Despite ongoing budget crunches that are keeping many top composers out of television scoring, a handful of telepics and miniseries managed to entice feature composers to small screen last year.
One project even brought a three-time Oscar winner out of semi-retirement. Maurice Jarre told Raffaela de Laurentiis, producer of “Uprising,” that he didn’t want to do films anymore, preferring to concentrate on concerts and classical commissions.
But he read the script and, he remembers, “I was in tears at the end. I was really so touched.”
So, working at his summer home in Switzerland, he composed the music for NBC’s four-hour saga of the Jewish rebellion in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II.
The filmmakers of “The Mists of Avalon” told Lee Holdridge they “didn’t want the usual King Arthur-type score” for TNT’s four-hour exploration of the Camelot legend from a female perspective, the composer says.
Holdridge felt the 2½-hour score should be orchestral, yet maintain a primitive quality (hence extra percussion); provide a mythological feeling (modal writing, the mystical sound of Bolivian flutes and the bowed Indian esraj); and hint, but not too heavily, at the Celtic setting (uillean pipes).
Most significantly, he added a woman’s voice to the Munich Symphony Orchestra. The wordless vocals of new age artist Aeone “brought a personal quality, an intimacy, into the whole score. In a way, she was like the inner voice of Morgaine (Julianna Margulies),” Holdridge says.
ABC’s “Dinotopia” was a different canvas. Trevor Jones wrote and recorded more than four hours of music with the London Symphony Orchestra for the six-hour dino tale.
Jones says music is especially crucial in a CGI-dominated show.
“The audience needs to feel comfortable about making that transition from reality into fantasy. Music imbues (the images) with emotion, humanity. We’re taking things that really don’t exist and make them come alive on the screen. Music has to contribute a big proportion of that credibility.”
Michael Kamen felt a personal connection to HBO’s 10-hour war series “Band of Brothers.” His father’s twin brother was killed in Germany three weeks before the end of the war.
“I just really wanted to write a requiem for an uncle I had never met, as a tribute to my father’s family. I know the pain of losing his brother Paul is something that he lives with every day of his life. I wanted to make the music as meaningful as that,” he says.
In all, he wrote 2½ hours of orchestral music over the course of a year, all recorded in London.
“The music poured out of me,” he recalls. “I don’t do my best work when I’m working on projects that I don’t fall in love with. I did fall in love with this.”