Composer Bill Brown Discusses His Epic 'Dominion' Score

54361.jpg

This Thursday marks the end of Dominion's 2nd season with an episode titled “Sine Deo Nihil”. To celebrate the season finale we decided to explore an aspect not always covered, the score. In this exclusive interview composer Bill Brown discusses everything from what his favorite episode has been this season to what fans should expect in the finale.

If you could sum up your Season 2 score in a few words what would they be?

Epic, emotional and cinematic I think would probably be the first three that come to my mind. It goes so many different directions but those are the first three that come to my mind.

Out of all the episodes you scored this season do you have a favorite?

If I had to pick I would say it had to be episode 207, “Lay Thee Before Kings”. That one just somehow, all of the different elements that happen in that one, that’s one where there is these really cool biblical flashback sequences but there is also this very funny "8ball-mart" thread as well, which is Alex and Noma finding themselves in this Wal-Mart kind of thing that has 8-balls that are still working there. That’s really funny but the flashbacks are so epic and beautiful. The rest of the episode as well is quite an amazing thing too. We have been saying, we just mixed the season finale on Saturday, that every single episode is really strong for its own reasons, it has just been a great season all and all. It’s heartbreaking, huge, epic and then it’s funny but you still care about Alex and Noma, you still care about are they going to make it out of this place? It’s a serious thing, but it is also pretty funny at the same time. Vaun told me that this episode just poured out of him. He said and not all of them are like that, it’s just a special one for sure.

After fans watch the finale what do you think their response will be?

My initial response when I watched it was, it’s just what I was hoping to get out of watching the finale, it’s so satisfying. It really does have some twists in it and I think when you get to the end of it, it’s a rush getting to the end. It’s like an adrenaline rush, and that’s all I can really say without giving anything away. The first time I watched it through, it just felt right, like the episode I wanted to see myself as a fan. Then I got to the end of it and the way it all finally came together is exciting, and makes me really hope for a Season 3. Even in itself it’s special.

54374.jpg

What have you been able to experiment with on Dominion that you have not been able to do before in your career?

It’s interesting like with ‘CSI: NY’ the nine seasons of that they all take place in the present time, so everything more or less had to have a certain sound. Also, it was a crime drama and it’s a serial thing where every episode is its own story pretty much for the most part, so that had its own sound even though I did a lot in those nine seasons. This is new for me because it’s really the first opportunity on TV that I have had to follow an arc from the beginning of the season to the end of the season and connect everything thematically and have everything continuing in one musical arc all the way through the season. So the different character themes, the underlying themes, the themes that supported the emotion and all of that, it was all connected. There was DNA that was basically connecting music from the beginning of the season to the end of the season. It was a real pleasure to be able to continue that through 13 episodes. There was an evolution to it so it was like the themes evolved through the 13 themes and of course new material kept being written but it all kept evolving. The themes that I wrote in the beginning kept shifting and changing through the 13 themes to match what was happening in the arc of the narrative, like Arika’s theme when that first showed up I think it was around episode S 2 04 or S 2 05 in this great monologue that she has with that beautiful doctor that we had in a few of the episodes. They had this great scene together and that’s when her theme was written, and then we got to take that all the way through and then in the finale it happens in this totally different context and setting. It’s so beautiful and cool to be able to see the score evolve like that throughout the entire season and how it relates to the characters and how it relates to itself. It’s very exciting for me on a lot of levels because I got to use such a different instrument palette that I haven't used in a long time. To be able to go back to those ancient biblical sort of sounds and instruments, to go back into that epic sort of world and do that and also bring that into the post-apocalyptic world and to do the modern stuff, there is so much to it that really was fresh for me and is really meaningful. That and how much the score has been appreciated by the fans and by Vaun and Deran, I mean it has been just an incredible experience all the way around, but those are kind of the main things I think.

54365.jpg

With the walls of Vega getting breached by the 8-Ball Army and David making one last sacrifice, the finale sounds pretty action packed. Did you do anything different musically to heighten these emotions in the finale?

I don’t want to give anything away but I already talked about my use of Arika’s theme which is probably too much but I will say it’s a hugely exciting episode. It’s also a very emotional episode and the thing that I have been able to do this season that I feel that I have brought to the show and it has just been something that has happened organically from the beginning of the whole process of my working with Vaun and Deran and seeing the episodes. With scoring there is a lot of places you could score something using action music, I could be pulsing away or using big drums and all this stuff that I have done this season that has been fantastic, but this episode is so exciting but it’s also emotional for a lot of reasons. I have had this opportunity to write this really beautiful melodic, emotional music for the show, and yes for the finale too. That has been this really incredible thing and has been a lot of fun for me to be able to write this really melodic music and this really emotional music. The current running under the moments is so deep and emotional, and I think the fans of the show have really been receptive to that. It made me want to write even more thematically and have the music continue to be really soulful and emotional. You get action music, and that’s always something that we’ve been talking about. It’s something Deran and I talked about at the very beginning of the season. Sometimes the picture just asks for something different to what it needs. In this case, it has been a big success, this concept at the very beginning of the season of not necessarily playing action music when we are seeing an epic action battle, or something like that, this is really how Michael’s theme was created. I had written this really emotional melodic theme, and I called it Michael’s theme, it actually came to me in a dream after I met with Vaun. It was this big emotional theme and Deran actually played it on set in South Africa while they were filming that scene in Mallory in the rain in that big battle scene with Michael fighting all the 8-Balls. He actually played my demo of Michael’s theme over speakers while they were filming it. So Deran and I both had this idea from the very start that this was going to be a very different kind of score, it’s going to be more emotional, more melodic, more thematic, and so themes have been what this score has been all about for me. Michael’s theme, Arika’s theme, the chosen one theme, I could go on and on there is so many now, there’s a ton now. That’s what this score and season has been about for me, it’s been all about themes and the emotion behind everything going on in each of the episodes and that’s what the finale is too. The finale is just this wonderful extension of the whole season that way, for the score and everything else.

