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Ten Minutes With: Composer John Frizzell

The emotional turmoil of Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) provide inspiration for composer John Frizzell. (photo credit: Fox Network)

BY: Marjorie Galas, Editor

Some composers chose to approach the creation of a score by sitting behind a piano and plunking down some keys. John Frizzell begins his process by taking about the piano.

“I cut the piano open and alter the mechanism. What’s left is the keyboard and the harp,” said Frizzell. “I build speakers into the body to capture this synthesized affect that’s between electric and acoustic. I really get a kick out of that.”

See Also: From Glee To Coven: Composer John Levine  

Returning as the composer of the dark drama “The Following” Frizzell grew his personal instrument collection with many other unique hybrids he utilized to score the second season. He wanted to stray away from the contemporary analogue synthesizer score he employed for season one, and create a much more atmospheric sound.

“I used an old moog but made a contemporary sound,” said Frizzell. “For season two I took a more Darwinian approach. The music is much more of a texture; it’s much more quasi acoustic.”

Frizzell has had a Darwinian-esque evolution in his eighteen plus year career, steadily fluctuating between scoring film and television series. The divers range of styles includes country, soundscapes and grand orchestration in credits including “King of the Hill”, “Alien: Resurrection”, “Gods and Generals” and “The United States of Tara.” Frizzell always begins each project by carefully studying the dialogue and searches for the appropriate use of music to support or emphasize the scenes and themes in the script. Happy to join “The Following” team upon learning of fellow Philadelphia native Kevin Bacon’s involvement, Frizzell was soon captivated by the intricate emotional connections that arise out of the show’s dark subject matter. After creating a fairly traditional orchestration (with modernized sounds created from some seldom used instruments such as 1970s synthesizers) Frizzell entered season two unsure of the new direction the story would take.

“After the big explosion at the end of season one, I didn’t know what would happen,” said Frizzell. “Season two was much more emotional but also much more twisted. I really had to ask myself ‘What am I writing?’”

Frizzell focused on Ryan Hardy’s (Kevin Bacon) journey and paid particular care when working around dialogue. He wanted to support the dialogue while not pushing or augmenting it. His hand manipulated instruments and “strange palette” of percussion instruments (tapping on tables, gutters for cymbals) helped craft an atmospheric sound that both enhanced while avoiding overshadowing the dialogue while simultaneously emphasizing action cues. His goal was to create a new world for the show that didn’t push or augment the emotional core found in the heart of the characters’ transformations.

With season two wrapped, Frizzell is spending his off time scoring Joel Silver’s upcoming thriller “The Loft” and flexing his orchestration muscle.

“I enjoy having the opportunity to work on long, complicated scores that require architecture,” said Frizzell. “It’s like bouncing a balloon in a room, playing with time.”