‘Empire,’ ‘Outlander’ Music Inspired by Character, History

Creative Arts Emmys Whitney
Courtesy of Lifetime

On Fox hit “Empire,” Fil Eisler’s atmospheric scores and memorable themes are the engines that drive the series. “(Co-creator) Lee Daniels told me he wanted a bold, operatic score,” says the composer, who works at a punishing pace. “I watch an episode, I score it very quickly and I’m on the scoring stage with a full orchestra three or four days later, every week. It’s like sprinting a marathon.”

Inspiration comes from the characters “and where they’re coming from. I take their points of view very seriously. Even when the show’s campy and winking, it’s got this incredible acting.”

For Richard Rudolph, executive music producer on Lifetime’s “Whitney” (pictured above), the approach was “to honor Whitney Houston’s memory and do justice to her transcendent talent and voice.” He and director Angela Bassett “watched every piece on her, so we could capture the magic of her live performances. We were very lucky to get Grammy-nominated singer Deborah Cox to do all the live singing – especially as she’d worked with Whitney and knew her inside and out.”

The team also scoured Houston’s substantial catalogue before choosing four iconic songs – including “I Will Always Love You” and “The Greatest Love of All” – “to encapsulate her entire career.”

When composer Bear McCreary was hired to score “Outlander,” Starz’s time-travel series partially set in Scotland in 1743, it was a perfect fit. “I grew up listening to Scottish folk music and researching the Jacobite uprising; it’s been a passion all my life,” he notes.

McCreary worked closely with showrunner Ronald Moore and drew on his own Scottish heritage to craft “the sound and a lot of character themes. And as the schedule wasn’t too rushed, I was able to work and develop the music over a year.”