Skip to main content
Toggle menu

Mica Levi: Under the Skin

22 Mar 2017

How to Listen to the 21st Century: our series of 'steps' help you explore the music throughout our 2016/17 season. As part of our UK tour of Mica Levi's intoxicating score to Under the Skin, live with the film, we get to know the BAFTA-nominated composer's influences and more.

Step 1 image


Mica Levi talks us through the various musical influences behind her score to Under the Skin from Iannis Xenakis to 50 Cent...

“Although I didn't refer to these things at the time of writing the music, I realise on reflection the influences in the music were likely from these sources."

For the seduction methods of the protagonist

"Old strip club music, music styles associated with sex. For a while in the 2000’s producers such as Dre sampled Bollywood music from films, sampling happens from movies loads anyway in Hip Hop, like Wu-Tang Clan’s Kung Fu movie samples." 


DJ Screw was the pioneer of screwed music – and in my opinion the most hardcore avant-garde early hip hop artist – distorting time, cosmic too. 

The alien elements of the score were influenced by Iannis Xenakis’ Tetras – I’d never heard anything like this before when I first heard it.

For 'Love'

"The song ‘love’ from the score is the protagonist's first experience of having feelings for a human. It was influenced by rushes of emotion and euphoric club music."

The ‘cosmos’ music was all about innovative use of percussion, lots of cymbal rolls – think Art Ensemble of Chicago’s style.”

Mica Levi


Mica faces our quickfire Q+A and tells us about her musical style, her fears and her best musical joke...

What do you regard as your greatest artistic achievement?
I broke in and climbed up a city building under construction with my friends as a teen, to the scaffolding’s 11th floor – that was freedom. I could tell you my worst more easily.

What do you fear?
Boredom, constant sadness, arthritis (fear itself).

What’s the most unusual performance you’ve been a part of?
My band and I played a song of ours with about 40 school kids in a church once – that was insane, it was way better than the original.

What was the first recording you ever bought?
Probably the Beatles second hand <3. But new music was Comin’ Atcha! by Cleopatra (an all girl group from Birmingham, 1998).

Describe your compositional style in three words.
Bored, sad, arthritis.

If you could have any other profession, what would it be?
A pro-footballer, pro-racing driver or pro-jungle trawler. Sorry that’s three!

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
My Dad probably.

Tell us your best musical joke.
What’s the difference between the first desk of the violas and the second? A semi tone.

Step 3


When it comes to music for film, the best way to listen to the score is surely as it was intended – in partnership with the film in question. Levi's score elevates Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin to an eerie and intoxicating state. If you can't make it to one of our live performances, curl up with your Netflix account and experience the score as it accompanies Johansson's otherworldly character on her quest.

Step 4


We love this interview with Mica Levi, conducted when London Sinfonietta worked with her band Micachu & The Shapes on their album Chopped and Screwed. She talks about her approach to music-making, the significance of making her own instruments and her collaboration with the London Sinfonietta.

Step 5


Our Instagram account is your backstage pass on the day of the London performance, but in the meantime, here are some snaps from last week's rehearsal for Under the Skin with Mica, conductor Jonathan Berman and the orchestra. Follow us on Instagram to see more.