I don’t think of the music as a character, though
it has character and it has a strong point of view. What it’s doing, I think, is reinforcing the drama in ways that the audience needs to help feel and sometimes even help understand.
Bear McCeary, Composer, “Outlander”
Standout stories free composers and music supervisors to create unique soundscapes.
By Nate Nickolai
Episodic TV scores have long been a favored spot for bold sounds and emerging bands. A music supervisor can hear a track, put it into the mix for an episode, and a few weeks later it can be heard by millions.
But bold music choices aren’t limited just to pre-existing songs – many music curators have found success by creating their own unconventional sounds. “Vida” music supervisor Brienne Rose looked to incorporate Latin-inspired original music. Alongside Starz and Pulse Studio, she helped host an all-female writers camp where a group of artists wrote songs for specific scenes throughout the second season.
“It can be really beautifully seamless when a song is written specifically for a scene,” Rose says. “We really wanted something that felt authentic.”
The music for “Power” is an eclectic mix ranging from new artists to legends, says Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, an executive producer on season 6 of the show. “We also have musical talent involved — like Rotimi, who has dropped a song or two on the show. The music helps create the backdrop for great drama, but it’s the drama that inspires the music choices.”
“Outlander” composer Bear McCreary echoes that thought. “I don’t think of the music as a character, though it has character and it has a strong point of view,” he says. “What it’s doing, I think, is reinforcing the drama in ways that the audience needs to help feel and sometimes even help understand.”
McCreary notes that because of “Outlander’s” time-jumping narrative, he had to abandon conventional scoring and instead incorporated Scottish folk music, Afro-Cuban beats and classic bluegrass.
“Only very special shows can support music that is really bold,” he says. “I am in a supportive role… but I also get to do that in a language that is very visceral and commands some of the audience’s attention, because it’s not like what you hear in other stories.”
“Now Apocalypse” creator Gregg Araki believes that when it comes to making a television show, it’s all about the music.
“I specifically set out to use music in a very subjective and very sort of different way,” he says. “Alternative music has always been a big part of that… and [the show’s sound] is very indicative of this kind of diverse, alternative culture.”