My New Series Premiere: Trauma
September 24th, 2009
This Monday, September 28th on NBC at 9/8c, check out the premiere of my newest series!
I know what you’re thinking: “Wait a minute… this looks like a medical show. But, if Bear is doing the score then this TV series must somehow involve cyborgs who look like sexy people that want to destroy and / or save humanity.” Alas, no. Trauma represents my long-overdue step out of the sci fi genre. But, don’t worry… with the rocket-pack-themed Dark Void videogame and BSG prequel series Caprica out in January, I’m in no danger of losing my sci fi cred just yet. :)
When I saw the first episode, I was hooked and knew it was a series I had to be involved in. Executive produced by Peter Berg, Trauma is an action series disguised as medical drama that focuses on EMTs in San Francisco. The show is shot and cut like a combat movie, where each sequence is infused with chaos and energy. Because the action takes place out in the field, it has a much more open and dangerous feeling than most medical dramas.
The cast is incredible across the board, and each of them portrays a medic with personal problems more out of control than their hectic jobs. I was particularly struck by Anastasia Griffith’s Nancy and the character Rabbit, played by Cliff Curtis.
I first noticed Curtis when he played a likable drug dealer in Bringing Out The Dead (a movie ironically about EMTs). But I became a big fan when I saw Training Day, a film he almost stole despite being in just a single, yet memorable, sequence.
The Trauma pilot, and many subsequent episodes, were directed by Jeffrey Reiner, with whom I also collaborated on the Caprica pilot that came out on DVD last spring. Despite sharing the same director, Trauma and Caprica could not be more different, musically. This series features many pop, rock and punk songs that give it a contemporary feel. I wanted the score to blend in to the real-world setting, and not stand out from the songs, so the instrumentation is based in a rock and roll language.
Percussion is frequently the defining sound of any of my projects. Battlestar had taiko drums, Caprica has harp, Terminator had metallic percussion. On Trauma, you will hear a rock and roll rhythm section, though it is used in some highly unorthodox ways. (I am generally turned off by soundtracks claiming to be “rock scores” and strove to avoid falling in the same traps, fearful of ending up with music that is neither decent rock nor effective score).
On bass, listen for Mike Valerio, who shared the stage with the BSG Orchestra at the Roxy, California Plaza and House of Blues, and is among the most incredible bassists I’ve ever heard.
The most important melodic instruments in the score are the electric guitars, which are played primarily by BSG veterans Steve Bartek (also of Oingo Boingo fame) and Brendan McCreary (of BrEndAn’s Band fame).
The bulk of the score is filled with intense action music, held down by the rhythm section and an arsenal of custom samples designed for me by my long-time collaborator Jonathan Snipes (of Captain Ahab fame).
To help me create a unique sound for this show, I turned to another BSG veteran working on Trauma, Daniel Colman, who recently won a long-overdue Emmy for his incredible sound design on Battlestar Galactica.
Daniel provided us with a ton of helicopter rotor sounds, which Jonathan Snipes then worked his magic on. Combining the signature whooshing propellor sounds with oscillating analog synths (both of which had to be quantized in order to function as music), Snipes created for me a custom library of percussion sounds rooted in the reality of the series. There are helicopters in the sound design and helicopters within the score itself.
I am the first to admit an approach like this risks becoming the cheesiest thing in the world. However, Jonathan provided me the ability to process the helicopter sounds in many different ways, all with the touch of various faders. The helicopters in my system can sound 100% natural or like a distorted, out of phase, filtered, blurry mess… or like anything in between.
Yet, these “chopper” samples only provided the backbone for my cues, upon which I added the live drum kit, bass, guitars, percussion and BSG alums Paul Cartwright on electric violin and Chris Bleth on woodwinds.
I must confess the end result is pretty rockin’. I hope that BSG or T:TSCC fans can recognize my style, even though the Trauma score sounds like nothing I’ve ever done before.
Check out the video clips on the Official Site and you can already hear my score in action. In the first clip, the tempo of the music lines up perfectly with Daniel’s helicopter sound effects track throughout most of the scene. And there’s a bitchin’ Steve Bartek guitar solo too. Cool!
Apart from sharing directors, sound designers and musicians, Trauma is connected to BSG in another unusual way. Star Anastasia Griffith is actually the sister of BSG‘s “Apollo,” Jamie Bamber! The first time I watched the pilot, I kept looking at her face and feeling like I knew her somehow. When I heard she was related to Jamie, suddenly everything clicked and I wondered how I didn’t see their resemblance immediately. Even though she and I have never worked together before, I still enjoy seeing a distantly familiar face on screen as I’m working. :)
Since most of you reading this blog are BSG fans, I asked Anastasia if she’d do a quick interview for us, and tell us how she and her brother ended up in this crazy business. She was gracious enough to spend a minute with me for this interview: