Last night, the epic mid-season finale of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. broadcast, featuring shocking narrative twists. The episode concluded with a beautiful extended sequence that clearly required a special piece of music, one I called “Crossing into Darkness.” Here’s a behind-the-scenes peek at me conducting the mammoth 90-piece orchestra during this episode’s climactic moments:
(SPOILER FREE) – “Maveth” was an extraordinary episode, representing a crossroads between old and new storylines. At least a half dozen important musical themes were incorporated throughout the episode, including two new themes I introduced to represent new characters. I spend a lot of time on my blog writing about my creative process, and I’ll dive into the details of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3 themes at another occasion. Instead, I want to shine a spotlight on the tremendous amount of work that goes on behind-the-scenes to make a score like this possible.
“Maveth” was performed by a 90-piece orchestra at the Newman Scoring Stage on the 20th Century Fox lot, comprised of musicians who rank among the best in the world. First of all, I am always grateful to ABC and Marvel for granting me the resources to use an orchestra of this size on a television show. That, alone, makes this experience special.
The schedule, however, is often not in our favor. Because of the typical network television schedule crunch, I had no choice but to record “Maveth” on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I am fortunate to work with the best players Los Angels has to offer, and I’ve formed a personal bond with all of them. (I call out directions from the podium, calling people by their first names.) I figured all my regulars would be gone on a well-deserved Thanksgiving holiday. To my surprise, when I walked out into the room, I saw them all out there, looking well-rested and ready for a fun session. The fact that my contractor Peter Rotter could assemble an ensemble of this caliber over a holiday is nothing short of a minor miracle.
When working on a scale this immense, where every minute with the orchestra has been budgeted precisely, an incredibly well-organized team is needed to make sure it all gets done. When I realized that “Maveth” would require an orchestra even larger than normal (our typical size is between 55 and 70 players), it set into motion a series of tasks that more than a dozen people needed to tackle. Booking the larger stage, making sure the equipment would all work after a complete power-down that was scheduled for the holiday weekend, securing the extra players, making sure visiting producers had drive-ons and parking, and addressing countless other needs. My team at Sparks & Shadows, my engineering team, my orchestration and copying teams, Peter Rotter’s contracting team, everyone at the Newman Stage, Dawn Soler and everyone at ABC music, Chris Cheramie and everyone at S.H.I.E.L.D. post-production, the writers and producers, Richard Kraft and everyone at Kraft-Engel Management, and many more all rose to the occasion to make this happen.
The end result of all this effort, I hope, is a score that justifies all the hard work. While all these people dealt with the technicalities and logistics, I was able to disappear into my studio and free my mind to imagine beautiful music. I feel a sense of responsibility to everyone losing sleep working on behalf of this show and this score. I owe it to them to write music that will sound amazing, to make sure that the session is rewarding for everyone involved. I feel like we all achieved that goal with “Maveth.” When I conducted the first pass through “Crossing into Darkness,” I turned around and saw the control room packed with everyone who had been working for a week to make that moment happen: despite their exhaustion, they were grinning ear to ear. Some of them admitted to me later that they cried when they first heard the cue.
I am immensely proud of the music, the show, and all the teams that came together to make it happen. We are all just small moving parts in the larger machine that is needed to get an ambitious series like Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on the air. But, everyone involved works to the bone to make it happen, and every step is essential.
I am grateful to everyone who contributed to make this experience possible, and I look forward to continuing further into Season 3 in 2016.