All Quiet on the Western Front Composer Volker Bertelmann Wins Original Score Oscar

German composer Volker Bertelmann won the original score Oscar Sunday night for his music for the World War I epic “All Quiet on the Western Front.”

“By working on a film like that, you are always touched,” Bertelmann said in accepting the honor, referring to the harrowing nature of the film. “Sometimes you have to make the screen very small because there are so many explosions happening.”

It is Bertelmann’s first Academy Award. He was previously nominated, under his stage name Hauschka, for his music for the 2016 film “Lion” (co-composed with Dustin O’Halloran). He won the BAFTA for “All Quiet” on Feb. 19.

The German-language remake of the 1930 antiwar classic is the latest in a series of collaborations with director Edward Berger. Their best-known work in the U.S. is the five-part Benedict Cumberbatch series “Patrick Melrose,” which aired in 2018 on Showtime.

For this adaptation of the Erich Maria Remarque classic, Bertelmann used his great-grandmother’s turn-of-the-century harmonium, a pump organ whose carefully mic’d interior noises (“the breathing, the air, the wooden cracklings”) sounded to him like “a war machine.”

Bertelmann’s scary three-note “destruction” motive – which reminded Berger of Led Zeppelin – permeates the entire score, and his music for the naive soldier Paul was filtered to emulate the muffled sound he might have experienced in trenches surrounded by gunfire and explosions.

Active in avant-garde music on the European music scene, Bertelmann frequently employs prepared piano and electronics. His other films include “Ammonite” and “The Old Guard.”

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