Caprica: There Is Another Sky
February 26th, 2010
SPOILERS BEYOND: Tonight’s There is Another Sky is the first “Caprica” episode directed by Michael Nankin, whose “BSG” episodes brought me some of the best musical opportunities in that entire series (Someone to Watch Over Me, for example). I assumed that he’d have some challenges for me in “Caprica,” and I was not disappointed.
Another Sky is unique because it’s the first to focus almost exclusively on the Taurons and the Adamas. In addition to exploring the relationship between Willie and Joseph, we also learn a great deal more about Tamara, who finds herself in a V-World videogame called “New Cap City.” She essentially has the Game Genie Code for Infinite Lives (if you know that reference, you’re probably my age or older).
This episode allowed me to push the boundaries of the score with new source music as well as several new themes.
Early in the episode, we follow Tamara into New Cap City. This is a virtual re-creation of Caprica City, much like Grand Theft Auto’s Liberty City is a liberal recreation of New York. David Eick and I felt strongly that this environment needed its own unique sound. In addition to highlighting the city’s dark and dangerous vibe, we felt the score could help differentiate between the various settings this series now utilizes. We wanted the character of the score to have a unique signature element for each of the major locales: the “real” Caprica City, the V-Club and New Cap City.
The intimate “chamber orchestra meets small percussion ensemble” sound of the series underscores our adventures in Caprica City. The V-Club has clearly been defined by the thumping Captain Ahab remixes that all the kids seem to enjoy so much. But, New Cap City presented a new challenge.
I wanted the score in New Cap City to have uniquely synthesized elements, to create the impression you’re actually hearing score to the game itself (as a newcomer to the videogame music industry myself, this was especially intriguing). I introduced a distorted drum kit, electric bass and guitars as well as several layers of synthesizers, creating a retro-futuristic sound. Our first New Cap City cue underscores Tamara’s entrance into the world:
I admit my approach teeters right on the brink of being really cheesy, but that’s where I wanted it, right on the edge. The New Cap City score should evoke the feeling of a videogame soundtrack, and here I think it does. Of course, the taikos and small percussion of “Caprica” are still there too, so its all unified, and doesn’t sound too different.
If the imagery and soundtrack of New Cap City feel familiar, then you’re really paying attention. The Main Title sequence has included shots from New Cap City since the first episode. And the distorted drum kit, guitar and bass are also present in the Main Title. Since I wrote my first New Cap City sketches for the producers several months before actually scoring this episode, I knew that these sounds were on the horizon when I wrote the Main Title. For the past three episodes, you had no idea why I added these industrial / metal elements to the “Caprica” title sequence. Well, now you know.
However, there is more at work in that last audio clip than just rockin’ instrumentation. Another Sky introduces another major character theme, the Tamara Theme:
At first this melody feels like it’s the New Cap City Theme, but throughout the episode it becomes more and more connected to Tamara’s story arc, which is clearly on its way to some interesting places.
In that first audio clip, her theme is played by Paul Cartwright on the electric violin, as it frequently is throughout the episode. The violin represents her Tauron heritage and connection to her father, because the acoustic violin always plays the Tauron Theme. However, running it through Paul’s amp and distortion effects represents the change Tamara has undergone and her new surroundings in New Cap City.
Tamara’s Theme reaches its full development during the bank vault heist. Once she and Herecles get past the guards, he starts downloading the virtual money he believes will win the game. I must confess, whether or not this guy we just met won the game was of absolutely zero interest to me, and I used the score to shift the focus away from the obvious foregound story in order to highlight the far more interesting subtext: Tamara’s story.
Here, she is confused, lost and alone and doesn’t know whether or not Herecles is taking advantage of her. But, she’s also thrilled by the theft, nervous, vulnerable and simultaneously invincible. There’s a lot more going on in this scene than the videogame itself. So, I underscored this moment with a powerful rendition of the Tamara Theme:
The arrangement includes all the signature elements of the New Cap City score (distorted drum kit, electric guitars, bass and synthesizers), but the Tamara melody soars above it, providing a powerful emotional undercurrent.
At the climax of her story line, she realizes that Vesta can’t help and asks Herecles to search for her father in the real world. A plaintive English Horn solo of her theme underscores this emotional moment, picked up quickly by the flutes and harp:
Again, the signature New Cap City elements are always there, but when the focus is on the emotional narrative, I push them into the background.
Despite all the time and effort required for New Cap City and Tamara, they were not my greatest challenges in There is Another Sky. No, that honor goes to the Tauron Ceremony Song used in the Joseph / Willie storyline.
Michael Nankin called me from the set last summer and let me know that the script called for a ceremony song to be sung in Tauron on camera. The script had the lyrics, but no particular musical direction. Once Nankin had cast the singer, I set out to write a song for her to sing on set.
With “BSG,” we had a tradition of score themes seeping into the narrative itself and becoming songs that the characters are aware of. Why should “Caprica” be any different? From the pilot, I had already firmly established the Tauron Theme as being the signature sound for the Taurons and their culture:
It makes perfect sense to me that this melody would have actually come from Tauron ritual, so I made it the cornerstone of the ceremony song. However, in order to accommodate the lyrics by screenwriter Kath Lingenfelter, I had to alter the melody. There were simply too many syllables in the text. So, I created what I call the Tauron Ceremony Theme:
As with nearly every song I write for this show, there’s much more iceberg there that you’re not seeing. I composed a complete song with multiple verses and a bridge, because I was unsure how much would actually be needed for the scene. I hope that an eventual soundtrack album will have some room for this complete tune, because its really lovely.
However brief, its appearance in the ceremony scene adds another layer of authenticity and believability to Tauron society. The actress who sang it did an amazing job and leant the performance a heavy gravitas:
In addition to the Tauron Theme, the Tauron Ceremony Theme and the Tamara Theme, there is one other melody associated with the Taurons, Joseph and Willie in particular: “Wander My Friends.” While I try to avoid over-using the sole melody from “BSG” to carry over, I simply couldn’t resist using it here in this moment where father and son finally bond. Did you guys pick up on it?
The text of the Ceremony Song is in ancient Greek (our substitute for Tauron), and the translation is quite beautiful:
These are the voices of those
Who have passed over the river heard
On the wind entwined with the
Eternal and the everlasting
These are the voices of those whom
We have loved, who no more will suffer
Who have returned to the mud
This is the voice of the dead
Entwined with the eternal and the everlasting
Ironically, whenever I see these words now I can think of nothing but the gangster rap that Brendan and I made out of them for Reins of a Waterfall:
There is Another Sky is an important milestone for both the series and my score. We are finally branching away from the events in the pilot, with new themes and characters being introduced. This episode will always have a special place in my memory because I was able to craft a traditional Tauron ritual song, and further connect my score and the world of the characters. And I got to write some crazy videogame music too!