Dexter’s Killer Composer Dan Licht Revisits The Series
BY: Marjorie Galas, Editor
For eight seasons, composer Dan Licht burrowed into the emotions of forensic expert/serial killer Dexter Morgan to score Showtime’s hit series “Dexter.” Although the final episode aired September 22, 2013, the charismatic character hasn’t fully departed from Licht’s life yet. Currently, he’s remixing selections from the series for a live performance featuring an 18 piece ensemble as well as completing the score the for the upcoming “Dexter” DVD release.
“I’m working on the deluxe version now and we are going out with a bang,” said Licht. “There are two original songs we’re including.”
Licht has been creating signature scores for films and television for over 33 years on a diverse range of projects, from “Hellraiser: Bloodline” and “Permanent Midnight” to “Kitchen Confidential” and “The Blacklist.” Upon the conclusion of “Dexter” his attention turned to scoring the second season of “The Red Road” as well as a yet-to-be-announced video game. Returning to the series has reconnected Licht was a unique experience he had as a composer.
“Music was a very prominent part of the show; it was important because it underscored the humanity of the character,” said Licht. “This emotionless character was learning how to have and how to deal with remorse. In a sense it was a coming of age story.”
Licht’s early musical training informed the basis of his compositions throughout “Dexter.” He studied world music at Hampshire College and, upon graduation, moved to New York where he split his time immersed in the downtown avant-garde and East Village jazz scenes. Throughout the eight seasons, Licht spent the bulk of his time focused on the quality of sounds. He’d periodically spend one to two full days crafting a sound which he’d then build the remainder of the orchestration around, providing an aggressive quality to a melancholic score.
“In New York City I learned a lot about improvised music and experimentation, such as sticking metal in guitars and bowing them. It expanded the musical language,” said Licht. “Harmonies have limitations. You can create a lot of uneasiness and emotions using notes.”
While he frequently uses guitar or piano when writing compositions, working on “Dexter” Licht would often sing melodies until he determined the best instrument to write the score for. Licht is especially fond of the moments that were created in bridging different themes and refining the craftsmanship of pulling a baseline and topline together. An example that proved particularly challenging for Licht to score was Dexter’s discovery of his murdered wife – a moment that ultimately bridged dark and loving moments together.
While a strong script with compelling characters is always Licht’s launching point into a project, his resume boasts a plethora of horror and thrillers. When working in this genre, Licht first determines the point of view of the film – is it an audience study or character study – then builds the score to highlight the POV. He’s always on the search for scripts that will provide a lot of freedom to explore and experiment with the music, and enjoys those scripts where the music isn’t required to prop up the action.
“Great films can make a composer look great,” said Licht. “We’re going along for the ride; it’s a little unfair, really.”
To hear selections of scores composed by Dan Licht, visit his website: