'Orange Is the New Black' Composer: Season 2 is 'Much Darker'
The maestros behind "Orange Is the New Black", "House of Cards", "Lilyhammer" and "Hemlock Grove" tell trade secrets to The Society of Composers and Lyricists.
The composers of four Netflix series revealed the tricks of their trade to members of the Society of Composers and Lyricists June 3 at Pacific Design Center. "Orange Is the New Black's second season is much darker," said Gwendolyn Sanford, composer of the show, which returns June 6. "The sound of the show is very cavernous." Sanford, a wry singer/songwriter, got her break when Mike White and Miguel Arteta couldn't get rights to "Free to Be You and Me" for Chuck and Buck (2000). "Marlo Thomas wouldn't give them rights, and they asked, 'Can you write a children's song?' So I wrote the 'Oodily Oodily' song." That infectious tune led to four children's albums by Sanford and her soundtracks for Weeds and Orange Is the New Black.
House of Cards composer Jeff Beal, who played a clip showing a startling new power grab by Kevin Spacey's character, said director David Fincher sent him a tape of Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers, scored by Angelo Badalamenti. "He said, 'This is the direction for season two.' I said, 'It sounds like The Godfather.' Basically, season two is The Godfather II. Operatic. David came in with crazy ideas. He said, "I want [the score] to sound like the Sting song from Demolition Man, only with strings like 'Eleanor Rigby.'" Beal wound up using an eerie, keening solo soprano voice. "There's nothing scarier than a soprano wailing at you," said Beal. "I'm married to one, I know."
E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April, said when he told his agent he planned to spend five months a year in Norway playing a Sopranos-like gangster in Lilyhammer, "He said, 'Are you out of your f---ing mind?' But we're in 130 countries, I've written 120 cues, it's like the only real international TV show. And Scandinavia is the rock world capital now, believe it or not." Van Zandt, a composer who doesn't read or write music, plays a character who understands Norwegian. "He's not imposing his New York gangster thing on Norway, he's becoming more Norwegian." Van Zandt has become expert on Norse instruments and music styles, but Norwegian eludes him."It's an incredibly difficult language, like Klingon."
Panel moderator Ashley Irwin (conductor of Jersey Boys) said, "Nathan Barr got two Emmy noms [for The Americans and Netflix's Hemlock Grove], which probably cost him an Emmy, because his votes got divided." Barr, a guitarist, bagpipe player, and cellist, said the latter was his instrument of choice lately. "I used cellos in The Americans, Hemlock Grove, and True Blood."
Barr said Netflix gave him useful notes about not repeating themes too much, because binge viewers might notice the similarities. Yet he joked with the other composers about ignorant notes they've received from executives. "I ask them not to use Latin, like 'crescendo,' because they have no idea what it means," said Irwin. "They'll say, 'What if we put that in the treble clef?' said Barr.
"Everybody has their own job," said Van Zandt. "And everybody's a music supervisor."