

It’s amazing how the music focuses and frames the story for the dance and film. Act one blends a minor descending chord progression in the piano strings with the buzzy wah from the dubstep DJ palette. Act two features delicate rippling piano solos by Josh Rawlings over Omdals plucked bass and string pad. Act three starts with a suspended descending chord progression joined with dubstep electronics and drums, cutting back and forth between the acoustic and electronic sounds, at times layering them together. Act four builds on the established motifs and moods, but now with an ascending progression. Act five begins with a chiming celesta and detuned piano.

Omdal’s background includes study with bassist Chuck Deardorf and composer Denney Goodhew at Cornish ten years ago. Since then he has been busy as a producer and arranger with a wide variety of collaborators. He co-founded the Seattle Jazz Composers Orchestra with Michael Owcharuk in 2007 and connected with Spekulation in 2010.

Omdal’s skills extend beyond creating music to advocating for better working conditions. He worked with departments of Seattle city government to introduce musicians’ loading zones in four of the city’s busiest nightlife districts and the Washington state labor council to get a stipend for sound system repair at local clubs.

Visit to read more about Nate.

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