Bill Brown is an established musician and composer for film, television and computer games. His most significant works are the scores to the television series CSI:NY and Dominion (Season 2); the computer games Captain America: Super Soldier, Wolfenstein and The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction; and the films The Devil’s Tomb, Brother’s Keeper, Desiree and Layover.
This is only the tip of the iceberg of the work he has completed. It is no surprise then that when we meet him in conversation, we discover a man who is thoughtful about the work he presents. Even when congratulating him for his ninth BMI Film & Television Award for the CSI:NY music score, the man is so humble about his work. “Thanks. I’m just excited to start the next thing,” he replies.
His music weaves from dramatic to mysterious, tense to emotive within only a few phrases of each other; creating symbiotic layers that draw you in to what you are watching on screen. Searching for the most beautiful piece of music, there was simply too much to choose.
I Remember from the soundtrack to Desiree starring Joseph Morgan, Nicole Badaan and Walton Goggins stood out; stepping the chordal sequence of the piano with the steady movement of the strings. We don’t know what is happening on screen, but our hearts are moving with the soul of the moment.Hero, the theme from the game Captain America: Super Soldier boldly marches the brass forward, making a statement that the superhero is on the scene. Describing so much in such a short space of time, it is a firm announcement of his arrival.
Such talent is long-developed and repeatedly honed over many years of practice. Forming such an incredible career behind him is no small feat, and each job layers upon the next. Interestingly, the work Brown has created has strong threads of superheroes or war: the dynamism of action comes into play. There’s also the notable crime and thriller thread: the emotive suspense and tension of character interplay. We asked whether this was the creative direction he originally intended his career to go in.
“I feel like my career path has chosen me through the years, as opposed to me choosing it. I’m really proud of the fact that I’ve been chosen over and over to create those thematic, melodic, emotional modern orchestral electronic scores, and then to be able to do the more subtle, textural work in television and other mediums as well.
I fell in love with scoring listening to my own heroes like Williams, JNH, Goldsmith, Goldenthal, Tom Newman, Silvestri, Barry, and so many others along with composers like Ralph Vaughn Williams, Bartok, Hindemith, Ravel, Debussy, etc. along with rock and indie bands growing up. Those musics [sic] all feel like part of my soul.
I’ve just continually tried to improve myself and write better music: always looking to the next piece, the next cue to take it to the next level throughout my career. And when I write, I mostly feel like it’s just flowing through me. I don’t know where most of it comes from, but it feels amazing and timeless creating. It’s an incredible feeling.”
When you love your job this much, we wondered what were the highlights of composing the score to CSI:NY: “working with really talented writers, producers, show runners, actors and crew, great musicians, great sessions, great memories, and watching all of our hard work come together on the stage every week. It was really exciting, challenging and satisfying creatively. It was 7 days a week in meetings, writing, recording, mixing and delivering all season for 9 seasons, and totally worth every bit of it.”
Working on such a recognisable project presents any musician with their toughest challenge: sustaining the identifying theme for the show without leading the score into a cycle of repetition. Brown has some unique thoughts on this and on how to avoid these key pitfalls.
“For me the most satisfying thing is to take great material, great performances, great editing, etc. like that and work with everyone to elevate it even further. Every episode gave me the opportunity to create something unique: to create new sounds, new themes and help really tell those stories in fresh ways. It was really fun because I also had these opportunities to take those themes and use them both as underscore, and to open up and drive the “process scenes” that CSI is known so well for. It was really a lot of fun musically and really satisfying when it all came together each week!”Continued in Part Two.
Bill Brown works in his Los Angeles studio, surrounded by instruments and mountains of custom modular synth craziness. Check out more at billbrownmusic.com, his Instagram, Soundcloud and most importantly, his music...which is also available on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon.