The music of “30 Rock” is unlike any other score on TV.
It’s a little retro, a little quirky, sometimes winking, sometimes heartfelt, and composer Jeff Richmond has the inside track on just how to tackle the job every week.
As one of the show’s exec producers, he sits in on the editing process, gets to know each show intimately and applies temporary music to see what will work before he starts to compose and record. And he happens to be married to Tina Fey.
They met in Chicago, when both were working in improv comedy, and they worked together on “Saturday Night Live” before tackling “30 Rock.” Richmond not only writes the music, he also plays saxophone as well as clarinet, piano and percussion. His musical partner, Giancarlo Vulcano, adds guitars, ukulele and banjo as necessary.
Richmond remembers a time when “really cool instrumentals” were the norm in TV themes. And because “30 Rock’s” show-within-a-show was originally called “The Girlie Show,” he thought “burlesque stripper drums” might be a good start for its music; hence that Gene Krupa-style drumming under the main title.
Baritone sax offered “something that felt new, but also traditional,” Richmond said, and when the “30 Rock” team seemed to like it, he finished the track by “making it sound like a Jackie Gleason orchestra.” Voices added another fun, retro element, and the 17-second theme was nominated for a 2007 Emmy.
Each episode has an average of seven minutes of music — about 60% of it new — and the rest pulled from the show’s now vast library of existing music. Richmond writes and records most of the new material every weekend, as the show’s sound mixes take place on Monday or Tuesday.
Often, Richmond says, he’ll add music early in an episode and then reprise that music near the end as the show’s A, B and C stories are intertwining.
“Somehow it pulls things together,” he explains. “At the end of the day we’re not just trying to take care of the funny stuff, we’re really trying to take care of the relationships between the characters.”
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