Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. blasts back to the airwaves tonight! In Season Three, S.H.I.E.L.D. continues to build upon its roster of fascinating characters and satisfying storylines, to be one of the most richly-layered series around. In many ways, the series has reinvented itself this season, pushing the edges of its superheroic and science fiction genre boundaries, as well as introducing nuances of tense political and intellectual conflict. This shift has given me the opportunity to, once again, reinvent the sound of the score. (more…)
We now find ourselves in the middle of #Droughtlander, the epic nine-month stretch between Outlander‘s first season finale and the premiere of Season Two. To help fill the gap, I’m happy to announce that my second Outlander soundtrack is available today, from iTunes, Amazon and most other retailers.
The Outlander Volume I soundtrack compiled some of my favorite cues from the first eight episodes of Outlander. The new record, Volume II, includes music from throughout the entire season, weighted heavily towards the last eight episodes. (more…)
Is it possible that nobody likes bagpipes? The true history of my Outlander score is finally revealed in my newest video blog:
“Nobody Likes Bagpipes” is a short little mockumentary about my passion for Scottish folk music, leading to my work on Outlander. Like my now-infamous “A Day in the Life” video, “Nobody Likes Bagpipes” is deep truth veiled beneath a thin sheen of hyperbole. Read on for exclusive behind-the-scenes photos: (more…)
One of the most exciting aspects of scoring Outlander is that each episode has its own tone, arc, and character, all fitting within the larger narrative structure. Despite rolling with the dramatic punches on some very dark subject matter throughout the season, I was still shocked by the graphic tone of the final two episodes when I first saw them. These two hours of television are among the darkest I have ever scored (and at this point, that’s really saying something!). Nevertheless, these are not stories of needless sadism and horror. The series earned this darkness, and the material was treated with restraint and respect at every turn. If you ever found yourself shielding your eyes in horror in these last two episodes, your response was aiding your experience of the story. I deeply respected the showrunners’ approach to the material, and wanted to match it with a measured and dramatic musical score, one that would heighten the drama and horror in equal measure. (more…)
If asked who my heroes were when I was eight years old, James Horner’s name would have been on a very short list of film composers whose work I adored. My cassette tapes of his soundtracks to Star Trek II, Star Trek III, Aliens and Willow wore down over endless repeat plays. Taking my mother’s VHS camcorder, I recreated Star Trek II scene by scene, using toys and puppets against a set I made out of a cardboard box, just so I could hear his score against it! Horner’s rich orchestral writing and thematic development ignited my imagination on long car trips, while walking to school, or while simply sitting in my room in front of my stereo. (more…)
In 2013, I scored a smart science fiction thriller called “Europa Report.” Using a found-footage / documentary style, the film tells the story of the first manned mission to Jupiter’s moon, Europa. In both the film and real life, the moon is believed to contain a liquid water ocean beneath its icy surface, as well as the chemical components necessary for life. This makes it an extremely interesting place, both for physical exploration and, of course, a perfect subject for a film. The film garnered rave reviews from fans and critics alike, and has done especially on Netflix. Since “Europa Report” was released, NASA has announced a mission to Europa in the coming decade, ensuring the moon will remain in the public consciousness for years to come.
My main theme for the film was surprisingly melodic. (more…)
Within Outlander’s first season, “Lallybroch,” “The Watch,” and “The Search” form a trilogy. The stories are tonally similar, returning us to the highland life we glimpsed in the first few episodes. Dramatically, these episodes allow us a brief relief after the overwhelming darkness in “The Devil’s Mark,” and before the final two episodes to come. I savored this opportunity to lighten my musical approach for a few weeks.
Scottish folk music has always been an integral component of my score. However, from “The Wedding” until now, the stories were entirely about Claire or Jamie and their relationships to other characters. There were very few opportunities to use music to comment on the world around them. That changed substantially for this trio of episodes. (more…)
“By the Pricking of My Thumbs” and “The Devil’s Mark” truly feel like a unified two-part story. The first episode is generally lighter in tone, but it’s events set up the relentless emotional rollercoaster of the second.
THE DULCIMER OF SANDRINGHAM
“By the Pricking of My Thumbs” introduces the Duke of Sandringham, a charmingly effete, backstabbing politician who will do anything to maintain his status in society. He’s funny, but ruthless. I did not write him a theme, because there really was no need. His role is primarily as a solution to Jamie’s problem. The actor, Simon Callow, brilliantly provided the character with memorable mannerisms, so I felt no need to clutter his scenes with melody. (more…)
After a long hiatus, Outlander returns this week to wrap up the final eight episodes of its first season. “The Reckoning” is a mammoth episode, featuring the series’ most driving action, tense political conflicts and emotional revelations to date. It also includes the controversial spanking scene that has ignited debate amongst fans and critics alike. This episode presented my most daunting musical challenges since the first episode, and allowed me to introduce new musical colors that will stay with us for the rest of the season and beyond.
A NEW POINT OF VIEW
Showrunner Ronald D. Moore made a bold decision to shift the narrative from Claire’s perspective to Jamie’s perspective for this episode. This is made clear instantly when we hear Jamie’s voice-over narration in the opening shots. This perspective shift is crucial, because Jamie makes several important decisions in this episode, and the audience needs to understand his motivations. Claire isn’t even present for several of these scenes, so it would have been impossible to tell the story from her point of view. (more…)
A few months ago, I stumbled across the works of English poet Christina Rossetti (1830 – 1894). I was struck by the eloquent melancholy in her surprisingly contemporary writing, and could practically hear her voice speaking to me as I read. I found a two-stanza poem simply called “Song,” and read the first line: When am I dead, my dearest, sing no sad songs for me. An explosion went off in my brain, and I knew I had to write music for these words. Today, I just posted a video of the complete piece:
Scoring music for narrative can be a joyous experience (that is why I dedicate the vast majority of my waking hours to doing it), but I am always open to exploring other avenues of musical expression. Taking advantage of my sudden burst of inspiration, I carved out a weekend to… ** gasp! ** … write music just for the fun of it! (more…)