Mark Snow Honored During Spirited TV Music Concert
A packed Royce Hall hears a stirring salute to television music and its makers at special “Score!” event.
With 3 Emmys for scoring Fox’s 24 — and nominations for main titles for Elementary, Homeland and the miniseries The Kennedys — composer Sean Callery, like his musical colleagues, knows well the diversity of television work. So, what’s his approach to composing?
“Each project has a story and a tone,” Callery says. “Once a showrunner hires you, they create a sandbox for you. They say, ‘Go out and explore. Go find a sound for the show.’”
Television Academy members and guests packed UCLA’s Royce Hall on May 21 for samples of that sandbox play — by Callery and many other composers — when the Academy presented “Score! A Concert Celebrating Music Composed for Television."
For the evening, the composers had expanded some of their main titles and excerpts from their scores into suites, which were performed by a 70-piece orchestra. Accompanying the musicians was the 30-member L.A. Chorus, directed by Steve Lively. Television and film music author-journalist Jon Burlingame hosted.
An opening video of theme-music clips from nearly 90 classic shows led seamlessly into a live medley of main titles from 24 contemporary series. Arranged and conducted by 6 time Emmy winner Mark Watters, the medley included Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Copper, The Amazing Race, Survivor, The Americans, Modern Family and Veep and was punctuated by cheers and applause from the audience.
Along with the evening’s music, the audience was treated to insights from the composers. In a brief on-stage interview, composer John Lunn — who traveled from England to conduct his lush Downton Abbey suite — explained how he came up with the theme for the much-loved PBS Masterpiece drama.
Lunn said he watched various scenes that sparked many emotions, among them, a train traveling through the English countryside. Seeing the household being awakened by a servant led to the notion of the house running like a well-oiled machine, similar to the train. “As soon as I got that, I knew [how to proceed],” he said.
In a very different vein, music from The Simpsons included the cheerful main title by Danny Elfman and “The Stonecutters Song” by Alf Clausen and lyricist John Swartzwelder, conducted by Clausen’s longtime orchestrator Dell Hake. Two-time Emmy winner Clausen related how he first balked at the offer to compose for an animated series, considering himself “a drama guy.”
Simpsons creator Matt Groening told him: “We look upon our show not as a cartoon, but as a drama where the characters are drawn.” So, Clausen decided to try scoring one episode. “They liked what I had to say,” Clausen recalled. “They kept me on, and I’ve been there 25 years!”
House of Cards composer Jeff Beal took the stage to conduct powerful, pulsating music from the political drama, followed by his Emmy-winning theme from Monk, with a guitar solo by Grant Geissman, the Emmy-nominated co-composer of the theme to Two and a Half Men.
For Monk, Beal briefly laid down his baton and took up his flugelhorn.
Introduced from the audience were composing partners Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, Emmy winners for their Nurse Jackie main title. Suzi Katayama conducted their suite, including that series as well as the lively Touch, mystical Carnivale and Heroes.
The first half of the concert closed with a suite composed and conducted by Bear McCreary, last year’s main-title Emmy winner for Da Vinci’s Demons. The music featured that theme as well as Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and a surprise — actors dressed as zombies from The Walking Dead, who took over the stage, including conducting duties.
After intermission, 10-time Emmy winner Bruce Broughton took note of the 100th anniversary of the performing-rights organization ASCAP, a supporter of the concert along with the Guild of Music Supervisors.
The music continued with Callery, who conducted his suite from The Kennedys, Elementary and 24.
Actor Tim Daly presented his brother-in-law Mark Snow (Blue Bloods, The X-Files, Ghost Whisperer, Smallville) with a career achievement award from the Academy’s music peer group, in recognition of Snow’s prolific and diverse 30 year career. The composer conducted Millennium and The X-Files.
With composers taking their direction from show creators, James S. Levine discussed working with Ryan Murphy on such polar-opposite series as Glee and American Horror Story.
“Ryan is intimately involved in all the musical choices,” said the composer, prior to conducting a suite of those shows. “We worked very closely in establishing a musical identity for each show, and we worked on character development.”
A change of pace came with what Burlingame warned was “the most risqué and politically incorrect” segment of the evening: music from the animated Fox series Family Guy, composed and conducted by Walter Murphy, with lyrics by show creator Seth MacFarlane, Danny Smith and David Zuckerman.
“Seth felt having a live orchestra would humanize the animated characters,” said Murphy, who with MacFarlane won Emmys in 2002 for music and lyrics. “We have a 65 piece orchestra every week.”
The evening’s final selections came from epic period dramas. The Borgias, with its dramatic vocals, and the more reflective The Tudors were composed and conducted by Trevor Morris, an Emmy winner for the main titles of both Showtime series.
HBO’s fantasy Game of Thrones — its regal music composed and conducted by Ramin Djawadi — served up another surprise: the suite was preceded by an on-stage swordfight by costumed warriors.
The evening was dedicated to the late Academy COO Lucy Hood. Ian Fraser and Michael A. Levine are the music peer group governors. Levine, Watters and Lucas Cantor were executive producers; Spike Jones, Jr., was producer and director.
Originally published in Emmy magazine issue no. 2014-05.