X-Files mythology, TenThirteen Interviews Database, and more

Archive for January, 1999

San Francisco Examiner: The End is Out There for "The X-Files'

San Francisco Examiner
The End is Out There for “The X-Files’
Tim Goodman

Series Creator Claims Finale is Only a Season and a Half Away

PASADENA – Ultimately, we may never know if the truth is out there.

Chris Carter, the man who created “The X-Files” – which is now in its sixth season – said it’s highly unlikely that the show will go beyond a seventh season, so he’s going to start telling the truth.

Of course, that’s a little like a sheep-herding young man we all know crying wolf for the 99th time. Fox is touting a special two-parter on Feb. 7 and 14 – in the heart of sweeps – that “reveals the series’ deepest secrets.”

In fact, Fox says the entire alien conspiracy will come to an end after the two shows. Huh?

“There’s going to be a lot of stuff explained – you’re going to understand this conspiracy after the end of the two-parter,” Carter said Saturday at the Television Critics Association Press Tour. And then, of course, the teaser: “But that doesn’t necessarily mean that everything’s wrapped up and finished.”

Hardcore fans know that “The X-Files” has answered few of the mythology questions it has raised through the seasons, and almost every “truth” revealed comes wrapped in yet another mystery.

This time out Fox suggests we’ll find out what happened to Mulder’s sister, the true motives of Agent Krycek, a secret Agent Fowley is keeping from Mulder, a secret the Syndicate is keeping from the aliens and the true identity of Cassandra Spender and her role with the Syndicate.

If the episodes, titled “Two Fathers” and “One Son,” gives up those answers, then we’re getting somewhere. But the odds of such revelations are slim.

What makes these seemingly yearly promises from Carter so irresistible is that he’s an earnest guy. It’s not like he’s patently lying, with a Hollywood smile and wink. “We’re making some choices, knowing that the show is moving toward a kind of completion, and so we’re planning for that,” Carter said.

He’s ready for “The X-Files” to become a movie series instead of a TV series. “So I’m not looking to spend all my capital, I want to make sure that we continue to have good stories to tell, and that “The X-Files’ continues to have avenues to explore.”

The “capital” Carter refers to is an endless supply of conspiracy theories that fuel fan interest. In short, even after year seven, there’s going to be quite a few loose ends and unsolved mysteries to explore.

“You know watching “The X-Files’ now for some 130-odd episodes, that every time we give you an answer, we also ask a question – that every answer has its own set of questions that come along with it,” Carter said. “I think you can look for more of that.”

Oh, thanks for coming, Chris.

Carter did reveal that the second “X-Files” movie would be delayed – to 2001 or 2002 – because the move of the TV show from Vancouver to L.A. took longer than expected and, if he wanted a movie to follow the final season next year, it would have had to film this summer.

The end of the TV season won’t be a surprise to the network, Carter said, because the talk all along – and the views of the actors – was to end it then. Creatively, he needs to know when the end is coming, Carter said.

“As a storyteller, I want to know where I’m going and what my parameters are, always, so that I can choose when to say what. And certainly with the mythology, it’s important that I know where I’m heading. I don’t want to have the rug pulled out from underneath me.”

Ah, the mythology. That intricate web of government lies, aliens, cloning, bees, black goo and shape shifters. Carter was asked whether he knew, all those years ago, what a convoluted web he would weave.

“It’s amazing to me, now, having the ability to look back after five and a half years of work, how many questions we ask in that pilot, not ever knowing how completely we’d be able to explore everything about the Cigarette-Smoking Man, the conspiracy, what happened to Mulder’s sister,” Carter said. “That whole theme is now, in a weird way – and this is kind of beautiful – that the stories almost dictate themselves. There’s so much that has come and been told that you are, in a way, a slave to the facts that you’ve created, and it’s really a fun way to tell stories.”

For those who need to catch up on the mythology – and that would be just about everyone – the cable channel FX will air “The Complete Conspiracy,” 24 mythology episodes that will lead up to Fox’s sweeps surprise. The FX shows air Jan. 25-29 and Feb. 1-5 (8 and 11 p.m.).

