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Tracks of Creation: Words from Mark Snow

Tracks of Creation: The Dark Issue
Words from Mark Snow
Neil St. Laurent

[Original article here]

X-Files, The Score / Fight The Future
(c)1998 Elektra Entertainment Group

The music of popular television is certainly not what comes to mind when one thinks of dark music, but the most well known dark composer has to be none other than Mark Snow, for his electronic creations for the TV series The X-Files, and with even more brooding darkness in the sound for Millenium.

This CD is the score for the movie, sort of, much of the music on this CD never actually appears in the movie. Unlike the previous TV series soundtrack, “The Truth And The Light” (which is more recommended as a true selection of fine haunting dark soundscapes), the symphonic sound of the movie score better serves the movie’s interest than the independent listener. Nonetheless, the sound of this recording is much more complex than the series and definitely still very pleasing to sit around and listen to.

This release will likely be one of the most gentle introductions, and not a complete one, into the realm of dark music, where further adventure with the TV soundtrack is a true introduction and offers a very original haunting ambient sound.

Words from Mark Snow

How did you ever got started on the TV series of X-Files?

Chris Carter didn’t have any relative or friend he know that was a composer, so there were like fifteen guys that were put up for the job and luckily for I knew one of the other producers, this guy Bob Goodwin […] who was the producer in Vancouver, and he suggested the idea to Chris and Chris liked the idea that I lived in his part of town, so he didn’t have to travel way out somewhere else. Anyways, he came to my place, I was doing a low budget movie and he heard what I was doing and he liked it, I think he liked it, he didn’t say much, he was very polite and respectful, then he came back a second time and said “oh okay, oh well we’ll be talking, thank you very much for your time” and he left. Then two weeks later I got the call saying I got the job. When he left I didn’t know what was up. It easily could have been he hates you, or he likes you… he didn’t give any indication when he was around.

How did you get your first start in the movie industry itself?

My wife’s sister is an actress named Time Daily, who was in Cagny And Lacey, and […] her husband was another actor, doing a series for Aaron Spelling and was able to take some of my music to him, and he liked it, and I got to do an episode of this series which was called The Rookies, [1970] something or other, and then it just kind of went from there.

Up until X-Files my career was very solid, but unremarkable, I mean it was really solid in TV and a lot of TV movies and mini-series and I was always working and very grateful for that. When X-Files came around, that really sort of put me up in a hole other level.

Did you always set out to do scores for television and movies or did you look to do something else at some point?

I grew in New York city, and I went to Juliard, a school of music, I was an Oboe player and I all set to be [an] Oboeist in a symphony orchestra in America, and you know, maybe teach on the side and have 2.5 children, you know, a regular life. […] My roommate and I put together a band in the 60’s, a rock-n-roll band, and we toured for five years actually, with this group, and I really got into commercial music, recording of music, and still had my serious graphical background, and thought “boy, this would be great”. It seemed like a TV music and movie music, you know you had to had some sort of serious background, because some of that music sounded like Stratvinsky, Vartoch, you know, like that.

Was it a stretch to go from what you were doing to producing the sound required for the X-Files?

When I first started out there was no real… the electronic music world was [extremely] limited, and about ten years ago, or eight years ago, whenever it was, when I got my first home studio of stuff, that was a big depature for me, because up until then I did everything acoustically, with different sizes of orchestras and combinations of live instruments, there was never any electronic anything. […] Luckily I had my studio here for about three years before the X-Files came along, and when that came along I was prepared and ready for that other type of sound, luckily for me.

For the movie [you’ve] gone back to the symphony sound instead of the electronic sound, why did you choose that?

The movie is like a million times bigger in scope than the TV show, you’re doing things in the movie that they don’t possibly have the time or the money for, and it really needed the bigger sound, sometimes over-the-top melodramatic at times, but you know a lot of action a lot of running around. […] [The CD] is about 10 minutes too long, it starts out great, you’re into this thing and about half way through you’ve [had enough] of this just banging on your head. I think it sounds rather good, other than they having maybe been too much music. It fits the movie, it works great, it fits with the film.

You don’t think it has too much of the hollywood sound to it?

At times it does, when you see the movie, which I presume you will, you’ll see the connection… I hope. The thing is, that some of that sound we were using in a lot of those bigger episodes, and everybody seemed to be bored with that, it’s a big departure from the more evocative ambient atmospheric stuff. I just thought it was either no music, or that type of music.

[…] [EdNote: The discussion of the bees song is pointless to transcribe as Mark attempts to recreate some of the sounds from it vocally.]

