'Binge-watching' viewership casts bigger spotlight on TV composers

Sat Sep 14, 2013 9:00am EDT
 
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By Sue Zeidler

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Composers for television shows don't usually get the same critical recognition as those composing soundtracks for films, but an increase in viewers "binge-watching" shows has led to a brighter spotlight on TV's musical backdrop.

Emmy-nominated Robert Duncan, who scored "The Last Resort," a TV show about a U.S. nuclear submarine crew, said that viewers who watch several episodes of a show in a row on platforms such as Netflix were changing the art form of television soundtracks.

"Times are changing," he said. "TV's becoming more cinematic and there's an expectation for the music to follow suit."

Canadian-born Duncan, whose career was jump-started by a prestigious Hollywood composing workshop in 2001, also worked a series composer for "Buffy The Vampire Slayer." Now he is represented by the same agency that works with top composers such as Oscar-winner John Williams, who scored "Star Wars."

For the musical overtones of "The Last Resort," Duncan climbed aboard a Cold War-era boat in San Diego and recorded sounds from the vessel to incorporate into the music.

The effort paid off for the 42-year-old composer, who has been known to tinker with old instruments and industrial salvage to find unique sonic qualities. His soundtrack for the "Captain" episode of the Walt Disney ABC series earned him his third Emmy nomination.

Duncan will vie against five other composers in the Best Dramatic Score category this Sunday at the Creative Arts Emmys, which are held a week before the Primetime Emmys and focus on behind-the-scenes crafts like music and make-up.

"Every TV show is different and part of my job is to assess whether the people I work for have any music allergies," said Duncan, who earned previous Emmy nominations for the series "Castle" and "Missing."   Continued...