It is the largest group of musicians to play on a live-action TV series in several years. Michael Giacchino’s scores for “Lost” feature 35 players, while Steve Jablonsky uses seven on “Desperate Housewives.” The animated “Simpsons” and “Family Guy” routinely enjoy 35- to 45-piece orchestras, but these shows are the exception rather than the rule when it comes to music.
The classic sound of real Hollywood musicians — not the synthesizers and samplers employed on most shows — was in “Human Target” exec producer Jonathan Steinberg’s mind from the start for the series from Warner Bros. Television. “At the first production meeting we had, even before the pilot, I said we must have an orchestra,” he noted at a recent recording session at Warner Bros.’ Eastwood Scoring Stage.
This show is about an action hero,” Steinberg says. “It’s built out of the DNA of the movies I grew up on, ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Raiders’ and ‘Star Trek.’ Those movies don’t work without that orchestra.”
Composer Bear McCreary (“Battlestar Galactica”) is conducting an average of 48 musicians in as many as 33 minutes of music each week. He had 60 players to record the main-title sequence and various versions of the series theme.
The studio really believes in it,” says McCreary. “They understand that the music is adding a lot — not just to the overall production value but to establish the tone. It’s funny and adventurous and intense and scary, says McCreary, who is also using live musicians (though far fewer) on his other shows this season, Syfy’s “Caprica” and NBC’s “Trauma.” “This is the kind of soundtrack music that people of my generation associate with action and adventure,” he says.
Years ago, Paramount’s “Star Trek” series (primarily “Deep Space Nine” and “Voyager”) averaged 44 players but sometimes reached 60 for high-profile episodes. “Murder, She Wrote” had 34. Further back, composers recalled, “Dallas” averaged 22 and “Hawaii Five-0” 18. All won Emmys for their music.
Most composers dislike replacing real musicians with electronic sounds but are forced to use today’s high-tech tools for budgetary reasons. “Doing mocked-up ‘orchestral’ phrases is my idea of hell,” says McCreary. “It’s just really boring.”
An L.A. composer with a personal connection to the tragedy in Haiti has launched a recording project that he hopes will raise $100,000 or more to help the sick and homeless in the Caribbean nation.
Christopher Lennertz, composer of “Alvin and the Chipmunks” and TV’s “Supernatural,” has already enlisted several top composers to contribute to a symphonic work based on “Wongolo,” a Haitian folk tune. John Debney (“The Passion of the Christ”), George S. Clinton (“Austin Powers”) and Tyler Bates (“300”) are among those who’ve signed on.
Father Tom Hagan, who has ministered to the poor and helped house and educate orphans for more than a decade in the Cite Soleil slums near Port-au-Prince, is an old friend of Lennertz. Lennertz has been quietly raising money for Hagan’s Hands Together charity for the past couple of years.
Now that the earthquake has made their situation so much more perilous, I felt it was time to act,” says Lennertz. He called Hagan “the most selfless and loving human being I’ve ever met… an inspiration to me.”
All proceeds from Lennertz’s take on “Wongolo,” which he calls “one of Haiti’s most famous folk melodies,” go to Hands Together. After the initial statement of the melody, each composer will add eight to 24 bars, developing and extending the tune and passing it on to the next composer. “Once the orchestral piece has been recorded, those finished tracks will be given to a range of producers, artists and remixers in order to create additional contemporary works based on the symphony, in order to fill out the album and provide an eclectic listening experience,” the composer says.
He hopes to complete the project within the next 60 days. The $100,000 target includes sales of CDs, downloads, autographed scores, a DVD of the entire project and possibly a live concert.