David Arnold & Michael Price (‘Sherlock’ composers) interview

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Anna asks: How do you both collaborate? Who writes what parts? Who makes a decision if composition is ready?

MP: “We don’t really worry about who writes what, so long as it all gets done in time. We share files, hum tunes down the phone and enjoy being on a headlong dash for the finish line together.”

DA: “We write one note each and keep passing it backwards and forwards until something comes out that sounds like music. It’s a bit like pass the parcel. A piece is ready when someone from the production calls up and says ‘we need this piece of music now’.”

Jenna: What is the hardest part of composing for Sherlock?

MP: “Time, money, rheumatism, lack of Jaffa Cakes.”

DA: “My chair.”

Jasmine Kuo: Just wanted to say, your music is amazing and I really look up to it in my compositional endeavours; I can only hope to be as good one day! Do you have any advice for musicians like myself who are interested in working in the film industry?

MP: “Enjoy making music, and enjoy working with fellow filmmakers, and the rest is in the lap of the Gods.”

DA: “Try to find people who are at the same point in their career as you are. The chances of you landing a gig with an established filmmaker is remote. The chance of landing one with a filmmaker you’ve been working with for a few years is much greater. Be a part of their team and don’t expect to get paid for a while.”

Jenna Muiderman: Do either of you have a favourite scoring software?

MP: “We both use Apple Logic, Protools and Sibelius for scores and parts.”

DA: “Mr Price tells the truth in this regard.”

Eilidh Cochrane: Do you each have a personal favourite composed piece? Or one that you are most proud of?

MP: “That would be telling. I kinda like the fact that the score for all three series is different than if each of us had done it individually.”

DA: “I like all of Michael’s and he likes all of mine.”

Spazaroth: What are your musical inspirations when composing for Sherlock?

MP: “Always non-film music influences. I’m a big fan of avante-garde classical composers. I know David has always been keen of Brotherhood of Man.”

DA: “Inspiration must be on the screen.  If it’s not there then everyone is in trouble.”

Jenna Muiderman: Is there a reason why both the women’s themes (Irene’s and Mary’s sad one in ‘His Last Vow’) are both in A minor? Surely D minor would be sadder? By the way I’d be thrilled if you got that reference!

MP: “The saddest of all keys? You just can’t go there.”

DA: “They’re in A minor because we don’t want small bread.”

Mjeshep: If there was enough support (I don’t doubt there would be), would you interested in a Sherlock BBC Prom?

MP: “I think it would a great idea. Apparently the BBC don’t.”

DA: “I don’t think it needs a prom per se… although the power of the BBC to enable these things to happen really makes a difference. But I think we could manage a concert of music from the show and for those interested it would be a good night out. It’s terribly expensive to put these things on with orchestras and we have no idea of demand.”

Anna_Stasis: Do you also choose which songs which are featured in the show? (e.g. the pub crawl, Nina Simone’s ‘Sinnerman’, etc.)

MP: “No, usually the director/editor/producers (i.e. the grown-ups) choose them.”

DA: “Again, Mr Price tells the truth here.”

Pottsfanatic: Do Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat give you a rough idea of the mood they’re looking for in the score or do they leave that up to you?

MP: “We talk through each episode in lots of detail with the director and editor, and get lots of feedback from everyone.”

DA: “In the first ever pilot, no one knew what would work and what wouldn’t… so in a way we had free reign to come up with the themes and to a certain extent the sound. As that sound and various themes became established, it’s now more of a discussion with the creative talent at production level about emotion, energy and story-telling. It’s really good to have been given the chance to originate a sound and a theme… it’s by far my favourite part of the challenge… for any show or film.”

Amanda: Which series of Sherlock has been your favourite to write music for?

MP: “Hmm, Sherlock’s pretty much become part of our lives now. Hard to tell where one series finishes and the next one starts.”

DA: “It’s usually the last one you did… I personally have a soft spot for various episodes in each season, as I’m sure most people have.”

Avatar: How do you motivate yourselves if you ever have writer’s block?

MP: “Ridiculous deadlines are all the motivation you need!”

DA: “You’re not allowed to have writer’s block. Deadlines are terrifying things but very effective in making you get over whatever it is that may be holding you up. That’s when it’s really hard work.”

Jenna Muiderman: Does Merlin (Michael’s kitty?) really help out in the studio?

MP: “I do enlist the help of animals in the creation of all my work. They don’t ask for as much money, and are far better house-trained.”

DA: “We work in different places. Michael has a cat but I’m not sure how much of the score he actually writes. I have a few endangered species in my room for entertainment and usually stop for the odd snack of dolphin or swan.”

Ethan: David, having chosen You Only Live Twice as your favourite James Bond movie score for the BFI recently, which other Bond scores would make up your Top 5?

DA: “Goldfinger, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, From Russia With Love, and Thunderball.”

And lastly, can you select a favourite piece of film/TV music for these situation:

MP: “I’ll let David choose…”

To wake you up in the morning

DA: “The alarm clock symphony by Big Ben and the ohshititdidntgooffagains.”

To nurse a hangover

DA: “Pretty much anything by Debussy… or Brian Eno, or the sound of a fry up and not getting out of bed.”

For a road trip

DA: “’End of the Road Trip’ from the Paul soundtrack.”

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