From Vikings To Brick Mansions: Composer Trevor Morris

BY: Marjorie Galas, Editor

Trevor Morris has one week of downtime to enjoy. The composer recently wrapped his second season of scoring ‘Vikings” as well as the feature “Brick Mansions” which is currently enjoying its theatrical run. He’ll spend the next few days with his infant son prior to performing in front of an audience at Royce Hall.

“On May 21st, I’ll be taking part in ‘The Score’ and conducting a concert version of selections from ‘The Tudors’ and ‘The Borgais.’ It will be an amazing experience to present this music live,’ said Morris. “Right now, baby Leo will get my full attention. It’s nice to catch a breath.”

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While presenting his Emmy winning work to a live audience is not a common practice for Morris, scoring diverse subject matter that’s embraced by hordes of fans is much more regular. Morris has created the score to films including “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest/The Curse of the Black Pearl,” “and “Olympus has Fallen” and TV programs including “Body of Proof” and “666 Park Avenue.” Whether its animation, horror or a period piece, Morris always looks for an interesting script that has strong beats and stays in sync with the tale.

To create the score for “Vikings,” Morris did considerable research into the period. While some traditional instruments are utilized in the score including a hardanger Violin (a semi-Norse violin that Morris played as a child), Morris is not focused on finding accuracy to the music of the period. He prefers to incorporate the tones and textures of traditional sounds with electronica and contemporary structure to create something entirely new. Paramount to his writing is finding a blend between the atmosphere of a scene, the complexities of the relationships, the intensity of family bounds, and the brutality of the battles.

“It’s environmental scoring; for instance noticing the color and saturation of light. There’s a big difference between sunlight and candle light,” said Morris. “Vikings are known for their brutality but they were also very family driven and had strong politics. It’s really fun to explore these different elements.”

While Morris has created a musical blend of emotional beats, physicality and environmental elements for “Vikings”, he felt music was too abstract in the first season. He worked closely with the producers to understand their conception of the storylines and is happy with the adjustments that have been made to establish tone. He now focuses more on “polishing” the music and finding the balance between quiet sections and small sounds that reinforce the mood of the scenes.

‘Brick Mansions” was a film project Morris embraced do to its vast difference in style and mood from “Vikings.” Set in contemporary Detroit, Morris was excited to play with the urban jungle setting and incorporate hip hop elements into the soundtrack. A challenge arose slighting a month prior to the film’s premiere; the film’s star, Paul Walker, died in a tragic car crash. Knowing the film presented Walker’s final performance, Morris reworked the score to provide a tribute to the film’s fallen star.

“The mood became a little deeper; he needed a tone or melody. I found the right sound with electric guitar. The score still had to serve the movie first, but it also became a sendoff,” said Morris. “Paul was a great actor, and we needed to pay tribute to this complex emotion of his loss.”

Constantly looking for ways to challenge himself creatively, Morris also works in the interactive and gaming field. He’s found creating music for video games to be a challenge and unique expertise in creativity. Because a player creates their own ‘reality’ within the levels of games, Morris found direction in viewing the composition in complex, three dimensional layers. He equates this type of composing to an artist reconstructing a surface in a cubism painting. While working on projects such “Dragon Age”, the game he’s currently scoring, have presented a challenging learning curve, Morris never finds himself at a loss for ideas.

“The better a story the more I get pulled into it. Digital media has a magic beyond the sum of its parts,’ said Morris. “I don’t suffer from writers block. I found everything you need is right in front of you – in fact, too many ideas – you have to pick just one.”

To learn more about “Score! A Concert Celebrating Music Composed for Television” visit:
http://www.emmys.com/events/score-concert