Although Carter and Fox have certainly led viewers down this road before – to momentary enlightenment and then back into the shed of confusion – Carter says the show will indeed be changed by February’s revelations.

“In fact, because so much is going to be explained, you might wonder where we’re going to go,” he said. “And I look forward to dealing with a whole set of problems. And I think when you see the conspiracy exploded, you’re going to see that there are lots of characters who were out there working as free agents that might create strange bedfellows. And I think that’s going to be fun.”

See? When Carter wants to loosen his lips, he can. He even said that The Cigarette-Smoking Man would be “all but stripped of mystery.” Revealing, yes?

And if the end is indeed a season and a half away, Carter needs to get busy. He’s signed to do another pilot (called “Harsh Realm,” a sci-fi effort based on the comic book), and stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are anxious to move on to movies (and no, they’re not signed to do a second “X-Files” movie yet).

Thus the promises of closure – and the hint of more confusion. What it comes down to is this: Do you believe?

New York Post: Keeping 'em 'X'-cited

New York Post
Keeping ’em ‘X’-cited
Dan Aquilante

MARK Snow is one of the most important contributors to the hit Fox series “The X-Files,” but he’s never appeared in an episode, never directed one and never written a single plot twist for the show’s famously bizarre stories.

Snow, a Brooklyn kid transplanted to the West Coast, is the music-driven series’ chief composer. While “The X-Files” promises that “The truth is out there” and explores the possibility of alien life on Earth, Snow is decidedly grounded in his own life.

He’s a Juilliard graduate who has written for “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” and won nine Emmys. He recently scored the upcoming Antonio Banderas film “Crazy in Alabama” and released a CD of his music, “The Snow Files.”

Post: What’s the role of music in television?

Snow: I think it should involve the audience in a plot to such a degree that viewers are unaware of how involved they actually are in the story line. At its best, music subliminally – and sometimes overtly – brings you so deeply in that you’re transported out of the reality of your living room. Unfortunately, music won’t save the day if it is a lousy TV show, but when all of the collaborative elements like the writing, the directing, the acting and the music are in sync – it’s magic.

Post: Hasn’t music always been used to enhance drama – in opera, for example, and early theater?

Snow: Sure. In the days of silent movies there was a pianist or organist playing live in the theater. If we listened to that now, it would sound kind of old-fashioned and cheap, but those were the pioneering days. In a funny way, what I do on “The X-Files” is a version of that. I have a very sophisticated electronic studio, and basically I do what those guys did: I play along with the picture. I improvise, and these improvisations become more and more defined and focused. But initially I look and I play along.

Post: It sounds as if you’re describing what the organist at Yankee Stadium does.

Snow: It is. That’s correct. If you listen to some film music without the film, it can be pretty terrible. The magic is in the marriage. That is the craft, that is the job.

Post: Your record “The Snow Files” does stand on its own, however. What makes it work?

Snow: It’s simple, really. For that album I chose material that is the most melodic and thematic. They are all songs without lyrics. “The X-Files” stuff is sort of ambient or atmospheric – it meanders and rambles a little bit, but the other tunes are very listenable.

Post: What’s the difference between what you do and what a pop songwriter does?

Snow: Great pop songs are usually very simple. There is power in that simplicity, power that reaches out and grabs you and makes you feel it. We as film composers aren’t always lucky enough to come up with compelling melodies. When we do, we have not only written a beautiful piece of music, but it also furthers the show.

Post: What is the hardest emotion to convey through music?

Snow: It’s not obvious. Take anger, jealously, sadness, happiness or remorse – those emotions are not that difficult to illustrate musically. What is difficult is neutral. If the director doesn’t have a focused picture of the scene, then you are trying to write for a non-point of view. Subtlety is the most difficult text to write for.

Post: Are there any guidelines like, strings are for love, drums connote danger, that kind of thing?

Snow: If one says, “Well, it’s a love story, so it has to be strings and piano” – that kind of thinking isn’t terribly creative. Once I spoke to Henry Mancini about this. He said when he wrote he would assign a character to a player and a sound. Like the tenor sax in the “Pink Panther” theme or the bass flutes in the “Elephant Walk.” What I am enjoying these days is the combination of all kinds of crazy ethnic sounds and world-music beat to underscore things that aren’t ethnic. Like in the movie “The Ice Storm.” The composer used Chinese gongs and percussion and a clarinet. I love that freedom to make those combinations. Sometimes when you don’t do the obvious is when it really works, and it also stands out.

