January 5th, 2011
The final five (pun intended) episodes of “Caprica” aired in the United States tonight, thus bringing this dynamic and ambitious series to a close. These episodes comprise the strongest run in the series. The writing, acting, directing and even the music all fuse together to deliver a concise and thrilling narrative. If the show is to end, then at least we’re going out on a high note.
I could have spent weeks blogging about the intricacies of the scores in the latter half of this season. For False Labor, I was able to bring Raya Yarbrough back into the studio to sing a cheesy new-age version of “Lords of Kobol” for a television commercial. For Blowback, I finally wrote the Lacey Theme. In Dirteaters, I developed the signature Tauron fiddle into a rich underscore, evocative of “Schindler’s List.”
(session photos: Andrew Craig)
However, the most exciting score since the series pilot was written for the closing moments of the finale, Apotheosis. For this episode, we assembled the same-sized orchestra we had on the pilot, which automatically gives the music a distinct, emotional presence. I’ll cut to the chase here and show you how I scored my favorite moments in the second half of the series, the final two acts:
SPOILERS BEYOND: The climax of Apotheosis is a montage where Daniel directs cylons to drop into the stadium and take out the terrorists, intercut with Zoe confronting Clarice in digital heaven. The montage involves cross-cutting between energetic and static shots, motion and dialog. Rather than create music that jars back and forth, I decided to unite all of these ideas together with a single piece of music, infused with an increasing, kinetc energy. This type of scoring has become a signature of the “BSG” universe, and I knew it would work well here.
The stadium sequence has an added layer of musical excitement because the action takes place during the singing of my Caprica National Anthem! So, you’re literally hearing two pieces of music at once. My score sneaks in beneath the performance of my song.
As I discussed in the blog for Rebirth, I produced a recording of an entire National Anthem for use in that episode. In the final edit, it’s appearance was limited. However, the tune clearly made an impression on the producers, because they decided to bring it back and use it during the final showdown. This time, an on-camera actor is visible singing the part, and we get a much clearer idea of the music and lyrics. (For the complete version of the song, just hang tight… I hope to release a soundtrack album, which would certainly include the anthem.)
The ceremony is interrupted when cylons land in the middle of the field. This is where the musical energy really ramps up. I wanted the action music to feel special, to suggest something important is happening, and not simply provide suspense. I introduced a rhythmic motor that will propel the entire cue. The string orchestra begins an aggressive variation of the Graystone Ostinato:
The cylons scan the crowd, in search of the terrorists as Daniel works from the control room. Here, I allowed the ostinato to relax momentarily while violins and an English horn offer an exotic and lyrical counter-melody:
Underneath it all, the Graystone Ostinato still chugs along, adding tension and constantly growing stronger and louder. When the standoff between Zoe and Clarice is added to the sequence, I developed a mini-fugue, stacking the Graystone Theme on top of itself over and over, modulating each time. This type of writing is efficient, because it allows me to take the five notes of the melody, and expand it into an entire sequence:
Soon, the cylons find their targets and move in for the kill. Here, I let Paul Cartwright bust out the electric fiddle and go nuts. You’ve heard Paul featured on nearly every cue in “Battlestar Galactica,” notably “Baltar’s Dream” and “All Along the Watchtower.”
His unique brand of Middle-Eastern-inspired shredding immediately brings the sound of “BSG” back to our minds, especially when combined with pounding taiko drums, dumbeks and chang changs:
I wanted to associate the images of cylons charging into battle with a signature “BSG” sound, because we all know where this story ultimately ends. This brief passage is the most direct stylistic quotation of my “Battlestar Galactica” score to be featured in “Caprica.”
The sequence builds to a furious finale. The cylons rush to take out the bombers while Zoe destroys virtual heaven with her sheer will. For this climactic montage, I brought in pounding taikos, electric bass and electric guitars. Above them, the Graystone Theme soars in the orchestral violins:
This is the first time since the series Main Title that I’ve combined strings, percussion and electric guitars in this way. In fact, I wanted this cue to feel like an extended version of the Main Title, to imply that all of this has happened before and all of it will happen again. (And I think the Main Title kicks ass and wanted to use that groove again.)
For the final act, we are abruptly transported into the future, in a move reminiscent of the “One Year Later” stunt from “BSG” Season 2. This act was an interesting challenge for me, because it lies somewhere in the gray area between a montage and a trailer. Of course, we know it’s not a trailer for Season 2, because that will never happen. But, I didn’t know this at the time I was scoring it.
The sequence shows all of our main characters and what they’re doing now. It also shows us how radically the acceptance of cylon technology has changed everyone’s lives almost overnight.
Like the action cue from the previous act, I took my inspiration from earlier “BSG” string writing, such as “Passacaglia” and “Violence and Variations.” This piece, entitled “The Differently Sentient,” begins with a simple ostinato introduced in the lower strings:
Above them, the violins begin to shift and change, flowing to new and exotic notes above the simple, steady bass-line.
The first half of this montage-trailer-hybrid-thingy is scored with nothing beyond this simple idea. I let the conversation between Daniel and Sarno explain how cylons integrated into society without allowing the music to get in their way. However, once we transition to new characters, the music grows and becomes more emotional.
We cut to the Adama family, and see the new William Adama. Here, the strings become warmer and fuller. Paul Cartwright’s signature fiddle offers the Tauron Theme for the final time:
We cut to a glorious cathedral, where Clarice preaches to rows upon rows of cylon workers. Here, the orchestra becomes more unified. The wandering violin lines settle down into a simple bass line and accompaniment pattern. This implies the hierarchy of cylon religion, and budding society, forming under Clarice’s direction. Above the strings, the woodwinds offer an exotically harmonized statement of the Clarice Theme:
We cut to a cylon factory and the strings kick into double time. The harmonic rhythm is the same, however the gentle lulling 8th notes are replaced by aggressive 16ths. The energy in the score suggests the strength in the cylons’ numbers and the inevitability of humanity’s downfall.
At last we witness the Graystones reviving their daughter from what appears to be a resurrection tub, while Clarice’s sermon reaches a fever pitch. Here, the percussion kicks in and the upper strings and woodwinds offer a final, soaring statement of the Graystone Theme:
And thus ends my adventure with “Caprica.” This series has been a rewarding adventure, and I will always look back fondly on the score. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m optimistic 2011 will bring us a “Caprica” soundtrack release, though nothing is official yet. Keep an eye out here on the blog. You’ll hear it here first.
There are also many other exciting projects brewing. Beginning Sunday night, I will blog weekly about my newest full-orchestral series, “The Cape” (premieres Sunday 1/9 on NBC). If you enjoyed my music for “BSG,” “Caprica” or “Human Target,” you don’t want to miss this series. It’s the most epic sound I’ve created yet! Later in the year, gamers will experience my exotic and bombastic “SOCOM 4″ score, and the outrageously awesome feature “Knights of Badassdom” will mark my third collaboration with actress Summer Glau.
Lastly, I want to give special thanks to you guys, the “Caprica” fans. You’ve been so loyal and supportive to our series, and that means a lot to everyone involved. I’m proud of the season we completed, and glad to know fans like you will keep the show alive in your hearts and DVD players.
So Say We All!