Encore: The Ultimate Mark Snow Site

Home | News | Biography | Filmography | Discography | Awards and Nominations
Interviews & Transcripts | Articles | Reviews | Gallery | Behind The Scenes | Merchandise | Links

Back to Articles

The Hollywood Reporter: Film & TV Music Special Issue

The August 24-30 (1999) issue of "The Hollywood Reporter" was a film and television music special issue. There was an article about collaborations between TV/film producers and composers. Chris Carter and Mark Snow were included.

[Black and White photos of each man]

He's been living in LA for some time, but Mark Snow's unassuming attitude and immediate accessibility on the telephone read Brooklyn all the way. He studied music at Manhattan's High School of Music and Art, and later at the Julliard School. After graduating from the fabled conservatory in 1968, Mark Snow formed the New York Rock 'n' Roll Ensemble with former classmate Michael Kamen. Today he's a ten-time Emmy nominee whose work on The X-Files has been compared with some of the most enduring TV music in history, and he recently released an album, The Snow Files, through the Sonic Images label, which features a diverse cross-section of his TV music.

Any airs surrounding this theme or its creation are dismissed by the composer. "It took me five times to come up with that theme. I wrote four themes prior to the one that was used, and they were all more or less what you'd typically expect: creepy stuff, darker writing that tried to mirror the show directly; rhythmic material meant to disturb. It was all OK - nothing more."

Mark Snow says that musically illiterative creatives have been his greatest mentors. "I've learned more from the collaboration with non-musical people than I have from all the musical mentors I've had. I truly mean that. How? Many times, just when I thought I'd done something that was extremely proper and correct, someone who doesn't know music but has a deep connection to the film or show we're working on will say something like 'Take out the bottom,' or 'Take out two notes somewhere.'"

"To be honest, my first reaction is generally to be protective of my own work and say to myself, 'What a jerk. They don't know what they're doing.' But I'm open to all suggestions, and I've learned to go with what people are feeling and at least try to do what they've asked. As a result, I've often found myself saying, 'Oh my god, holy mackerel, this is better, this is right!' When they then respond enthusiastically, it feels like a great connection has been made. I've learned so much from these people. The biggest rule for me is to stay open to what a writer, director or producer is actually saying, and also what they're trying to say, without feeling I have to defend what I've done up to that point."

"I'd never worked with Chris before The X-Files. He sent over a pile of CDs for me to listen to, just to get a sense of where his tastes were musically. I was really impressed with the breadth of his interest: There was everything from alternative music, rock and even a CD by the contemporary composer Philip Glass. He had notes pointing out the bits that he liked from each of these recordings."

Chris Carter's yearning for more impressed Mark Snow. He also knew instinctively when it was time to stop listening to the writer and trust that he had internalized Chris Carter's creative impulse. "Finally, I asked him to just let me try something on my own. By this time I knew that Chris didn't like lots of chord changes and favored ambient 'sound designy' music with little melodic complexity."

Mark Snow's home studio includes an arsenal of synthesizers and samples, and sometimes the sounds themselves can be the star. "I wrote a minor key theme that had a few basic chord changes and a melody that I thought was dull but worth pursuing with my sound modules, so I spent about a half an hour clocking through lots of sounds while the computer played back the melody I had entered into it. When I got to a preset on my Proteus 2000, my wife came in from the other room and told me how much she liked it, and so I finished the arrangement."

When he played the demo for Chris Carter, Mark Snow realized that by absorbing his tastes and emotional sense of what music could do for the project, he had been able to satisfy Chris Carter's needs while holding on to his own compositional profile. "Chris was very positive and set up a meeting for us at Fox. Something very funny happened. Chris had to leave the meeting before we discussed the music, and there I was left to play the track for seven guys in suits. When the music stopped, nobody said anything! Everyone's neck was turning left and right to see what the other's reactions were. Finally someone said 'Oh that's interesting,' or something similarly noncommital, and I left. I had no idea if the music would ever be noticed, or even kept."

"Mark Snow is special," Chris Carter says. "He has an extraordinary ability to interpret a dramatic scene and bring it to life musically. You always struggle with language because musicians must interpret your musically imprecise meaning and then proceed to limn your work through gesture."

Should a composer follow the contour of a show literally, or provide an emotional counterpoint that unfolds on its own? "His job is both to paint the moment and color the larger. A very good composer like Mark knows most importantly what to leave out. The empty space is occupied by the tension between the cues. Silence is the key - a composer must appreciate silence," says Chris Carter.

"Music written for television and film is different from that which is composed for the stage, where music comes first. In our business, music comes later and must play a supporting role. This does not make music a lesser partner, it's simply a different approach."

Source: The Hollywood Reporter August 24-30, 1999.

Back to Articles

"Encore: The Ultimate Mark Snow Site" © Copyright 1999-2002
Site Design and HTML Coding by Mr. N. Gopalakrishnan.
E-mail: [email protected]

Hosted by www.Geocities.ws