Friday, March 23, 2012

Wendy and Lisa TOUCH a new wave of viewers

Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, the dynamic duo of television scoring, were recently part of the "Famous TV Theme Music" panel at WonderCon. Prior to the event, White Bear PR admitted a limited number of press to some roundtable interviews with the panelists, and UFN was part of that opportunity.

Here's a partial transcript from the roundtable (we didn't include the section about their work with Prince, which they get asked about every single time). Unfortunately we didn't catch the name of the gentleman who asked about Heroes -- sorry about that, whoever you are, it was a good question!

Urban Fantasy News: Trio of questions for you, all kind of inter-related. What is your process when you get a new show, when you get a new assignment?

Wendy: Process? The script first, then call the producer, set up a meeting, talk about what they have in mind and then the two of us go in with a whole bunch of ideas after that initial meeting.

Lisa: Usually in reading the script you might get an idea in your mind about what might be a good sound, or instruments to use in that particular script or story, depending on what it is. Then you bring that with you to the meeting and compare that to what maybe they were thinking because they usually have their ideas. And if they line up somewhat, or if they’re convinced that your idea’s really cool, they either say “great,” or “can you demo it for us.”

Wendy: I think the magic in that dynamic between us grabbing a script, coming up with an idea, and going and having that meeting is figuring out before we go ahead and blurt out what our idea is, is to just gently test the water to find out what ideas of theirs will work with the ideas we have, and then play off the things we know will work. The reason why we do that is because if it’s a project we want, that’s the important thing to try and hook in. If it’s a project we’re not crazy about, I don’t think we’re as invested in finding out what the exact overarching idea for them is. So that’s how the process begins, and then we have to take it away and hopefully we have more than a few days to come up with an idea.

UFN: Getting a little more specific, you’ve done music for Heroes, phenomenal job on that, by the way...

Wendy: Thank you.

UFN: I hear that you’ve just joined up with Touch, Tim Kring’s new show. How did you get involved with Touch?

Lisa: (laughter)

Wendy: We’ve done every Tim Kring show, so we’re sort of hooked up with him. So we’re kind of his musical mouthpiece, I guess you could say. For “go-to.”

Lisa: Luckily, and thankfully. When he first wrote the script he actually called us and said, “I have something that I want to send you, would you be interested?” Which was really funny...

Wendy: Ha ha.

Lisa: ...Of him to ask, because we’re like, “Of course!” So he sent us the script, and it was the pilot script, and it was so beautiful and amazing. The script itself, if you ever get a chance to just read it, besides seeing the actual show. The show was executed really well too, but...

Wendy: ...But the page was really great to read, and that’s why Kiefer Sutherland actually took the gig, was based on that script and how beautiful the read was.

Lisa: It’s a beautiful story and so amazing. And of course we really get along with Tim, and see things the same way as far as being experimental and trying to break molds and trying different things and still wanting it to be successful. So he’s a good guy to...

(Other interviewer): Speaking of Tim, I wanted to touch on Heroes. I wanted to go back in time here a little bit. How did you approach Heroes, because it’s more or less a superhero series. What was your approach and what was the musical statement you were trying to make with the show, if any?

Lisa: It’s a thing with Tim of not doing a typical... bumbumbum baaaaa... (sings the Superman theme)

Wendy: Action!

Lisa: Which is great, and I love those kinds of action movies and everything, but... also, the way Tim writes is so emotionally-based.

Wendy: There’s a lot of more subjective text.

Lisa: Yeah, these humans who are figuring out or finding out... discovering these powers they had. So it was more like... let’s take a look at how that might be hard for some people, not necessarily a heroic adventure that they go on, but more of a strange sort of... “oh no, I don’t know that I’m okay with this.” And Claire... in a way it was teenage suicides over and over, which is really kind of strange if you think about it. She’s jumping off bridges and catching on fire and it’s like... why are you doing this to yourself? So we just approached the score completely opposite. We had that one cue – we used to do interviews about this a lot – the "Fire and Regeneration" cue that ended up being a template for the show because it went the opposite direction. Super languid and beautiful. So when you came to these action moments and put that up against it, it changed your experience.

Wendy: Your orientation of it.

Lisa: Yeah, it became more subjective as opposed to visceral and adrenaline. It was more like in your mind, a dream experience. That was the approach with that.

UFN: Since we’re still on Heroes for a bit, could you give us a comparison for what it’s like to work on Heroes versus Touch. They both have similar “we’re all connected” and international themes, but at the same time Heroes has a much larger cast and more mythical superpower stuff. Touch is a much smaller intimate cast...

Wendy: Yes!

UFN: ...And you have to stay away from that sound, you can’t just do Heroes all over again.

Wendy: No. And we’re not. Absolutely not. I’ll tell you what, we were asked the same question just the other day, and I think they’re approached completely different. Heroes was much more languid and pad-oriented and evocative and ethereal. Not a lot of time signature stuff except for the Hiro and Ando characters, that was the only thing that had a lot of time signature stuff to it. Touch, because of what the story is about, it’s about communicating through numbers and theories and...

Lisa: Connectivity through patterns.

Wendy: Right. We use time signatures, and a lot of time signatures in the score on this. So if you listen carefully enough, you’ll hear that difference. The shows are so different, and the ways they’re being done are so different, it’s not hard to kind of conform to what it needs. I don’t see it as “how do we not do that again?” I don’t see it as being a problem. It’s made itself really clear what we need to do to it. And we’re only four episodes into composing so it still has legs to find.

Lisa: The thing is that it’s being told initially through the kid who doesn’t speak, so it’s his internal voice, so we try to make the sounds really small, but not cute. In fact, there’s been a conscious effort even with some of the shots that were done in the show. There was one scene that Tim just told us about with a dog in one of the episodes and the dog just went up to the kid actor as they were shooting and sniffed at the kid, and the kid petted the dog, and they were like “That’s great! What a great shot!” But they ended up cutting that, because it was cute. Too cute. And the show can’t go there, because it’ll tip it into a place it doesn’t belong. So with the score, even though we’re using small sounds and even bells and things like that, we’re making it really small and super rhythmic, not too pretty or emotional, even though there are beautiful moments. You have to see it, because hopefully we’re finessing it just so, so that it’s interesting and personal without being cute.

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