The music behind some of the most popular shows on TV came to life on Wednesday evening during the Television Academy’s “Score!,” a concert celebrating music composed for television, sponsored by ASCAP.
Composers including Ramin Djawadi of “Game of Thrones,” “Downton Abbey’s” John Lunn, and Jeff Beal of “House of Cards” gathered at UCLA’s Royce Hall to present and conduct the themes that have become essential to each of their skeins, accompanied by a full orchestra.
After the musicians’ opening medley, which featured samplings of 110 TV themes in just 12 minutes, host Jon Burlingame spoke to music’s essential role on the small screen.
“Music for television is not just background or underscore… but rather an integral part of the storytelling experience – a critical factor in creating mood, setting the pace, reminding us of the place and the people and, most of all, conveying the emotion that is ultimately the reason we keep tuning in,” he said.
The first act began with Lunn’s “Downton Abbey” theme, which he said was inspired in part by the photographs he was shown early on of a train running through the English countryside.
The concert marked Lunn’s first live performance of the “Downton” theme, after traveling farther than any other composer – 6,000 miles – to participate in the event. Lunn told Variety that he will begin working on the music for the show’s fifth season when he returns home next week.
The first half of the show also included music from “The Simpsons,” “House of Cards,” “Nurse Jackie” and “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD,” but it was the zombies of “The Walking Dead” who stole the show as they invaded the audience, climbed onto the stage and captured composer Bear McCreary.
Later in the evening, “Millennium” and “The X Files” composer Mark Snow was presented with the career achievement award by his brother-in-law, multi-hyphenate Tim Daly of “The Mindy Project.”
During the second act, “24” composer Sean Callery was introduced by a video message from none other than series stars Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) and Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub).
On the red carpet, Callery equated creating the music for “24,” “The Kennedys” and “Elementary” to exploring on the playground, telling Variety, “Once they hire you, they create a sandbox for you and say ‘Go out and explore. Find the sound of the show.”
Callery also said he hadn’t written a piece of music for “24” in nearly four years until the “24: Live Another Day” reboot.
James S. Levine then conducted his themes from Ryan Murphy’s “American Horror Story” and “Glee,” accompanied by some of the vocalists who regularly contribute to the Fox skein’s score.
The selections from Seth MacFarlane’s “Family Guy” may have seemed like an unlikely choice for a classical performance, but composer Walter Murphy said MacFarlane “has always been a champion of orchestral music.”
“He felt that having a live orchestra every week would humanize the animated characters,” Murphy said.
Trevor Morris followed with music from “Vikings,” “The Borgias” and “The Tudors.”
Not to be outdone by the zombies, Djawadi’s “Game of Thrones” suite was preceded by a full-on battle sequence, complete with the killing of a king.
The sold-out concert was the first of its kind, but exec producer Mark Watters told Variety he hopes it will become an annual event.
“The whole concept of this concert was so that people would have a visceral understanding of how much music adds to television storytelling,” said Television Academy governor and “Score!” exec producer Michael Levine. “You get a sense of the grandeur of the music and the size and the richness of it.”
(Pictured: “The Walking Dead” zombies invade the stage at the TV Academy’s “Score!” concert)