From the bagpipes of Scotland, the baroque harpsichords of Paris, to the blistering Afro-Cuban percussion of Jamaica, my score for Outlander has continuously evolved to keep up with Claire and Jamie as they traverse both time and space. For the series’ fourth season, our heroes explored America, laying down the foundation for a new home, so I introduced to the score the twangy banjos and dulcimers of the Appalachian Mountains. Where that season explored new frontiers, Season Five plants roots, digging into themes of building community, forming civilization, expanding families, and forming allegiances. For the first time in the history of Outlander, my score for Season Five had no need to introduce bold new instruments or styles.
Inspired by the drama, I knew it was time to plant my own musical roots, and develop the colors and themes I already had. Like the drama itself, the music for Outlander Season Five stopped expanding outward into new territories, and instead planted roots. Though the score does not introduce any new sound this season, I feel its developmental and emotional strengths make it as strong as anything I’ve written leading up to it.(more…)
Outlander Season Four chronicles a dramatic journey: from the bustling streets of colonial era Wilmington, across vast stretches of Appalachian wilderness, to Cherokee and Mohawk lands. This journey leaps from the modernity of the 1960’s to the simmering pre-Revolutionary tension of eighteenth-century America. These settings present a challenge for a composer, because each era, culture, and geographical location offers potential musical influences for the score. My goal was to assimilate all these ideas into a score that helps the audience follow the various narrative threads and still supports the drama. Oh, and I wanted to use banjos now too!
BAGPIPES AND BANJOS
My work began as I set out to rearrange a new version of “The Skye Boat Song” for the season’s Main Title. Changing a series’ Main Title is relatively rare in television, and yet this marks the sixth, arguably seventh, iteration of the beloved folk song I have produced for Outlander. (The previous were Season 1’s original, Season 2’s “French” and “Jacobite” versions, and Season 3’s “After Culloden” and “Caribbean” versions. I also produced an “Extended” version for the Season 1 Volume 2 soundtrack album, though it was never used in the series itself.)(more…)
In the second half of Outlander‘s epic third season, our characters undertake a harrowing journey, setting sail across the Atlantic to Jamaica, in search of Young Ian. Like the show’s move to the courts of Paris in Season Two, this massive shift in geography had to be acknowledged with an equally seismic shift in the score. I cannot imagine any project other than Outlander that would allow me to set a soaring bagpipe melody over blistering congas!
A new musical language is evident immediately in the main title of the ninth episode, “The Doldrums.” Here, “The Skye Boat Song” begins, as always, with Raya Yarbrough’s haunting solo vocal, but is unexpectedly accompanied by exotic percussion!
I don’t believe I’ve tackled a season of television as richly rewarding as Outlander’s Season Three. Separated by centuries in Season Two’s heart-wrenching finale, Jamie and Claire spend the first five episodes isolated in their own timelines, a narrative journey that spans two decades. This season allowed me to further develop familiar themes, and introduce new melodies, instrumentation, and nuance to the score.
A new season of Outlander would not be complete without a distinct variation of “The Skye Boat Song” for its main title. I introduced the tune in Season One, combining Scottish folk instrumentation, orchestra and the voice of Raya Yarbrough. At the start of Season Two, I rearranged it for baroque instrumentation, while Raya performed certain passages in French. That was followed up by a patriotic rendition, emphasizing Scottish snare drums and bagpipes, underscoring the build up to the Battle of Culloden. (more…)
While Outlander fans wait with bated breath for 2017 to deliver new episodes, I can perhaps ease some “Droughtlander” anxiety with today’s release of my new soundtrack album, compiling tracks from the epic second season. The album is available today, in both digital and physical formats, in a collaborated release from Madison Gate Records and Sparks & Shadows.
“Outlander: Season 2” is without doubt my most diverse album yet, and presented a real challenge to pull together as a satisfying listening experience. The score ranges from the ornate halls of Baroque Parisian courts, to muddy Scottish battlefields during the Jacobite uprising. While I do not always feel soundtrack albums must play in sequential order, I found that this season absolutely had to be sequenced that way.
The album feels almost like two different albums played back to back. The first half presents music from Paris, beginning with the French version of the “Skye Boat Song.” Track 11, the “Jacobite” version of that same song, shifts the tone radically to music from the Scotland episodes. Some tracks don’t perfectly fit the structure, such as “Leave the Past Behind,” a score cue that is not French in any way, coming from the premiere episode before we saw Claire and Jamie arrive in France. However, it still fit the flow of the musical storytelling, so I left it at the beginning. To me, that track almost feels like an opening overture before we dive into the Parisian material. (more…)
In the second half of Season Two, Outlander took a major geographical and tonal leap, returning Jamie and Claire to Scotland at the dawn of the Jacobite rising. These episodes focused on their efforts to prevent inevitable deaths at Culloden. My score needed to shift back to the haunting Scottish sounds of season one, with an added emphasis on military percussion and pipes.
This change is evident immediately with the new Main Title Theme in Episode 208, “The Fox’s Lair.” The track begins with Raya Yarbrough’s haunting vocal once more, but I removed the viola da gamba and chamber orchestra that implied Paris. Instead, the bodhrán frame drum returns. At first, it feels like we are simply reusing the season one theme, but the track quickly evolves from there. Iconic Scottish snare drums sneak in behind her voice, providing a distinctly militaristic feeling. For the final chorus, I replaced the moving bassline with a steady drone in the low strings and bagpipes. This gives the final chorus a distinctly Scottish feeling, evoking the pedal-tone drones of military bagpipe bands. The instrumentation is predominantly the same, but the emotional impact of this harmonic change is intense. This main title sequence prepares us for war.
With Jamie and Claire spending half of Outlander’s second season in Paris, I knew I would have to make dramatic changes to the score. The Scottish instrumentation that defined season one was pushed into the background, to make room for an entirely new palette of instruments, themes and performance techniques derived from French baroque music. Adapting my writing style to this approach proved to be one of the most daunting creative challenges I’ve faced. (more…)
The first season of Outlander gave me the chance to fulfill a life-long dream of incorporating Scottish folk music and instrumentation into an original score. The second season, debuting this weekend on Starz, presented an immensely challenging shift in tone. Our protagonists move from the rolling hills of the Scottish highlands, to the gilded halls of Parisian courts during the opulent reign of King Louis XV. I enthusiastically embraced this dramatic journey by reinventing the sound of my 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…)