Friday, January 27, 2006

The CIC Interviews Bear McCreary!

A little project that I've been working on for a little while now, and a holdover from my job on another website, - Interviews. So, it's a very great feeling being able to put up the following interview that I conducted with Bear McCreary, the man behind the music of the show:

CIC- Hello Mr. McCreary, and thank you for having a couple of words with us. First of all, do you follow the Battlestar Galactica Series at all, after everything is finished an on TV? If so, do you have any favorite moments or episodes?

Bear McCreary: Sure thing, thanks for the interview. I am actually a really big fan of the show, so I tune in every week to watch the episodes on the air, even though by that point I’ve probably seen each episode about a hundred times. As for favorite moments, I’m obviously a bit biased by what the score is doing in any given sequence. The opening and closing sequences of the “Kobol’s Last Gleaming” storyline will always resonate with me. However, honestly, my favorite scenes are often not ones where the music is featured prominently. For example, in Litmus, the scene where Tyrol confesses his crime to Adama in his quarters just gives me chills. The performances and writing are rock solid. The music is one of the best cues I’ve done for the show, even though it never stands out at all.

CIC- The music for the series is very different from the scores of other Science Fiction television shows, such as Star Trek, Babylon 5 and Stargate SG-1. Can you tell us a little about what has inspired the various compositions for Battlestar Galactica?

BM- Obviously, the music of the miniseries, composed by Richard Gibbs (with some assistance from myself) was the starting point for the work I’ve done on the series. Working with director Michael Rymer, Richard and I came up with the signature “Battlestar Galactica sound”. Music from disparate cultures around the world came together to form an other-worldly and non-orchestral soundscape. My job as the series progresses is to take that spirit and develop it into new and continually exciting areas, evolving as the writing and acting evolves as well.

CIC- For those of us whom are unfamiliar with your other works, what else have you composed, and how does your other work relate to Battlestar Galactica, in similarities or differences?

BM- I’ve done a slew of independent films and concert works. My whole life, I’ve written many different kinds of music, always pushing myself to new genres and styles. That came in handy on Battlestar Galactica when I suddenly had to incorporate many different musical aesthetics into one cohesive whole. And with the occasional big band, Italian opera, Gaelic choir, heavy metal or classical string orchestra piece that falls on my lap working on this show, diversity is a useful skill!

CIC- Which piece of music has been the toughest to compose, so far?

BM- Honestly, composing these pieces is always the easy part. I take the phone off the hook and get absorbed into the show and the characters. When I watch the show, I can hear the music almost instantly.

CIC- What can you tell us about the evolution of a piece of music and the show, from inspiration to finish, what are the steps that you take?

BM- If the ideas are the easy part, the difficult part of scoring Battlestar Galactica is getting the ideas out of my head, recorded, produced, arranged, orchestrated, notated, copied, performed, mixed and delivered to the dub stage before the deadline. This entire process usually takes 14 days, but I’ve delivered shows in as short as 6. Big shout out to my engineer and co-producer Steve Kaplan who makes this process possible.

BM- The scores tend to evolve on their own. I have very little control. Sometimes, I’ll write a theme for a character planning to use it in later episodes only to find out that the character dies in the next episode. Other times, I’ll write an incidental idea that ends up becoming a major melodic theme for something completely unexpected. You just learn to roll with it and make sure that every musical idea in the show has been thought through carefully.

CIC- Do you have a favorite song from the series?

BM- Yeah… there’s a song in “Black Market” that’s playing in the background as Lee works his way through a seedy underworld bar. It’s a pretty great track and will be featured in its entirety on the Season 2 soundtrack.

CIC- Battlestar Galactica has been proclaimed as a complete change and/or reimagination of the Science Fiction television landscape. Do you think that your score has helped with this change, and do you think that the changes in SciFi TV include every aspect, such as the music score?

BM- I think the music has always been intended to be the most obvious departure from traditional science fiction. Even before Richard Gibbs and myself ever came on board, David and Ron always knew they wanted the music to be something different and unique. However, being the most obvious change doesn’t make it the only one. You could change the music in a lot of shows and it wouldn’t make it Battlestar Galactica. The greatest departure in this show is clearly the depth to which the writers explore the individual characters. The scripts are more in depth, and focus on personal issues and fears that everyday people can relate to. The cinematography, special effects and music all help to accent these changes, but no single side of production can do it alone.

CIC- Where do you see the score and music for the series going? Are there any types of music or instruments that you’re looking to incorporate in the future?

BM- The music is constantly evolving, as the writing and directing does as well. I’m always on the lookout for new colors and timbres to add to the score, but it all depends on where the story goes and what the narrative needs. I look to the show for inspiration.

CIC- What can we expect musicwise with the remaining episodes of Season 2?

BM- Keep an ear out for a love theme from the first half of Season 2 to make a re-appearance…

CIC- Finally, what are some things that you personally listen to that you would recommend to others, with the scoring of Galactica or otherwise?

BM- I would recommend to anyone who likes Battlestar Galactica the fantasy / sci-fi scores of Bernard Herrmann. He was the first composer to introduce truly wacky instrumentation into science fiction. His sci-fi ensembles were never the traditional orchestra, but included bizarre organs, percussion, medieval instruments and electronics. Especially check out “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and “The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad.” Classic!

And of course, I highly recommend the upcoming Battlestar Galactica: Season Two soundtrack album! La La Land Records will be releasing it in the early summer.

Many, many thanks to Bear for taking the time to talk with us. His website is here:

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