Post: But surely there’s nothing wrong with using the obvious on occasion, like Chinese gongs in a Chinese temple scene.

Snow: It depends on what’s going on in the scene. Does the scene require the gong to set the place in the viewers mind, or does it need strings to set the mood of the characters emotionally?

Post: How often do you watch an episode of “The X-Files” before you start writing music.

Snow: I’ll watch a rough cut all the way through first, and that gets me thinking. When I get the final cut, I’ll start with a few small fragments of music that hopefully develop into the underscore. I get into an episode pretty quick.

Post: Are there disagreements about your musical choices?

Snow: I’ve been doing “The X-Files” going on seven years. They come over to the studio and listen to the music, and sometimes they’ll have a comment, like “We need a little more power here,” or “When the monster jumps out please hit the music a little harder.” But that’s basically it these days. But in other situations, where you are working with someone for the first time, I’m prepared for anything, including total rewrites. That’s part of the job, that’s also part of the fun. I love interpreting the abstract word musically.

Post: Have you had any “X-Files”-like experiences in your own life?

Snow: I had a home in Vermont that I sold last year. It had expansive views and it was very quiet. I was out alone one night I saw three light-type things that at first I thought were stars. But they kept coming at me in a group. They got closer and closer. It really gave me the willies. I’m looking at these things thinking, “This has got to be a joke.” To make a long story short, I know in my heart that this was something extraterrestrial. I am a believer.

Post: Do people believe you?

Snow: I don’t like to talk much about it, because people say, “Oh, bull—-, you work for ‘The X-Files,'” but it is what I saw and it is what I believe. There was no sound, there was no communicating, there was no probing, but I believe it was from outer space.

Post: Are we ready for the first contact, or would we just start shooting?

Snow: I think it’s a split. Half would shoot, half would invite the aliens over for a pastrami sandwich.

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]

Scorelogue: Behind the X-Files: The File on Mark Snow

Behind the X-Files: The File on Mark Snow

Mark Snow is best known for his X-Files opening whistle and legions of fans know his name through the mysteriously cultish show. But there is no mystery behind Mark’s talent as an accomplished film and television composer and with 1999, Mark proves that the new millennium is full of diverse possibilities. His latest show with Chris Carter (Harsh Realm) debuts in the Fall and his feature Crazy in Alabama marks the directorial debut of Antonio Banderas and a foray into dark comedy. And although Millennium died a slow ratings death last year, Snow’s career has never been more alive. (Editor’s Note: This interview took place in May 1999 before it was announced that Millennium was cancelled.)

How did the compilation The Snow Files come about?

I’d had a few scores put out on CD by Sonic Images, and they thought it would be interesting to show a sort of diverse grouping of other pieces of mine that people don’t necessarily associate with me. The X-Files and that genre has been my most popular thing at the moment, but I’ve been doing this for twenty years so there’s a whole bunch of other music I’ve written as well. There was tons of stuff to listen to, and I just gave it over to them and told them to pick out the stuff and I’d approve it or not. I wouldn’t even know where to begin.

It’s a great way for your following to learn more about your work.

Right. Speaking humbly, if I were a Mark Snow fan, I would think it would be interesting to hear his other styles. I know if you’ve seen the CD, it’s definitely an X-File-oriented package, but if that’s what it takes to get them interested…

Were you happy with the X-Files suite produced by John Beal on the CD?

Yes. He really studied the style. At first he was a little timid, and I said, “Hey, I think you’ve got the idea; go with it more, add more of your touch.” He really was very true to it and sensitive and did a great job.

There are some television composers who find it a little more difficult to break into features, even with strong television credits. How has that worked for you?

