Stuart A. Staples - Music for Claire Denis' High Life

Stuart A. Staples Music for Claire Denis' High Life

April 05, 2019

'High Life’ represents the pinnacle of Staples’ work for director Claire Denis; it is the eighth Denis soundtrack by either tindersticks or Staples. From the orchestral romanticism of 'Trouble Every Day', the dry African landscapes of 'White Material' and the dark, electronic brooding of 'Les Salauds', 'High Life' is the most ambitious and experimental score to date.

Although 'High Life' exists loosely within the sci-fi genre and is set on board a prison spacecraft, the music concentrates on the hypnotic nature of that existence and the intimacy, both violent and tender, of the relationships within.

Staples on his new work:

Most of the music for High Life was made before the filming. The conversation with Claire started maybe as far back as 2012. There were many ideas I wanted to explore and I appreciated the foresight of Claire and the producers in offering me support and encouragement to do this. As well as work with usual collaborators Dan McKinna, Neil Fraser and Earl Harvin, this afforded me purely experimental recording sessions with David Coulter, Thomas Bloch, David Okumu, Julian Siegel, Seb Rochford and the BBC singers. Several long sketches / pieces were created from these sessions that the eventual score was formed from or informed by.

I approached High Life with the simple idea of creating a sort of random music, existing in a void – like the constellations themselves – a framework that was always hidden from the musician and that they had only minimal or no information to play or react to as we recorded. The first piece completed was ‘The Yellow light’ for the early Claire Denis / Olafur Eliasson collaborative short film ‘Contact’ (2014). For this, each instrument / part was played into silence with arbitrary start points creating random movements and relationships when brought together. This theme / way of working runs through the entire making of the score for High life. Musicians generally worked ‘in the darkness’.

For ‘the void’ itself a series of hums and drones were created in the studio - various instruments played, or feeding back, or with their notes Sellotaped down, to make the studio space resonate in different keys. These stereo recordings were alive, working and changing within themselves – this approach was informed by my experiences creating the sound installation ‘Ypres’ at the In Flanders Fields WW1 museum in Belgium and the adventure of making this 12th century hall vibrate and resonate with its evolving orchestral score.

And then there was ‘Willow’. a seed of a song shared by myself and Dan Mckinna that eventually grew to be the conclusion of the High life with Robert Pattinson, the lead actor, singing the song in character to his daughter Willow, a theme that runs through the film.

For the flashback sequences on earth I spent many consecutive nights recording in the rain waiting for the right intensity of heavy drops falling from the guttering of my studio onto the carefully positioned paella pans below.

I felt the score should be intimate and hypnotic. Music made of hands and breath - acoustic instruments, electric guitars, fingertips.


High Life Press!


Stuart A. Staples

Music for Claire Denis' High Life

City Slang (WORLD) - Milan Records (North America)

Release Date:

Digital April 5th, 2019

CD April 12th, 2019

LP May 3rd, 2019

Track List:

  1. The Garden
  2. Willow Lullaby
  3. System Report
  4. High Life Main Title
  5. River Flashback
  6. Fluids
  7. The Fuck Box
  8. Bad Genes Revolution
  9. Radiation
  10. Rape of Boyse
  11. Insemination
  12. Grow Baby, Grow
  13. Boyse's Death
  14. The Dog Ship
  15. Monte and Willow
  16. The Yellow Light
  17. Willow (tindersticks feat. Robert Pattinson)
  18. The Black Hole (excerpt)