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Sci-Fi Channel: Online Chat with Mark Snow

Sci-Fi Channel
Online Chat with Mark Snow

Moderator: Hi everyone — thanks for joining us at scifi.com tonight. We’re talking with Mark Snow, the man responsible for the eerie, atmospheric music behind The X-Files TV series and movie. Mark Snow has also written the scores for over 70 TV movies and miniseries, as well as series such as La Femme Nikita, Nowhere Man and Millennium. Mark has released numerous CDs, including Songs in the Key of X, The X-Files: The Truth and the Light, the soundtrack to the 1998 film Disturbing Behavior and his latest, The Snow Files, released by Sonic Images. He’s a five-time Emmy nominee.

UnaLurker: I’d like to know if Mark will be doing the music for Harsh Realm?

MarkSnow: Yes I will!

MattA2k: What episodes of Millennium are you most proud of? And aside from your underscore, what episodes are your favorites? And why?

MarkSnow: Hmmm… This last season there was an episode called “Closure”, that had to do with Emma and her father. It had a regressive moment that I really liked and there was an 8 minute piece of music that I wrote for Emma and Frank, while they were at their keyboards. It was almost Celtic. Part of it I borrowed from Bartok, but with solo violin. That was nice. The last 5 or 6 shows were all excellent, albeit twisted. Oh and let me mention the Halloween Show in season 2… and the Devils episode… and the Charles Nelson Riley episode.

Mescalinum: I wondered why he used the film music in the 6th season? I thought it was kind of disturbing at some points because the film music is so dramatic and when you listen to it in season 6 you actually see the scenes of the movie in front of you.

MarkSnow: I can understand the confusion with season 6, but there were moments that were highly dramatic and rather large. Using some of the music from the movie took some of the course off the electronics. Well taken comment!

Langly: Will you be doing the score for the next X-Files Movie?

MarkSnow: Yes, I’ll be doing the score for the next movie… I’m hoping it’s a smaller more sandblown movie… It would be fun if it was in black and white!

Dopeyman: I most enjoy your music from the X-Files episodes “Paper Hearts”, “Soft Light”, and the repeating two-note phrase that always pops up in mythology episodes and the movie. Do you agree? What else are your favorite scores?

MarkSnow: I’ve had so many, and so varied. The score I did for “Humbug” is a favorite. And “Home” with the Peacock family and the Queen Mary episode this year. And David’s directorial debut.

SnowGeek: Speaking of your favorite scores, tell us about the new Snow Files album.

MarkSnow: It’s a compilation of things I did before X-Files, and a 30 minute suite from the show w/out dialog done by John Beal. It starts with La Femme Nikita and goes from there. Some big romantic pieces etc. People who only know me from X-Files will be surprised. The reviews have been great! I’m pleased. I even threw in Pee Wee’s Playhouse!

Bolo: Will a Millennium soundtrack ever be released?

MarkSnow: I’m hoping it will — since Millennium is over now and going into syndication heaven. But it’s up to FOX and to Chris. They have to approve.

Beth: At what point in the process of creating an XF episode do you begin to compose the music? Is it when you first see the script, or after some of the film has been shot?

MarkSnow: I do read the script ahead of time, but I need to see the images, that’s when it comes alive.

What’s easier to work with: The X-Files or Millennium? And what kind of music do you prefer composing: action or dramatic?

MarkSnow: Millennium and X are equally easy, and equally hard… depends on the episode. In X-Files, I like the monster episode more than the mythology. There isn’t much room to do anything but generic dramatic stuff. The stand alones give me room to be quirky. I can be creative and try new things. Millennium was a nice contract. Lonely violins… Pseudo classical. But I love working with Chris Carter because he doesn’t interfer. I can be experimental.

Tessabeck: What types of music do you listen to?

MarkSnow: Mostly classical pieces. I seem to have a hole in my classical listening from after Mozart. Oboe was my first instrument. Maybe you can tell. I like John Cage and the moderns too. They speak to me.

Techist: What formal training do you have, if any… are there any film music workshops that you can recommend or any programs that might be of help to anyone wanting to pursue a career in this field?

MarkSnow: I never started out intending to compose for film. I was an instrumentalist at Julliard and played rock-n-roll. But I loved modern and avante garde music. The score to Planet of the Apes by Jerry Goldsmith inspired me to write for films. I was a guest speaker at Berkeley School in Boston — they have the best program… and then USC in LA.

Riddley: What are your favorite film scores by other people? I like Goldsmith’s Planet of the Apes and Nyman’s Cook, The Thief, etc.

MarkSnow: Certainly The Planet of the Apes and Goldsmith’s Islands In The Stream, and Coma Coma was really interesting because the first half of the film literally has no music at all then it comes in soft and builds and builds. Thomas Newmans’ Shawshank Redemption score. Silvarado is a great traditional western score. And Cinema Paradiso… and the score for Island… and The Mission… all by Maricone. I like Bernstein’s On The Waterfront…

Moderator: What about Nino Rota???

MarkSnow: Oh… of course Nino Rota!

Dopeyman: I’ve heard rumors of an album featuring your original attempts at the X-Files theme. Also a 2nd volume to The Snow Files, a CD with the Nowhere Man theme, and another X-Files score. Any news on any of these?

MarkSnow: There has been talk of that… coming up with the theme… Chris fed me a lot of CDs while I was working on it… I did four versions that didn’t quite work. Finally I did something from scratch. The 4 minute version took me about a half an hour. One of the few records, all in the same key, that’s actually been a hit. But yes, I hope we do a CD with all those things!

GeRSa: How long have you been working as a composer for TV shows and which was your first?