Do you think the music compares then to the symphony music of others series like Hellraiser, which it seems very comparable to?

[…] I know some of the movies, but I’m not familiar with the music. I’m expecting every kind of review of that coming down, I haven’t gotten any yet, I’m expected to get this is over-the-top [crap] or this is grandious and great, or it’s okay, I wish there was less music, or I wish it was louder. I don’t know, anything is possible. But, I’m just hoping it doesn’t get [criticized] too bad.

Overall you feel that it worked very well with the movie and it was a success on that point?

Well the other thing that is unfortunate is that a lot of that music on the CD is not in the movie. […] I recorded the music first, before they dubbed the picture, then they dubbed the picture and we all decided to take some of this out, and thin it out, just have sort of more of the sound effects going, so it sort of does a disservice to what the real music score is, because it’s not as much music as what is on the CD.

That’s unfortunately what happens sometimes, even with Titanic there’s some queues in there, some pieces, that aren’t in the movie.


Being an electronica fan herself, does Gillian Anderson ever try to be involved in the music?

*Laugh* There’s one story where she sent a message to me, it was one of the shows, I think year two, where it was a predominantly harsh show, I think is was called “One Breath”, […], very emotional episode, and she got a message to me from someone, “you know I really liked this to sound like blah blah” whatever, a cut from some CD by someone, and it wasn’t such a bad idea, in fact I actually did it. But I told Chris Carter and he said “I’ll decide what music goes onto the show”. […] He doesn’t want anybody telling me what to do except him.

So there isn’t much involvement or influence from other people on the set for the music then?

None, none whatsoever, it’s him. It comes from him, Big Daddy.


What is like working for a show with such a large following?

Fantastic, it’s really great, but what’s really the best part of the whole thing is that the shows are really good and they’re not boring, it’s like doing a mini-movie every week. So there’s always something interesting about them, which makes my job a lot better. […] There are a lot of TV shows where the music is just sort of wallpaper that doesn’t do much.

How does working on Millenium differ from working on X-Files?

Well Millenium is sort of set up, a lot of it, a sound that is somewhat almost, it has sort, ancient religious type sound to it sometimes, with the violin solo and so many of the stories have sort of a primitive medieval ancient religious overtones and there is a simple sound that I came up with that I was hoping that would work, and I think that the majority of the music is like that. Sometimes it has to be big for some running and jumping, actiony stuff, but that’s much in the minority, it’s mostly a sparse, more cerebrial, thoughtful sound, than the X-Files mayhem.

What direction would you like to take the music for Millenium, the same thing, or would you like to change it now?

It’d be fun, [I] hear there’s a whole new direction that the show is going to go in, there’s almost going to be a mini X-Files or something, where Lance Hendix (the Frank Black character) moves to Washington D.C. and hooks up with the FBI there and gets paired up with two young FBI agents, a male and a female, does that sound familiar? You know, Mulder and Scully, of course it’s not them but something like that, so we’ll have to see what happens with that.

You think the atmosphere it going to stay rather dark though, in the music and everything?

I don’t know if it’s going to be the same brooding type stuff as before, or if it’s going to be more in the light of day.

Do you ever feel that after doing the X-Files and Millenium for so long that you’d like the chance to score something a little happier or lighter for a change?

Well I do that occassionally, but still, the shows are so interesting that there is still a good part of it [where] I can do some sweet music or lighter music [so] it’s not all just dark, bang-crash, heavy-duty stuff.

Do you consider your music to be dark music?

I think, in a funny way, I think it’s somewhat sad music I think it’s somewhat bittersweet, I think it has a sort of melancholy sound to it sometimes, and I feel very comfortable with that kind of stuff. So if it’s not just synthesizer sustains and dark chords, [this] other stuff seems to be more prevalent, it’s gotten more melodic, at the first they wanted it be very supportive and just sustain, not much. And now it’s gotten more traditional in a way.

What type of influences do you draw upon for this type of music?

Certainly a few film composer, Jerry Goldsmith is one of my favorites, Planet Of The Apes was one of my favorite scores, but besides that, you know, the great 20th century composers, Stratvinsky [and others] to name a few.


Any other comments?

Everybody is really really anxious about how the movie is going to do, you never know about these things, and I know that Fox is putting in tons of publicity on it, and we’re all hopefully it’s going to be a big success.

We’re all forbidden to talk about anything about the movie, as you can imagine, but the truth will be revealed on June 19th.


I thank you for taking the time out to talk to me.

Thanks very much.

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