Caprica: Season 1.5

Thus far, Caprica has been an amazing musical journey for me.  I’ve written a National Anthem, a Tauron gangster rap, a drag queen burlesque, and an opera for Alessandro Juliani, just to name a few explorations. That journey continues as “Caprica” returns to SyFy, Tuesday nights at 10pm, to complete its first season.

Tonight’s mid-season premiere, Unvanquished, was directed by Eric Stoltz (Daniel Graystone), who brings an uncompromising visual and narrative style to the story.  Having worked with Eric as an actor, writing him piano arrangements to play on set, I knew he was a talented musician.  So, it came as no surprise when working with him as a director that he brought a sophisticated ear and honed musical instincts to the process.

Eric and I spoke at length about the direction of the music in Unvanquished.  The episode not only returns us to the various settings already established, including New Cap City, Graystone Industries labs and the Tauron underworld, but introduces a new one: the planet Gemanon, home to the monotheists and STO.  This mystical and ceremonial hallowed ground provided an opportunity to try out new musical styles for this series.

Each principal setting in “Caprica” has a unique sound.  The upper echelons of Caprican society, the Graystone’s world, is underscored with an intellectual, classical sound.  The Tauron mafia is accompanied by traditional acoustic instruments, evocative of old Europe.  And New Cap City is set to an undulating backbone of video-game inspired analog synthesizers.

So, what would be the sound of Gemenon?

This was the topic of several discussions between Eric and I as we tried to piece this together.  We decided that the score for these sequences at the monotheistic temple should be more about the place than the actual narrative, functioning almost as source music.  Though we don’t see any ceremonies on camera, I wanted to create the feeling that religious rituals were taking place all around us, enveloping us in ambient music.

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I drew inspiration from Eastern religious music, especially that of Tibet.  Isolated percussion hits pierce the silence between solitary chimes from bells and prayer bowls.  The tempo is so slow that it almost comes across more as sound effects than music.  I wanted the score to be as unobtrusive as possible, to amplify the creepiness of the setting, and to set itself apart from the music found in the other locations of the show.

The Gemonese ceremonial music was exciting because it allowed me to incorporate yet another sound into my “Caprica” musical toolbox (which wasn’t exactly short on themes and sounds as it was).  However, Unvanquished offered even more musical surprises.

Towards the end of the episode, Zoe is revealed to be roaming freely through New Cap City and she is attacked by a bunch of goons.  As she proceeds to kick their asses, the score transitions from the expected suspenseful underscore to an oddly simplistic child-like waltz.

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This was another idea from Stoltz, who wisely felt that a typical action cue would not really add anything to the scene.  Instead, he wanted something innocent and simple, the kind of music that Zoe might have played on the piano as a child, perhaps even something her dad taught her.  With the action effectively choreographed and shot, the action spoke for itself.  The music was now free to explore a deeper narrative thread.  This scene is about a lost child, roaming a dangerous world on her own.

I found these ideas artistically challenging and happily tackled scoring the scene in this unconventional matter.  This was a technique that worked very effectively in the past on “Battlestar Galactica,” most notably on The Hub.  Musical scoring that approaches a scene from nearly the polar-opposite perspective from the expected is what makes working on these series so rewarding, and I was grateful that Eric crafted a sequence like this.

So “Caprica” has finally returned after many months of waiting.  To all “Caprica” fans, this is your opportunity to get a season 2 of this show.  The fate of the series rests entirely upon the ratings for the next ten weeks and on DVD sales of season 1.0.

And I say to anyone on the fence about diving into this show, the last half of this run of episodes is really astonishing.  I just finished scoring the final episode and it’s grand-scale television storytelling at its finest.  Tell your friends to tune in and “Caprica” can move forward to another season.

Also, you’ve probably noticed that I named this blog entry “Season 1.5″ instead of just calling it “Unvanquished.”  I am so busy this fall, I may not be able to write about every single episode.  I’ll post as often as I can, but I still want to hear from you if you have questions or comments.  Feel free to use this blog post as the universal “Caprica” thread, even if I fall behind in blogging.

I had a great time at the premiere screening a few nights ago, and it was especially fun to see so many of you.  So Say We All!

-Bear