MarkSnow: I’ve been working for 22 years… My first was an episode of The Rookie for Aaron Spelling. Besides the X-Files, my favorite is the score for a new film called Crazy in Alabama directed by Antonio Banderas… And I really like The Oldest Living Confederate Widow… nice acoustic work there!

Sifaria: What would a typical workday for you be like? Do you stick to a particular working routine, or is it in fits and starts?

MarkSnow: The morning — starting by 7:00 and working until 3 or 4. I’m not a night owl.

Tessabeck: What do you do in your “free time” to relax?

MarkSnow: I worry about whether I’ll ever work again… THEN I go for long bike rides… and I like to buy houses and fix them up and sell them. And I investigate hair replacement companies.

Thisbe: You went to Maricopa High in Arizona with my mom… you went through her yearbook and circled every picture of you and wrote “What a guy!” next to them. I was wondering what was your most memorable event in high school?

MarkSnow: I didn’t go to school in Arizona… so it was another Mark Snow!

Moderator: A doppelganger!

MarkSnow: My most memorable event in high school was riding the subway to and from school!

Tessabeck: When you watch a movie that you didn’t do the score, do you notice the music first or the storyline?

MarkSnow: Good question… If I’m really loving the movie, I don’t notice the music. But if the move is bad, or so-so I pay attention to the music. Well… unfortunately. For example… Mary Reilly… Dreadful movie, but it had great music… Danny Elfman, I think. It’s amazing how much good music goes into mediocre films.

LaFemme: Who is the artist John Beal, who did the LFN and X-Files music on your new CD?

MarkSnow: John is a composer in LA. He expanded the La Femme music into a long piece and performed the X-Files suite.

MulderLovesScully: Sorry for the silly question, but will you be doing the soundtrack for the 7th season?

MarkSnow: Yes. It’s not a silly question. Chris promised me great shows to work with!

Sifaria: Is there such a thing as musical bloopers? And have you had any?

MarkSnow: Hmmm… Not really. I’m pretty much in control of what goes out of my studio. But those things aren’t aired… my musical jokes… Comedy at inappropriate times…

Care1013: Do you know whether the 7th season of the X-Files will be the last?

MarkSnow: I am told that it will be the last. But they might give David and Gillian 5 million a show for another season, but don’t bet on it!

JohnBeal: Thanks for the mention! What is the SHORTEST amount of time you had to write any television episode? Congrats on your new hit album!

MarkSnow: Hi John! Thanks for your excellent work! The real crunch was an X-Files episode where I had a day and a half.

Sassejenn: The X-Files scores usually run for most of the episode, but recently, during “Field Trip” you used a lot of silence. Why did you choose that for that particular episode?

MarkSnow: There were a lot of huge sound designed sound effects. It would have been too much with music. The music and the effects work together. Sometimes I wish there were more shows like that!

UnaLurker: You mentioned Pee Wee’s Playhouse. I always thought that was Mark Mothersbaugh’s work. Did you work on the show?

MarkSnow: Yes. I did 5 episodes of Pee Wee. I think that Elfman wrote the theme sung by Cindy Lauper, and Mark did the bulk. But George Clinton did some shows too.

Moderator: George Clinton? Wow.

MarkSnow: One of the shows I did for Pee Wee, Jimmy Smits was the guest… but enough Pee Wee trivia.

Dwmfox: Do you always write your music from the heart? I’ve always done it that way and I feel that you get more emotion in the music that way. Do you believe that too?

MarkSnow: I think it’s mostly true. There are dark scenes that require dark music… and often times scenes that require unemotional music. But there’s a depth of emotion behind it.

Dr2Red: Mark, have you ever written anything for the stage?

MarkSnow: No, but I conducted a high school rendition of Bye, Bye Birdie. Actually, I was just asked to do the music for a ballet based on Hamlet for the Bulgarian National Ballet… The strangest request of my career!

DTissaGirl: I love it when you use tribal music, ritual music. Do you actually research on this kind of music to compose the scores for episodes like “Teliko”?

MarkSnow: Right. I’d like top say I do, but I don’t really have the time. I just sort of imagine what I think the sound should be. It may not be authentic, but that makes it interesting.

What exhilarating music you have composed?

MarkSnow: Actually there was piece in the middle of the X-Files movie… In the desert, in a car. It was actually written for the opening of the movie, then I moved it. Very driving rhythm. I wish I could remember the cut on the film score CD… it’s the first piece I think! I heard it used on the British Open Golf tournament last year!

Sassejenn: When you sample from the show’s theme during an episode, is it usually with a purpose in mind, like to signal a significant moment?

MarkSnow: The first time I ever used the theme to underscore was in “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space'”. In the movie I used it a lot to signal “here comes the cavalry.”

FoxMulderFBI: We were wondering if you have any other projects coming up?

MarkSnow: The Crazy in Alabama film coming out in October — very different music from X… the new Chris Carter show…

Moderator: And our final question for tonight — and Mark, thanks for being such an articulate, entertaining guest!

Slingblade: I am a Trumpet player… and I want to be a composer. Is there anything you can tell me to help me on my chosen career?

MarkSnow: Do one of three things… Go to Berkeley School in Boston or USC or move to LA and just call anyone you can think of and pester your way in to the studios. But don’t let them dent the trumpet!

Moderator: Mark Snow’s new CD, The Snow Files, has just been released. And it’s available at finer stores everywhere — why with a click of your mouse, you can order it from Amazon.com!!! Mark, thanks so much for joining us here tonight. I’m being avalanched by Private Messages whose gist is: WE THINK YOU’RE SWELL!!!

MarkSnow: Good Night Everybody! I’ve got to run! Thanks for having me!

Moderator: Thank YOU, Mark! Thanks to everyone else for joining us tonight.

Source: Sci-Fi Channel Dominion [www.scifi.com]

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