Composer Bear McCreary explains how he made BSG, The Walking Dead so haunting

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Jun 3, 2014, 9:31 AM EDT

You might not know his name, but you’ll almost certainly recognize his work. Composer Bear McCreary has made some of the most iconic scores for sci-fi shows over the past decade, from The Walking Dead to Battlestar Galactica.

As he ramps up work on the Starz series Da Vinci’s Demons, McCreary chatted with Collider about his past career and work on some of the biggest hits in modern sci-fi history. His work on Battlestar Galactica helped set the mood for Ronald D. Moore’s reboot, and he’s also contributed some of the unorthodox efforts that established the feel of the zombie apocalypse for The Walking Dead.

The full interview is a fascinating read, and it’s easy to forget the impact music can have on the television-watching experience. Check out some choice excerpts below:

“There was a point, relatively early in my career – and I guess I’m still relatively early in my career – where I started with Battlestar Galactica.  I did a lot of science fiction, and I’ve done a number of post-apocalyptic science fiction environments. I’ve also worked on Caprica and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. They’re fun and fascinating shows.  But when I got the call to do Da Vinci’s Demons, which is a historical drama and a historical fantasy, it was something that I hadn’t gotten the opportunity to do, so I knew it would push me into new places, creatively. That was really challenging and really fun, and ultimately really rewarding.  That’s what I look for the most, in a new project.

I want the opportunity to learn a new kind of music.  I didn’t know anything about Taiko drums when I started Battlestar, but I know a lot about them now. And I didn’t know anything about Renaissance music. Music history was not my strongest subject in school. I brought a music history consultant in to work with me on the score and teach me about the instruments and about the way music was used, not because I adhere rigidly to those rules, but you have to know what the rules are before you break them. So, it’s been really great.  It’s really changed the way I think about harmony and melody, and I’ve evolved, as a composer, for having done it.  That, alone, made it very appealing to me…

But for me, I actually find that variety refills my well. The Walking Dead doesn’t have a lot of music, but it takes me to very dark places. It’s an oppressive experience, getting inside those characters’ heads and feeling that bleak desperation. In a way, it’s very refreshing for me to be able to go from that to Renaissance Florence and play in an environment that’s much more adventurous and sweeping, in a heroic way.  I think it’s actually my strength, as a composer. Having all of these things going keeps me excited about each of them because I don’t burn out on anything.”

Do you think music (or in some cases, the purposeful lack thereof) has that much of an impact on the viewing experience? What do you think of Bear McCreary's work?

(Via Collider)