Scoring the The House Between 2.0 was a very different experience to scoring season one. In great part that was because I was working without Cesar Gallegos, co-composer and friend from THB 1.0. I really missed the musical give and take that created a situation of alchemy during our recording sessions.
Many pieces from 2.0 were recorded in multiple versions, new permutations, at different recording sessions because ideas occurred to me only I got home and listened to them. On 1.0, Cesar and I would generally work out the kinks of a piece before we recorded it. I don’t have his insight for music (I have mine, but not his) so I felt like I was flying blind (add that to the earlier metaphor).
Now let me say, working with John Kenneth Muir is NOT a thankless job. He is effusive in his praise and gratitude. Ultimately he, JKM -- the boss -- is the music editor. He knows what he wants, where it will go, and how long it will play. But despite his instant reactions to new pieces, I wouldn’t really get a sense of whether the pieces worked until I saw the finished episodes weeks later. Sometimes they’d be there, underscoring the scene to which they were intended. Other times they’d be missing completely, replaced by other cues. Judgment rendered!
John always apologized when he nixed a cue, and I always reminded him that his opinion is the only one that matters when it comes to music editing (placing cues to film). The fact that he used 99% of everything we sent him is more important than where he’d placed it.
The score for THB 2.0 was recorded at the home studio of the L.A. band, Diversion, and engineered by two of its members: Jose Sanchez and Anthony Godoy. They had their own musical sensibility but had never worked on a score before. It was awkward at first; we didn’t know each other well and had never worked together before. But by the second session we were able to kick it into high gear and started to crank out the cues. Anthony was the principal engineer while Jose doubled as guitarist on a few pieces. Their suggestions regarding instrumentation, over-dubbing and mixing were invaluable. It was a different experience than the THB 1.0 sessions, but a no less fruitful one.
Oh, and another thing…we had a budget! The Lulu Show came through and made this an officially commissioned score!
The Scoring Process
John had sent me an overview of season two’s episodes. This included a brief synopsis of the story of each episode—a brief description of each character’s arc, an introduction to the new characters and certain plot points that would need specifically composed cues. The first session’s cues were written to this overview.
Later John would send me a cue list for each episode (or two) in which he’d detail where he felt music was needed, its tone and length. Generally, I’d compose cues for more than one episode at a time. I’d literally check them off his printed email as we recorded and mixed down each cue. As in season one—even more so—I composed to email—not to a click track or any video at all. The first time I’d see the episodes was when the viewing public did!
Once all the cues for that session were mixed (as WAVs), we’d convert them to MP3s and email them as a zipped bundle to John. He would unzip them and listen to them while I listened with him on my cell phone. He’d give me his first impressions of each cue right then and there. Talk about instant feedback!
For THB 2.0 I set out to compose and record fewer cues but with a longer average length. I felt we’d fallen into a trap during season one by making cues so specifically timed to the action of a scene that their future utility as library tracks was limited. So I set out to record longer pieces with natural pauses from which sections could be excerpted to fit the lengths of multiple scenes.
This was different from the solution we’d come up with for season one; we were aware of the potential problem then as well. In season one we recorded “re-voiced” versions of the same cues so that if they were reused, they would have different instrumentation and therefore not be readily recognizable as a repeated cue.
Also, if a cue had multiple layers, we’d separate out two or three layers and record them as an alternate version. In this way one cue could provide three or four different variations.
For THB 2.0 I used the following:
Mackie 24 channel 8 bus mixer
Presonis 8 channel sound card
Oxygen MIDI keyboard
Gibson Les Paul guitar