Francesco Lupica is one cosmic dude. Note the weather-beaten skin like leather, his weird hat with a silk band, and the fact that he has more rings than a fortune-teller. It's the kind of look you see on guys hawking gem stones and alien posters on the Venice Boardwalk. But Francesco is a well-spoken mystic, and has worked with directors like Terrence Malick — on the best-picture-nominated The Tree of Live — and making his own compelling music.
His main instrument is something he calls his Cosmic Beam, a 450 pound 13 foot long steel structure with custom strings that vibrates of off electromagnetic pickups placed every three feet or so. The sound created is a strange, otherworldly drone, not unlike a landing UFO. The layered rhythms and drones sound like a score, and indeed they have been in The Thin Red Line, Star Trek, and Sicko, and he's signed on provide music for the next three Malick projects.
The director first heard Lupica's LP Cosmic Beam Experience in 1975, and he was invited to a pre-production meeting for Malick's now-classic Days of Heaven, starring Richard Gere. “It was such an incredible room of talent,” Lupica remembers. “Terrence is a real gentlemen, soft spoken and tremendously intelligent.”
But Lupica's music didn't end up in the movie, and then Malick disappeared, as he is apt to do, for almost twenty years.
In the meantime Lupica continued making beam music, using a tenant-less building near Encino building to put on concerts. But then the building was sold and Lupica was given an eviction notice. On a whim, he called Malick's office to see if the director was still interested in working with him.
“Terrence got on the phone and said: 'Francesco, we've been trying to get a hold of you for five months!” Malick promptly came by and Lupica gave him a private show. Soon after, he was helping to score 1998's The Thin Red Line, and his beam music was featured in almost every scene in the film.
It was the beginning of a strange partnership, which has culminated in three Oscar nods for The Tree of Life, a film in which Lupica's music is an integral element. “I've noticed that Terrence uses my music in the most emotional parts of his films,” Lupica says, “It will support a moment of rich spiritual comment.” Far out, man.