Cop rock

Show-music man Peter Manning Robinson composes without a net.

When it comes to its music, CBS' "Without a Trace" is literally without precedent in terms of its process. Peter Manning Robinson, who has served as the show's sole composer (Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek composed and recorded the theme) since "Trace's" eighth episode, believes it is the only regular weekly series that holds no musical spotting session (the weekly meeting with a series production team to discuss music in a given episode).

"Because of the intense pressure they work under, it was almost by necessity that they trust me to essentially do the spotting for them," says Robinson, who has provided scores for productions ranging from the series "Robbery Homicide Division" to the 2000 telefilm "Satan's School for Girls." "I'll get a director's rough cut of the DVD, and within two days I have a first pass of the score to play for them."

Notes from the producers will follow each of three passes before Robinson dubs in the original music, though he notes that the final score is continually revised almost until the episode hits the air.

Robinson incorporates a combination of sounds ranging from acoustic instruments and processed piano to bass guitar and electronics. He does much of the scoring himself, though he also hires select musicians for session work recorded prior to the start of each season.

"It's a very labor-intensive job, but highly gratifying," he says. "And the fact I'm afforded the autonomy to spot the music myself speaks to the trust they have in what I do, which really makes all the difference."
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