Composer and USC Thornton alumnus Michael Abels (’84, Composition) is the subject of a recent Los Angeles Times profile for his scoring work for Jordan Peele’s hit 2017 thriller, Get Out. Peele discovered the composer, who is best known for his gospel and orchestral compositions, through a Youtube clip of Abel’s Urban Legends concerto for string quartet and orchestra. Get Out was Abel’s first film score.
“[Peele] said to me: ‘I want the African American voice in this film,’” Abels told the Times. “And he meant that both literally and figuratively. We came up with this concept of, I was looking for ‘gospel horror.’ I think any film composer would be completely inspired by a chance to do something that, by definition, doesn’t exist.”
Abels incorporated aspects of the African American cultural experience into the choral-rich soundtrack, including Swahili chants and phrases. The collaboration earned praise from another groundbreaking filmmaker, Peele recounted. “[Steven Spielberg] said, ‘You know, Michael Abels, that guy is great. You’ve got to use him again. It’s like me and John Williams.’”