It’s been very difficult, and no matter how many great TV credits I have, that really doesn’t mean much unless there’s sort of a “cool” factor. X-Files is a very au current, cool show, and that’s helped at least to get people to listen to my stuff and think that could be great. About a month ago, I did a movie Antonio Banderas directed, Crazy in Alabama, where I was submitted, read the script, put some music together that had no X-Files whatsoever. The film is a very sweet, nonviolent movie that takes place in the ’60s. It’s somewhat comic, somewhat poignant, and he just liked the music. X-Files really had no bearing on it whatsoever. He said, “You did the X-Files movie, right? That’s nothing like this movie!” I remember some colleagues of mine started doing TV when I did and weren’t that successful, but they were able to gravitate to B-movies and from there were able to raise their career stakes and have done amazingly well. Sometimes you can fail in TV and really resurrect beautifully in features. Sometimes the reverse is true; you can have a couple of features with nothing and find yourself back in TV. In this day and age, the line between features and TV isn’t what it used to be. There are so many excellent TV shows being made, and TV isn’t the sort of trite thing it was thought of years ago. I know the producer Bob Godwin (X-Files) in Canada, a prolific writer and director, had an interview with Steven Spielberg. Spielberg wanted him to be the producer of a TV series he’s doing, and Bob called me and said the enthusiasm of Spielberg for this series was incredible. He seemed as enthusiastic about it as Saving Private Ryan. So TV is nothing to be ashamed of now. The new Chris Carter show, Harsh Realm, has had an amazing budget. It looks like a movie – great writing, a terrific cast, beautifully directed. It looks very impressive.

So as far as TV versus features, aside from time and budget constraints, are there any differences in the whole process?

Features now are tending to be more like TV just in the way they’re scored, in terms of time constraints. That one thing is so amazing. They’ll finish a movie, temp track it, and test it. If the scores are not so great, they’ll do it again and again. The more they test it, the less time the composer has to write the final score. Oftentimes, people are getting way less than three weeks, somtimes even a week, to do an hour’s-plus work. That’s sort of a new phenomenon. You have to be really agile. Some aspect of your work has to be quick and fast to survive that kind of thing.

How has that changed through the years?

I remember the great story of Stravinsky when he was in Hollywood and was approached to do a film score. He said, “I’d love to,” and they started on the movie. He was all thrilled with it, the money was arranged, and they said, “When will you have this ready for us?” And he said, “Oh, six months from now we’ll have the first half of it.” End of story! You used to have a month or more, so I think that’s changed a lot. In TV, there never was much time, so that hasn’t changed. Producers and directors don’t have that much time to bang on you and really take it apart every which way they can. In features, it’s done over and over, and that can be a real miserable experience. This last experience with Banderas was fantastic because he understands music, and when he didn’t, he’d say, “I don’t understand this; I need your help.”

When is that going to be released?

That was going to be in May, then summer, then September, and now it’s November. They’ve tested this movie, and it tested great, so the studio is really high on it. It’s not a big budget; it’s a very sweet film, and there are some amazing performances. Melanie Griffith and this kid, Lucas Black from Sling Blade, are terrific. I think the only thing about what I do that can get kind of tiring and relentless is that you don’t have much break when the season starts, usually around September through the middle of May. Through the year there are days off, but there’s not weeks or months off. I always say the dream composing job would be to do features where you could pick and choose if you were lucky enough, do a movie, have a month or two off. That’s a pretty cool life, but even some of the big guys like Jerry Goldsmith are so into it they don’t turn down to much. I would love a little more balanced life with a little more free time, but I’m still into it and still can do it, so I’ll go with it for a few more years.

Do you have anything planned for the summer?

There are a few things brewing. I have a place in New Mexico, and I’m looking forward to taking a break there, go and look for UFOs in the desert!

You’re mixing the final episode of Millenium right now; do you think the show will come back?

It’s still possible. The ratings haven’t been good, but the shows have been great if you’re into that kind of dark world.

When did the talk begin about this possibly being the last season for X-Files?

Maybe two years ago when the movie was thought of and they wanted to see if the movie would do well. That would mean possibly another movie, even a third one, but whatever was arranged with the actors, who are beginning to have feature careers, so be it.

Is there a second movie brewing?

There’s talk. I’m hoping that if there is another movie, it’ll be different than the first. I’d hope that it would be smaller and more like the stand alone episodes are instead of having to do the big mythology government coverup. But hey, I just write the songs.

