David Arnold & Michael Price (‘Sherlock’) interview

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Composed by David Arnold (Casino Royale) and Michael Price (The Inbetweeners Movie), the soundtrack to the first series of BBC One’s Sherlock is available to buy later this month.

> Buy the Series 1 album on Amazon.

> Buy the Series 2 album on Amazon.

The highly acclaimed score has received BAFTA and Emmy nominations and won an RTS Television Award. The music from Series 2 will be released at end of February.

CultBox caught up with David and Michael to find out more…

How did you first get involved with Sherlock?

MP: “David had known Mark Gatiss for ages, and I’d worked with the two of them on Crooked House a few years ago, so when the producers were searching to find an approach they liked for the original pilot, Mark called David.

“David already had a pretty full diary, but loved the show so suggested we compose it together. And we took a shot at it. Or at least that’s how I remember it.

“I’ll probably find out that they just started in the book of composers at ‘A’ and we got lucky.”

How did you originally decide on the Sherlock ‘sound’ and what were your inspirations?

MP: “The majority of the thematic and sonic work was done at the pilot stage, back in 2010, as even though the visual direction wasn’t settled until Paul McGuigan came on board, you could already see the extraordinary things Benedict and Martin were going to do with their performances.

“We were trying to find a musical language that complemented and relished Sherlock’s speed of thought, but also had space and some warmth for Watson.”

DA: “The themes were all there in the pilot and clues to the sound were there, the plucked autoharp for instance. But, as the pilot was done very quickly, in only a week I think, and on a shoestring budget, we couldn’t do some of the things we wanted to do.

“When it was decided that the episodes were to be 90 minutes rather than the 60 minutes long pilot and Paul came on board as director, we decided to develop things with some mature thought away from the pressure of having to deliver cues for a dub.”

How does your composing partnership work? Do you divide up what needs doing between you or is it all a joint process?

MP: “I think of it a bit like being in a band, where half the time you can’t even remember who came up with what, as the moment an idea is out in the open, one or the other can take it and run with it.

“There’s a real sense of fun and frequent surprise in ending up with cues that would have turned out differently if either of us had done them by ourselves.”

DA: “We both worked on different aspects of the score but were handing material to each other throughout, it was a proper collaboration.

“We made every effort to make it sound like one coherent piece so you can’t see the joins or tell the difference and I think in that respect it’s been pretty successful. It sounds like one voice.”

What are your favourite tracks that you’ve done over both series?

MP: “I have a soft spot for lots of the music we’ve just done for Series 2, as it feels that we have managed to give each episode a different flavour. ‘SHERlocked’ in Scandal is good, and the last 20 minutes of Reichenbach works well. Oh, and the filthy noises in Hounds. Mmm, more filth, and distortion, please.”

DA: “I agree with Michael. A lot of Scandal appeals to me because it’s a more emotional piece, but the denouement of Reichenbach is pretty powerful.

Do the writers/directors give you an idea of what music they’d like for specific scenes or do they leave you to it? (For instance, when we watched some footage in the Cardiff edit suite last summer, The Chemical Brothers’ music from the film Hanna was used with the rough cut.)

MP: “It’s common practice for directors and editors to cut to a temp score these days, to preview their pacing and structure, but as they tend to use unconnected tracks from lots of different places, our job is to create a coherent score that works across the whole film.

“It can help give some clues as to how the director is thinking, but you get the best clues from watching the show, talking it through together, and responding to it emotionally yourself.”

DA: “By the time we did Series 2, it was a much easier thing to do as we had established the sound and the approach, so the film makers had lots of our stuff to temp with.”

Have there been any particular scenes that you’ve found it hard to decide what music would work best?

MP: “Sometimes it is a question of whether you should have music at all! The pacing is very interesting as not only does each episode need to work over a 90-minute arc, but also each set of three episodes needs to feel satisfying as a longer piece.

“What may work well for a particular scene in isolation, will be too much, or too little when you step back from the whole thing.”

DA: “In this show most of the scenes work beautifully so there’s not much discussion about making something work. It’s more a matter of the story-telling and the tone.”

> Read the second part of our exclusive interview with David and Michael.

What’s your favourite piece of music from Sherlock? Let us know below…

> Buy the Series 1 album on Amazon.

> Buy the Series 2 album on Amazon.

Watch the Series 2 trailer…