Sean Callery: Composer

Home-based creative juggles the pros and cons of house as workplace

Since the heyday of “Miami Vice” and “The X-Files,” most TV shows have been scored by a single individual in a small studio, creating music electronically. In the case of Fox’s “24,” the score’s composed and performed by Sean Callery, who has been Emmy-nominated for each of its five seasons (and won in 2003).

Working at home was as much a creative decision as a financial one, says the 41-year-old composer. “From the beginning, (the producers) wanted a different, hybrid kind of sound that hadn’t been heard before — not a purely synth score, not purely orchestral, but a specialized sound,” he notes.

“Sound design plays a very big part in the ’24’ score, in conjunction with more organic-sounding music — done with samples, because the show doesn’t have a live-orchestra budget — and electronics.”

Callery accomplishes all this with the keyboards, samplers and sequencers in his home studio: a two-story, 1,650-square-foot barnlike guesthouse behind his Westside home in L.A.

Being a composer is already a solitary profession. But it’s even more so when you have just four or five days to write, produce, mix and deliver 38-40 minutes of music a week — and that’s just on “24.” Last season, Callery also did the same job for NBC’s “Medium,” although he was able to juggle both because “Medium” demanded considerably less (11-15 minutes per week of more conventional, darkly romantic music).

Callery’s studio includes a separate room with an upright piano, where he often works out his musical ideas; another room where his mixer works once the music production for each episode is completed; an isolation booth for live recording of vocals, guitars and percussion as occasionally needed; and a spacious second level where Callery can briefly relax during the 12- to 14-hour workdays of most TV seasons.

“Composers tend to be a bit more isolated,” Callery concedes. “Interaction with other human beings is very important, and that gets compromised in home studios. Also, when you’re working in the same space you live in, it can be very disruptive emotionally. It requires more discipline to end work. I realized that I have to set boundaries, and maintain them.”

CREDITS

La Femme Nikita (TV, 1997-2001)
Sheena (TV, 2000-02)
24 (TV, 2001- )
Everything or Nothing (videogame, 2003)
Medium (TV, 2005- )
24 (videogame, 2005)
Mayday (TV movie, 2005)
Treasure Hunters (TV, 2006)
Not Like Everyone Else (TV movie, 2006)

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