X-Files: Fight the Future is a big album, a big score, and it’s wonderful to hear the sound of the show in a larger manner.

I felt that score had to be somewhat generic of big action movies, which this was, but I was hoping to put as much of my own mark and personality into it. It was the first time the show theme was really used in the underscore – not everywhere, but enough that I’m sure people recognized it. I knew having a new theme it would be musically okay, but I thought it would be a neat way of bringing the TV audience into the movie without overdoing it. It was great fun to have a 90-piece orchestra.

The length of the album was great, too.

There’s a lot of stuff! It was very exciting. Of course, with all the X-Files episodes, there’s always two producers, a writer, a director, sometimes as many as five people who come every week to hear the score in the studio, and they’ve never seen me in action conducting an orchestra. So this was recorded at the Fox scoring stage, which has been renovated, one of the great places in town.

Do you have a team for orchestrating? Do you work with the same people?

There are two main people I use: Jonathan Sacks, a fine orchestrator who’s done many high profile movies, and Lolita Ricmonitz, who’s also brilliant and a terrific composer in her own right. A lot of times I’ll flesh something out on electronics, and it will be pretty complete. I would have time to put pencil to paper a lot of the time, and these people can hear the music and turn it into orchestration with the help of some MIDI score manipulation where the notes appear on score paper in a very simplistic way. This is the way that it’s done mostly. Most of the big composers do it this way, electronically, with the orchestrator working off the tapes and doing the realizations of the score.

20,000 Leagues under the Sea is one of your most beautiful scores; how did that come about?

I knew the producers, so that’s how I got that job. The subject matter felt like the great old-fashioned action movies that Bernard Herrmann scored, like Journey to the Center of the Earth, Jason and the Argonauts. That sort of simplistic but big, monolithic type sound, I thought, was really appropriate. I was also influenced by John Barry – this simple, big theme. Between the two, since it had to be a period piece, it felt somewhat like an homage to the great early film scores, and I thought again a simple approach in the melodic writing would be the way to go.

Special Thanks to Ray Costa, Ford A. Thaxton & Sonic Images Records, and to Mark Snow for his generous hospitality.

Source: Vance Brawley; Scorelogue [www.scorelogue.com/snowtalk.html]

Online Film Critics Society: Interview with Soundtrack Composer Mark Snow

Online Film Critics Society
Hearing Movies: The Soundtrack as an Essential Ingredient of the Film Experience
Crazy in Alabama: Interview with Soundtrack Composer Mark Snow
Prairie Miller

Best known for his sci-fi musical enhancement of X-Files, Disturbing Behavior and now Harsh Realm, composer Mark Snow embraces a new challenge in harmonizing dramatically and emotionally with early ’60’s political and social themes for the movie Crazy In Alabama. Snow, who’s been writing scores for movies and television for the past twenty four years, was confronted with the task in this latest film of negotiating a monumental musical universe that included Dixieland, big orchestral and ambient electronic sounds, and solo bluegrass fiddle.

Snow spoke to me in a phone conversation about the unusual musical evolution of Crazy In Alabama. “There was a scene in the middle of the movie, a beautiful montage scene, somewhat sad and very poignant,” he said. “Actually Bob Dylan was talking to Antonio about giving him a song for this scene. Anyway, time got of the essence, so that didn’t happen.”

“So the first thing that I wrote for the movie was this piece which turned out to be the main music theme of the movie. Antonio liked it very much, and so that sort of broke the ice for us. Then we took it from there, but it was a very collaborative situation. And it worked out beautifully, with a lot of eclectic music.”

Snow described the experience of switching creatively from X-Files to something quite a bit more grounded in the past. “Oh, it was like I needed a vacation in a way, and Crazy In Alabama was a sort of fantastic musical vacation,” he told me. “I wanted to work on something that would be as far away from that as I could. And I did have a good feeling for this music, so it came along at a great time.”

