Sunday, June 30, 2013

Web Series Composer Process #1: Main Title Theme + Bossa Derivation


I've had a blast collaborating with director Matthew Anderson to compose an original musical score for the new web series Theater People. In the first of several planned installments, I'll offer some samples of the work and describe our process a bit.

The series is a ten-episode comedy that uses the Twin Cities theater scene as a backdrop. When I asked Matt what he was looking for in terms of a score, he talked about the use of music in Woody Allen films-- so I started thinking about tongue-in-cheek genre cues, and an approach to score that commented on the emotional reality rather than inhabiting it.

It also turned out that Matt's a big "Twin Peaks" fan, and he was interested in a heightened sense of mystery and intrigue. That made sense, given that the characters' cloistered world is a tense and anxious place.

So for the theme to play over the main titles, I came up with this slinky little number, all sly and mysterious and French-sounding. Goes a little something like this-- here it is in context visually.

I appreciate that Matt chose a chordal section for the credits as opposed to the later melodic passages, to establish more of a moody texture than might be the case with a more hummable melody. I originally made sure to write way more than was needed, way more repetitively than was needed, allowing it to grow in modular passages so that different sections could be chopped up subsequently for different purposes. I resisted the urge to "correct" a lot of slight performance "mistakes", to let it sound more human.

Here's a passage of the theme later on, when it becomes a bit more melodic:

I also created a brief tacit button to provide quick transitions out of the cue:

Matt also wanted some of the solo drums to accompany a brief sequence illustrating a not so healthy relationship between two of the characters. So I customized this cue for the progression:

The pilot episode Day Jobs featured a lot of frantic action (OK, waiting tables and stage management, but that's what counts as "action" in this world), so I reworked the theme as a sprightly bossanova to underscore the hustle and bustle. Here's the bossa version of the theme in context:

I included a lot more drum fills to ensure some variety, since it's again fairly repetitive, but in general the static quality of the cue really works for me here, providing a quirky backdrop without calling too much attention to itself. Here's the bossa version in its entirety:

In future entries, we'll see how other cues branch off these to sustain the general sense of the theme while developing individually. Stay tuned!

Watch the web series

Index of "Theater People" web series composer process entries:

1: Main Title

2: Crowley Theme

3: Day Job Waltz/ Melodramatic Theme

4: Mambo Madness

5: Dream Rock

666: Devil Worship Music

Enjoy!

Mike Hallenbeck home page

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