Composer Fil Eisler is facing 47 musicians on a Saturday morning on the Warner Bros. recording stage, conducting his music for the tumultuous third-season finale of ABC’s “Revenge.”
“More drama,” he urges from the string players. “Brass, think of ‘Vertigo,’ ” he says, referring to Bernard Herrmann’s classic Hitchcock score, and the sound Eisler elicits has more than a hint of Herrmann’s dreamy darkness.
He makes a special point of thanking the orchestra for three seasons of work, and ABC itself for its support for live musicians — an acknowledgement that rarely occurs in the hustle and heat of a four-hour session.
Afterward, Eisler singles out ABC senior VP Dawn Soler, who runs the network’s music department, as someone who “not only understands the importance, musically and dramatically, that live musicians bring to something like this, she also understands the mechanics of what it takes to put it together.”
Many composers for ABC shows echo Eisler’s sentiments. Bear McCreary, who may have recently broken the record for most musicians performing on a single episode (95 for a recent “Agents of SHIELD” score) thinks that ABC spends more money on live musicians “than all the other networks combined. They understood that, in order to create a show that fits into the Marvel cinematic universe, it would need the resources that the movies had,” adds McCreary.
Says Soler: “When you look at the cost of creating an original score with an orchestra, it’s still less than the licensing of one song. With an amazing score, you get the soul of the show. How better to present it than with real players?”
Blake Neely of “Resurrection” used a 17-piece orchestra and supplemented it with his own piano and percussion. “It’s a very emotional show,” he says. “You can’t pull that off with synthesizers.”