Because Crazy In Alabama is so richly steeped in social history, I asked Snow how he went about selecting music to connect with those issues. “It’s a good question, and I think you have to be very discreet about the music with themes like that,” he answered. “Because if it’s too over the top, it takes away from any of the reality of the situation, you know, the good, the bad and the ugly. And in this case it was mostly the ugliness of the ’60’s civil rights scene.”

“And that had to be handled with a sensitivity, and also dignity, but played down in a way,” he continued. “You know, not to turn it into a cartoon, or some misrepresentation of it. But rather something simple and direct, where people could feel the reality of it without being turned off to it.”

How does a composer like Snow go about generating a period feel through his music? “In this movie, there were a couple of moments that were somewhat dreamlike and very ambiant. And this electronic soundscape seemed to work out really well with that. But most of it was orchestral, and acoustic instruments that seemed to serve the piece well.”

“It wasn’t difficult thinking about the period,” he told me. “It was more about what was the right music for the emotion and the scene, the interacting of the characters. The period wasn’t that far back. So there was nothing to indicate that it had to be a period sound.”

The dual parallel themes of racial protest and the liberating impulses of an abused wife (Melanie Griffith) posed an unusual and stimulating challenge for Snow. “That’s why there is an eclectic feeling to the music,” Snow explained. “There’s this solo violin mixed with Dixieland and jazz. And then when it needed to be more emotional, then it was. And it all seemed to work with a consistency, and a main sound that threads the story musically.”

Snow, a retrospective of whose work was recently released on Sonic Images’ The Snow Files, was reared in Brooklyn. He started out as an oboe player after being trained at Juilliard. He talked about his career turn into composing. “I really loved the idea of writing music rather than playing,” he said. “And as a player in an orchestra, I learned all the facets of orchestral music, and I wanted to figure out how the composers did it. So I studied the scores and listened to all the recordings.”

“Then I went to see the movie Planet Of The Apes, and it was very exciting because it was a Jerry Goldsmith score, and it was very modern and avant garde. So it was really inspiring to think, hey, they’re using that kind of music in movies and TV shows, let’s go for it.”

Snow’s passion for bringing drama to life with music sent him on a journey to Hollywood. “I didn’t have any work, but after six months I got one little job which led to another, and so forth and so on,” he recalled. “But the excitement of what I do is that moment of connection when you’re working for a director, and everyone’s very tense before they hear the music. They’re wondering, is this guy going to do it?”

“You know, it’s not like a script. Obviously a script is a lot less abstract than music. So that moment when they walk into your studio or to the scoring stage, and they hear that first note, hopefully they like it. And there’s nothing you can say to make them like it. They’re just going to hear it and like it or not like it. And if you make that connection when they love it, that’s a big thrill.”

Part of generating that connection involves a special creative dialogue with collaborators. “You’ve heard the directions of the filmakers, and they might say, well we’d like this scene to be green or blue, and make it this or that. And I’ll say, okay, I think I know what you mean. And I think the most successful people who do what I do, understand that kind of abstract language, and they can put it into music and make that connection.”

“When Melanie Griffith came in and heard the theme with the orchestra on the scoring stage at SONY, she just stopped everything and started screaming at the orchestra, ‘That’s great! You people are wonderful.’ And she came over to me and gave me a big hug and kiss. That doesn’t happen every day, I’ll tell you that.”

“You know, Melanie and Antonio lived with this picture for so long,” said Snow. “It’s very personal, like their baby, and it has nothing to do with a paycheck for them whatsoever. And they entrust someone to do all these various crafts involved.”

Snow also revealed a little of the down side of his work. “I think the worst is being typecast,” he said. “Like oh, that’s the X-Files guy. He’d be no good for our romantic comedy. And working with people you don’t see eye to eye with. You just have to have a lot of inner strength to keep going.”

The unrelenting and swift advances in technology are also formidable. “The different palettes for scoring have quadrupled times a million. It used to be that you did it just one way, with an orchestra or live instruments. Now with all the digital technology, the samples of live instruments and sounds are amazing, absolutely incredible. And some of the things we do electronically sound so real, that people don’t know the difference. But every composer has a different story, and no two are alike.”

