Hey folks, I’ve been buried under a pile of vintage synthesizers in the studio for the last few weeks and have just managed to get out and share this blog with you :-)
If you’re interested in the composition process when working on a drama, then read on and ideally watch the episodes I’m discussing on the links below...
As the final 2 episodes of the season were shown back to back, I’ve tackled them both in this edition of my blog. These 2 episodes are my favourites of this season, some major bombshells are dropped, the story cleverly twists and turns and the tension is off the scale!
In episode 5, we establish two new key themes. After the discovery of the body of missing person Sarah Kramer, DS Jack Weston (Damien Moloney) goes to visit her father, Joseph Kramer (Paul Copley). This scene is scored with a slow piano melody - it pulls at our emotions but in a very understated way. To keep it simple and sparse and yet help carry the notes, there is a long slow moving reverb on the piano, as the scene progresses and Joseph’s distress grows, held notes are played on the cello and viola. When working on a scene like this, I prefer to adopt a ‘less is more’ approach. We want the music to support the visuals but if we overdo the emotion or sorrow with a busy melody or overly grand arrangement, it can end up seeming melodramatic and hindering the scene rather than helping. Never under estimate the power of one held note!
The other new theme is for DS Alisha Brooks (Lenora Crichlow) and her undercover operation investigating dastardly DCI Dan Drummond (James Murray), first revealed at the end of part 2, when she confides in Jack. The melody on the viola is an expression of intrigue - it’s asking the question on Jack’s lips; what the fuck is going on here?! Underneath are some synths, that I’ve programmed with lots of air around them and some pulsing delay - again, it’s executed with subtlety but it represents the sort of nagging questions in your mind that keep you awake at night.
These themes are revisited throughout the episode, but I think we should continue on to episode 6 to witness it all coming together.
One of my favourite parts of the job when composing is when all the character or plot themes start to weave together - for the musician it’s fundamentally about understanding harmony and as a composer it’s about hitting the key visual moments and using the music as a vehicle to subconsciously help the viewer understand the story.
This comes in to play towards the end of part 3; at 29.50 Alisha asks Mo if Drummond helped cover up and bury Sarah Kramer’s body, we hear a theme I’ve been using for Drummond since that very first reveal at the end of episode 1 when we learned that he is connected to Mo Jones (Neil Stuke) and covering up for him, it’s a chord progression on Rhodes piano with a very spiky sounding synth under it. Here we just hear the briefest part of it as we transition into the next scene but my thinking behind it was thus; the chord progression sounds slightly melancholy but at the same time pedestrian, it’s as if Drummond is in so deep, he’s resigned to these things he has to do, whilst the spiky synth underneath is telling us, this is a bad man and all cannot end well!
This then morphs into Joseph’s theme as he confesses to Daniel, we hear the sad piano but then the strings and dark breathy synths subtly underline his disgust at the realisation that Daniel was involved in her burial. We move into Drummond’s serial theme, the rhythmic bass line and uncomfortable synths, and as he galvanizes his plan, the percussion builds, the pensive rhodes melody comes in and when his mind turns to murder, those high frequency noises add to the feeling of unease and impending horror, these build as he goes to Mo’s cell and resolve in a big reverby rattle. As I said before, this cannot end well!
You can listen to that cue here.
I really hope you enjoyed the series and that it was interesting to gain an insight into how I go about scoring it. Suspects is very dear to my heart and I have loved every minute working on it.
As always, I’d love to hear your comments.