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It Was A Busy Summer For Many Of Fall’s Top Composers

Mac Quayle will be incorporating more found sounds in the score to Elliot Alderson’s fuque state in the third season of “Mr. Robot.” Photo courtesy USA Network.

There is no one song of summer for film and television’s talented composers.  These creative men and women stay busy, juggling projects like so many balls in the hands of a clown at your local carnival.  Below is a glimpse of five creatives and their work that fueled the warm summer months – and some projects that will be heating up the fall calendars!

Michael Gatt

The creative director of Gattsound, a boutique music and mixing facility capable of handling projects of any size, Gatt entered the arena of grindhouse this year with SyFy’s “Blood Drive.”  In fact, he was so invested in the opportunity to explore the musical possibilities the series would offer, he spent 14 hours in a Greyhound bus to make his initial meeting for the job.

Gatt paid particular attention to the extremely character driven episodes – all of which paid tribute to a particular grind house style of filmmaking – and their place in the overall arch of the series (airdates of the final episodes have yet to be released) when he approached the score.   Armed with the complete first season but no picture, he relied on the skills he developed working with commercials.  He recorded himself doing table reads of each character, then scored to that pacing.

Gatt relied on heavy synths and base as the backbone for “Blood Drive,” performing the instruments himself.  He fleshed out certain characters through the aid of a piano before determining the best vehicle for their theme – ultimately crafting nine key reoccuring themes.  Because each episode offers a different take on the genre, he has been able to experiment with musical styles throughout the 14 episodes.  At times he’s incorporated a live cellist, opera singer and trumpet player.  One episode allowed him to explore a more country/western style.  He even altered that episode’s main title theme, which he also created.

“’Blood Drive’ has been a real family affair,” said Gatt.  “There was a lot of trust – I had creative breadth to run.  They’ll (listen to the sections) and share feedback.  We all care about keeping it story driven.”

Jake Monaco

“Scooby Doo” has been reinvented many times over the years, in both live and animation forms.  After getting hired to create the score for “Be Cool Scooby Doo”, Monaco revisited the classic cartoon episodes from 70s, knowing he wanted to pay tribute to the show’s origins.  Working with a limited budget, he used sample sounds to create a jazzy, orchestral-based sound track.  He also used story cues to infuse specific instruments for dramatic effect.   One example involves an episode where the gang visit a baseball stadium.  In this score, Monaco had a violin, clarinetist, organist and sax player perform solos.

“It was also fantastic to work with such great action scenes,” said Monaco.  “I would do some research to figure out instrumentation that wasn’t overly apparent by the ‘where’ or ‘time’ of the sequences.”

Although there is a certain amount of pressure that comes with working with a highly recognizable character such as Scooby Doo, Monaco felt the fact that the show was a comedy relieved any tension he felt.  While he never used music for comic effect, he would sometimes incorporate cues that led to a comic beat, or would interrupt the score for the benefit of a joke.

David Porter

When Porter was first introduced to “Preacher,” he had a vague memory of the comic from the 90s.  Producer Seth Rogan had hired Porter off his love for the composer’s score to “Breaking Bad” and was encouraged that Porter wasn’t familiar with the content.

“He wanted to look at it with fresh eyes, and not be slavishly devoted,” said Porter.

Now headed into the second season, Porter is looking forward to evolving the score along with the characters.  Working again with a blend of electronic elements and Hitchcock-ian, classical strings, he’ll interject new sounds and tensions that mirror the road trip the series takes to its new destination: New Orleans.

Porter studied the music from the area to understand the difference of street performers and music from clubs and bar scenes.  He was able to incorporate these new elements into the main theme, adding viola, fiddle and trumpet to capture a flavor of the show’s new path.

“You don’t want the theme to be hugely different,” said Porter.  “You have to find that happy space for fans.”

Sean Callery

Callery was excited to jump into the new series “Inhumans.”  This Marvel property deals with two dueling royal families.  The heros are the Inhumane Royal Family who have been exciled after a military coupe.  Finding the story to be of epic proportions, Callery lobbied, and was granted, the use of a 70 piece orchestra.

“It is a drama about two families – royal families at that.  I determined early on that a full orchestra was needed,” said Callery.

From his first read of the script, Callery found the characters to be easily relatable.  After he received the footage, he developed multiple themes around leads. After the series was scored, Callery then created the score for the “Inhumans” IMAX movies, which will support the stories depicted in the series.

Mac Quayle

Quayle’ experimental electronic score for the first season of “Mr. Robot” resulted in the composer’s first Emmy.  As main character Elliott (Remy Malick) slid further into mental unrest, Quayle’s score continued to morph, wrapping the view in music that fed into paranoia, tension, celebration, beauty and pain.  The 2017 Emmy voters overlooked the musical evolution of season two, but rewarded Quayle’s efforts on  a score that was 180 degrees from “Mr. Robot” –  the score to “Feud.”

Working with series creator and frequent collaborator Ryan Murphy, Quayle focused on capturing a sound and style that was indicative of the early 60s.  He also wanted to infuse the score with the tension shared between the two battling movie stars: Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, while emphasizing the upbeat quality of the period, particularly through a Latin flair.  He used a full orchestra to create the lush, period specific style.  He also created the main theme, itself nominated for an Emmy.  Receiving 120 still images that would later inform the one minute animated sequence, Quayle created a Quick Time slide show which he created the sixty second track to.

Once Emmy ceremonies are completed, Quayle will be back to work on season three of “Mr. Robot.”

“In ‘Mr. Robot’, anything can be an instrument,” said Quayle. “For season three, I hope to have more opportunities to provide found sounds.”