About the Soundtrack
by Mark Snow
"The Snow Files"
La Femme Nikita: Series Theme
For this American TV series, based on the French thriller that spawned such remakes as POINT OF NO RETURN in the US and BLACK CAT in Hong Kong, Snow's theme captured the stylish techno-punk noir of the show's visual and narrative style through heavy guitars, percussion, and vocals. "They wanted something that was very hard edged and contemporary," said Snow. "Something that had a lot of energy but also had a darkness to it." John Beal created the extended dance/club-mix version captured here. "I took the original ideas and added new dance beats, effects and
a wonderful singer, Darlene Koldenhoven, who contributed her incredible 5-octave vocal range," said Beal. Koldenhoven, a recording artist and top session singer in L.A., has given Snow's hard-edged theme a new sonority, yet retaining the mix of ultra-hip passion and daring honesty created in Snow's original theme.
Darkness And Desire
The Love Theme from CONUNDRUM (a 1996 TV thriller starring Michael Biehn) is one of Snow's finest compositions, a sultry ballad for female voice over piano, electric bass, and percussion, as sorrowful as it is provocative. The vocal (beautifully performed by Cassandra Crossland) contrasts lyrically with the darker, more violent moments of the score, and speaks for the underlying emotions of characters entangled in violence. "This is the only place in the whole movie where there was a soft moment," Snow said. "I used
a device called a Beat Box as the percussion, with the female voice representing the main character."
The moody underscore for SEDUCED AND BETRAYED, a 1995 TV movie starring Susan Lucci, was elegantly romantic yet shadowed by sinister motivations. From the descension of strings and winds spiraling through the opening to the
ascending, pulsing rhythm of piano and flutes that close it out, the music beautifully contrasts the attractiveness of
love with the deadly danger that exists in deception. "I wanted to give the main title a sort of sinking, dismal edginess so that while it's pretty, it's also somewhat dark," said Snow. "I wanted to capture the obvious beauty and charm and sophistication of the woman on the surface, and suggest her dark underside beneath."
A WOMAN SCORNED: THE BETTY BRODERICK STORY, was a 1992 TV docu-drama starring Meredith Baxter as the vindictive suburban ex-wife who fatally shot her ex-husband and his second wife. Tonal string patterns washing around harp notes and sampled vocalisms speak not so much for the violent act depicted on the screen but for the dark motives of the vengeful woman accomplishing the act. "The producer and director were encouraging me to play against the scene," Snow said. "I tried to make it somewhat emotional and operatic by playing up the passion of the woman instead of the murder."
Snow's title music for CAROLINE AT MIDNIGHT, a 1994 feature thriller, is on similarly ominous ground. A pulsing drum beat echoes softly amid a rhythm of harp and violins, punctuated by jagged, chordal strings, soon opening into a sensual melody for muted trumpet that illustrates the sensual yet unfulfilling world in which the characters exist. "This was pure film noir," said Snow. "A dark, steamy '50s bluesy-ballad."
Love And Hope
Starring Farrah Fawcett, THE SUBSTITUTE WIFE (1994) took place on America's frontiers during the last century. Snow's winds and strings roll with the gentle hills and whispering breezes depicted on screen. "This was a chance to write a great, solid theme for orchestra that could come back in different variations," said Snow. "It was a very folk-oriented, Americana type of score."
A similar sensibility was embodied in OLDEST LIVING CONFEDERATE WIDOW TELLS ALL (1994). Starring Diane Lane, Donald Sutherland, Cicely Tyson and Anne Bancroft, this TV film chronicled the life of a Confederate captain's wife, as seen through her eyes in flashback. Likewise, Snow focused on writing people music. "That gave me the opportunity to write some really wonderful melodic music, very emotional, but very simple and very honest," he said.
The music for SMOKE JUMPERS, a 1996 TV-movie about a crew of parachute firefighters, is appropriately assertive. Bold, thunderous strokes of brass and percussion punctuate the heroic character of the firefighters while Snow emphasizes their gentler, humane traits through softer woodwind phrasing. "That was pretty straight-ahead, macho hero-worship music," said Snow. "It was a lot of fun!"
Michael Caine starred as Captain Nemo in ABC's 4-hour miniseries, 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (1997), giving Snow a canvas upon which to compose an exotically-flavored score for large orchestra and electronics. "This was a big Gothic, minor chord to minor chord type of score, with the occasional rip-roaring action cue," said Snow. "It's mainly textured underscore and fragments of melodies; it's not until the end that a real, in-your-face theme becomes applicable."
The Music is Out There
David Nutter, who directed episodes of both THE X-FILES and MILLENIUM, brought Snow along when he helmed DISTURBING BEHAVIOR (1998), a big screen thriller about a high school guidance counselor who "reforms" troubled jocks by turning them into lobotomized zombies. "I wanted to combine a subtle tone of apprehension - that something is just a little bit off kilter here - with a chordal phrasing to give it a sense of honesty and importance. I added bell tree to give it a nervous rhythm, but I tried to avoid doing any of the obvious teenage movie stuff that everyone's heard before."
In SUITE FROM THE "X FILES," John Beal has faithfully created a 31-minute concert suite of music based on available recordings from the "X-Files" TV series. "I selected what I felt to be the best of Mark's techniques from the show, and created a suite which would simulate the experience of an episode from start to finish" Beal said. "I tried to be as true to Mark's incredible sense of sound-scape and the wonderful way he introduces classic film scoring techniques into this totally new form of musical composition," said Beal. Both Mark Snow and his music editor, Jeff Charbonneau, provided personal input to allow Beal to be as faithful as possible in recreating the music for this suite. "John has been very sensitive to the sound of the X-FILES music, in terms of the sound design," said Snow. "He has really captured the essence of those first years, where a lot of the music was heavily minimal, atmosphere/ambient oriented."
DARK JUSTICE was a 1991-93 TV series about a vigilante group who executes justice upon deserving criminals released by an ineffective legal system. Snow wrote the theme and several episode scores. The synth-choir heard in the theme music suggested the judgment of an overseeing court, while the hard-edged drum beat gave it an ultra-modern, contemporary structure. "That was like a vast rock and roll rhythm with some heavy chorus samples to give it a Gothic feel," Snow said.
When the British movie MAX HEADROOM was being made into an American TV series in 1987, Mark Snow was brought on board by one of the American producers. Unbeknownst to him, a British co-producer had also brought in his own composer. Both composers submitted title themes; Snow's lost. Heard here for the first time, Snow's theme is an amalgamation of techno-pop, industrial rock, futuristic glitz for synths and percussion. "I wrote my theme with a metallically, hard edged quality to it," Snow said.
Just in case you think Mark Snow is all atmosphere and ambiance, we submit the following cue from an episode of the TV series, PEE WEE'S PLAYHOUSE. Accompanying a claymation sequence in which vegetables escape from the Playhouse refrigerator and dance around the room, Snow's quirky music was effectively zany. "I did that with sped-up vocal samples," he said. "Everything was pitched high to create a tiny, miniature sound that you could visualize coming out of the mouth of a one-inch broccoli character!"