Downton Abbey composer John Lunn talks with Score host Jon Burlingame before performing works from the show with the orchestra.
Once showrunners hire composers, says acclaimed music-maker Sean Callery, the showrunners create sandboxes for them to play in: "They say, ‘Go out and explore, go find a sound for the show.’”
On May 21, a packed house at UCLA Royce Hall was treated to some of that sandbox play when the Television Academy presented Score! A Concert Celebrating Music Composed for Television.
Television Academy members and guests witnessed first-time symphonic performances of works by accomplished composers Sean Callery, Alf Clausen, Jeff Beal, Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, John Lunn, Walter Murphy, James S. Levine and Bear McCreary, Trevor Morris, Ramin Djawadi and Mark Snow.
Actor Tim Daly presented Snow — who happens to be Daly's brother-in-law — with the Music Peer Group Career Achievement Award, in recognition of the composer's prolific and diverse 30-year career. The composer then conducted suites from Millennium and The X-Files.
Unlike previous Academy television music concerts, notably two at the Hollywood Bowl, the show focused almost entirely on current or recent program music, spotlighting suites created by composers especially for the concert.
An opening video of theme-music clips from nearly 90 classic TV 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.
Among Score's other highlights, a surprise band of zombies emerged from the audience, attacked Walking Dead composer McCreary onstage as he was conducting his suite, then dragged him screaming offstage. And a rousing sword fight broke out between medieval-costumed warriors as Djawadi delivered a regal rendition of his Game of Thrones work.
Host Jon Burlingame noted that quick sellout of this event indicates a deeper reverance for television music than many would have guessed exists.
"Music for television is not just ‘background,’ or ‘underscore,’ as it's often referred to," he said, "but rather an integral part of the storytelling experience, a critical factor in creating mood, setting the pace, reminding us of the place and the people and most of all, conveying the emotion that is ultimately the reason we keep tuning in.”
Ian Fraser and Michael A. Levine are the music peer group governors. Levine, Watters and Lucas Cantor served as executive producers for Score. Spike Jones, Jr. produced and directed.From the Red Carpet: Composers Reveal Their Favorite TV Themes from Childhood