“And as far as composing, time is one of the biggest problems. You know, they tell you we have this film and because of the schedule, you have a week to do it. Yikes! Well, that’s definitely a problem. Then the beginning stages of writing a score are always the worst, trying to come up with a theme, or an idea or sound for what this should be. The clock is ticking, and it’s a pressure cooker.”

“But then it’s real elation when you unlock the key to what the music should be, and then it starts the flow from there. But it’s a tough gig.”

Source: Prairie Miller; The O.F.C.S. [www.ofcs.org/article14.html]

[Unknown] Chris Carter throws virtually everything at viewers in his new SF series Harsh Realm

Chris Carter throws virtually everything at viewers in his new SF series Harsh Realm
Ian Spelling

[typed by alfornos]

–snip stuff about Harsh Realm–

Deleting Files

Creatively speaking, that’s also what sets the series apart from The X Files and makes it a fresh challenge for Carter, who’s loath to repeat himself. “It’s a completely different kind of storytelling vehicle,” he says. “So, creatively, it’s a matter of putting on another kind of hat. As a writer, we’re telling mythic war stories, but it’s also a buddy concept. So, you’re telling stories not about a man and a woman who have a platonic friendship, but something about two men who have a very strong and passionate friendship. That’s a great dynamic to write for, and it’s something different for us.”

Though he’ll be deeply involved in the day-to-day of Harsh Realm, which films in Vancouver, British Columbia and will feature music composed by X-vet Mark Snow, don’t expect Carter to step behind the camera as a director. He has taken that assignment frequently during the X-Files’ run, but there’s simply not enough time in his day right now. He’ll leave the shot-calling to the likes of Kim Manners, Michael Watkins and others. “This year I will be responsible for 44 hours of entertainment programming, and I think it’s important for a show that *may* be in its *last year* – X-Files – and a show that is in its *first year* – Harsh Realm – to get as much of my attention as they can get,” he says. “That means I won’t be directing The X Files this season, either.”

That statement brings us to The X Files, which returns, appropriately, November 7 for its seventh and, presumably, final season. Carter promises that this year will be a doozy, with the sixth season’s lighthearted episodes giving way to far scarier hours, and with everything building to the show’s climax should an eighth year not come to pass. David Duchovny has said again and again that he plans to bid the small-screen Fox Mulder farewell when his contract expires at the season’s end, and his recent lawsuit against Fox would seem to preclude reconsideration of that stance. Although Anderson’s contract does call for her participation in an eighth season, Carter’s ends this year as well. Everything, to put it simply, remains up in the air.

What is Carter’s gut instinct? “I don’t know right now,” he responds. “Certainly, there *is* talk about The X Files going on. But until I hear differently, I’ve got to play this seventh season as the end of the show.” Would he even want the show to go on without him? “I feel very possessive of The X Files,” he says. “So I, of course, worry about its health, because I see wonderful movies to be done in the future, and I don’t want the series to just fade away.”

And speaking of future features, where do matters stand regarding the second one? “I don’t know how far off it is. We would like to do it sooner rather than later, but it’s all about energy, time and intention.”

Looking back at season six, Carter chooses some personal highlights. “I liked Triangle. I liked David’s episode very much,” he says, referring to The Unnatural, a baseball-themed outing written and directed by Duchovny. “I liked the Dreamland two-parter and Arcadia, too, but those were very light episodes were kind of comical. [sic] Monday was a great episode. The mythology shows worked well and I particularly liked the season finale [Biogenesis]. I’ve written the first two episodes of this season and they, with the sixth season finale, make a three-episode arc.

-snip 5 paragraphs about Millennium-

Even as Carter speaks, the wheels are turning at Ten Thirteen Productions. The company hopes to get going with several features, and they’re developing other TV shows as well. Personally, Carter hopes to eke out an hour here and there to pen a novel he has wanted to do for a long while. “It is,” he reveals, “a genre thing.”

The X Files, Millennium, an X Files feature, Harsh Realm and perhaps even a genre novel? Hmm, that’s an awful lot of otherworldly projects for a man who admits he was never much of a SF guy. What gives? There’s simply no denying the genre’s infinite storytelling capacity. “Science fiction opens opportunities that reality prevents you from exploring,” Chris Carter concludes, “which is that all things are transmutable at all times.”