SciFiJumpgate: The Sound of Music Weird, Weird Music
Nestled behind a suspiciously charming house in Santa Monica, Calif., Mulder and Scully's silent partner is hard at work. And no, we're not talking about X, Deep Throat, Jeffrey Spender or even the Cigarette-Smoking Man.
Walk across the front lawn, through a side gate and past the pool, and you'll enter a hospitable little building, a.k.a. "Snow Tunes". And from a dark room, lit only by the shafts of light cast off by a football game on television, emerges a bearded man in blue jeans, a black T-shirt and an X-Files baseball cap.
His name is Mark Snow, and he's the man who scores and performs all the music heard on The X-Files. His other credits include the now-defunct Millennium and Harsh Realm, as well as such films and television movies as Crazy in Alabama, Disturbing Behavior, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All and, of course, The X-Files: Fight the Future.
"This is where it all happens," Snow says, settling into a chair and waving to indicate his beloved Synclavier, the synthesizer he uses to create all those eerie sounds. "On average there's about 30 minutes of music per episode though, as time has gone on, we've done as much as 40 minutes for a 44-minute episode."
"If I have to really deliver and jam on something, 10 minutes a day is doable," he adds. "That's kind of pushing it, though. Five days is comfortable to do 30 to 33 minutes. Three days is a little irritating, but it can be done."
The process begins when Snow receives a script, which he reads to get a feeling for what's to come. Upon receiving the unsweetened final cut of an actual episode, he determines how best to color it musically.
Then, after a music editor provides him with the show's "spotting" where the music should stop and start, and its length Snow creates the music, generally a blend of moody strings and synthesizer, as well as vocal sounds and sound effects. "I like to start with a real meaty cue that's possibly in Act Four or toward the end, and they can run for five to 10 minutes," he says. "That's pretty amazing. These X-Files music cues, for whatever reason, have developed into long pieces." He laughs.
"A friend of mine is a music editor on Roswell," he says, "and the composer said, 'Well, I think we need a Mark Snow here.' He said, 'What do you mean by that?' And the composer said, 'Oh, you know, a 10-minute cue.' It had nothing to do with musical style, but with length."
Series creator Chris Carter, like most of the show's directors, tends to give Snow free rein. Such license allows Snow to feel "uninhibited", and likely has played a key role in his earning four Emmy Award nominations for his X-Files efforts alone. To date, the composer points to "Post-Modern Prometheus" and "The Ghosts Who Stole Christmas" as his personal favorite X-Files scores. He also enjoyed stepping out from behind his home console to lead an 85-piece orchestra through the score of the X-Files feature during several sessions at a recording studio. With The X-Files in its seventh and apparently final season, Snow is hoping to be able to concentrate on film scores. Still, he's grateful for everything that The X-Files has done for him and, for that matter, for television and film composers in general. "I think that most of the time people take music for granted," Snow says. "I've had an unusual experience with The X-Files. The Internet was coming into its own when the show started," he explains. "I've gotten a lot of fan mail over the Internet, and I've also visited the chat rooms, and all of that has let me know that what I'm doing is really appreciated."
"There are also film-score magazines and film-score critics," he adds. "Some of the magazines are pretentious and some of them are terrific, and some guy will love something I do, while some other guy will knock me." Snow tugs on his X-Files cap.
"Really, that's OK," he says. "It all just tells me that more people are paying more attention to music than ever before. And that's what's important."Source: Ian Spelling; SciFiJumpgate [www.scifijumpgate.com/news/000110.htm], January 10, 2000.
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