If there is a Season 3 of Dominion where would you like to see the story go and what musically would you like to do that you haven’t yet?

I kind of have to take a breath and appreciate what has happened in this season musically and with our stories and characters, everything that has happened. I think when you see the finale you are also going to get a little bit of a sense of what we as a team, what we would love to see, just a glimpse maybe of what we would like to see in the future of the show. There’s that, and the finale is a really big thing for us for all of these reasons, but you know it’s up to Vaun where Season 3 actually goes from this point. From what I understand he already has it mapped out, and we haven't really talked about it too much yet, we’re just hoping for that renewal, and we’ve all got our fingers crossed and we’re looking to the fans to continue to help us this week. All I have to say is after finishing the music for the finale, I’m really excited about where it could go, and it would be really amazing and I think that’s all I can really say for now.

You have been scoring different mediums now for over 15 years. How has the business changed since you first started out?

When I first started out, the two things that were really different that have changed a lot, there were definitely more films when I started that were not studio blockbusters, and not micro budget indie films, it seems like now there are those two. I know that’s not really 100% accurate, but it sure does feel like that though as a composer, I guess anyone below the line has that same sense that has been working in the business for a while. When I started there were more 40 million dollar films, 30 million dollar films, etc. and now those are very few and far between. The other thing is with television as you probably have seen, there is so much on TV now that it is ridiculous. They were even making fun of it at the beginning of the Emmy awards this year because there is so much to watch. The crazy thing is that there is so much good content, so much more than there was 15 years ago. That is just because what has happened with online things like Netflix and Amazon and all of that world and what’s happened with cable. With cable AMC, FX, and all of these different channels have really gotten behind their original programming and put so much into it. We’ve seen ‘Mad Men’ begin and come to a close already, it is like an era within itself, we’re seeing with Netflix ‘House of Cards’, and we’re seeing ‘Game of Thrones’ in its world and of course that’s paid TV but again HBO and Showtime have gotten behind content in a way that didn't exist at all 15 years ago. That includes HBO getting behind independent films, but that hasn't really shifted the film paradigm. Original content as far as film goes has really gone down whereas original content for television has just skyrocketed, I’m not saying anything new here, that’s in my experience and my career. I would love to be doing the next ‘House of Cards’ or the next ‘Ray Donavan’ or ‘Game of Thrones’. That’s the other trick is that in the last 20 years, as far as my profession goes, it has gone from composers who had full studios to create music with acoustic players and all of the equipment that was needed to do that, to people creating scores with a laptop. So we’ve gone literally from hundreds of composers doing what I do 20 years ago, to 20-30K composers or more working in film and TV. I’m not even talking about games, games is a whole other world, and honestly for me I feel the quality of games continues to go up but that world, business wise, doesn't look like it has shifted as drastically as TV and film have. To me it looks like the same animal it was 10 or 15 years ago, it’s just new players and products that are higher quality.

If you had to collaborate with any other artist (composer or any other musician), who would it be?

The list would be long but to be honest, because I have never been an assistant in my career as a composer. I’ve always had assistants, so really what I’ve always felt is it would really be nice to be able to sit with James Newton Howard or to work with Tom Newman, I would say John Williams but that’s a little ridiculous. I have a huge respect for those two, I grew up with Newton Howard and all the Newman’s, I’ve always been a fan of Howard Shore too. Just as far as colleagues go, if I could sit down with all three of them working with me on something and just hang out that would be pretty cool. There are so many musicians that would be such a blast to work with and I almost feel like I am so blessed to be working with the musicians that I am already working with, and I’m basically doing what I already want to be doing. I‘m collaborating with the musicians that I want to collaborate with anyway because I have reached out to the ones I wanted to collaborate with, and there is so many more that I hope I get to collaborate with, that’s the trick. It really comes down to that spark that happened at some point in the process, that moment when you find the solution, the thing you were looking for that really resonates with the scene or with the whole show or with a character, when you find that magic, that’s what it’s about for all of us. Whether you are collaborating with someone, or whether you are just on your own and you are searching for that thing, some kind of magic happens and you find it and it comes to you somehow, that spark is that reason I do what I do. That has happened so many times for me this season, I feel so blessed and lucky. Whether you are collaborating with amazing musicians or just on your own working it out, that’s what we’re looking for.

You can learn more about Bill Brown at http://billbrownmusic.com/

Written by rand01 on Sep 30, 2015

Comments

zoebug98 posted a year ago

Great interview/article.

Thank you. :)

sounddude posted a year ago

As a musician, these are the types of articles I appreciate and love to read. Excellent job! Looking forward to more in the near future.

JuanArango posted a year ago

Welcome on board, very nice article :)

Jan posted a year ago

Hi rand01,

Great first article/interview. Bill Brown gave really interesting responses. Looking forward hearing more from him in the future as well.

porshipman posted a year ago

Great entrance to The Maze rand 01 and an excellent article.

Hope to read more like it.

Login to leave a comment on this article.