The moment when a character is running for their life or a couple we adore are finally getting together, it usually permeated by a music. Some chords, struck together to cause a reaction out of us – anxiety, fear, warmth, happiness – and they work, they help to create a richer experience when watching our favorite shows or movies, it creates an atmosphere in which our favorite characters can shine.
Fangirlish got a chance to chat to composer, Christopher Lennertz, who has composed scores for Agent Carter, Galavant, Supernatural as well as films such as Ride Along 2, The Wedding Ringer and Horrible Bosses 2.
We chatted to Christopher about what it’s like to create theme music for such a strong and complex character like Peggy Carter, about how the medieval tones of Galavant, and what it’s like to score for buddy comedies like Ride Along.
Read what he had to say here:
In a series with a character whose presence is so commanding, how did you go about creating a score that symbolises so many aspects of her character – from her femininity to her strength while still making in a product of the time period and the spy genre?
Honestly, not that it’s easy, but it’s easier to write for a character that is really really strong, and really interesting and very confident in all parts of her performance.
I came up with Peggy’s theme for the one-shot, Agent Carter, that came out with the ‘Iron Man 3’ DVD and that was when I first wrote Peggy’s two main themes and they came rather quickly and I think, quite honestly, that it’s due to who she is. Both who Peggy is as a character and also the way Hayley plays her, it’s just spectacular.
And to be honest with you, it’s much more difficult to come up with a piece of music which represents things that aren’t strong or things that are ambiguous or even worse just not very impressive.
I think the thing that’s so great about Peggy’s character is that, as you mentioned, she does have this really really complex make-up where she is very feminine, and she is very very strong, and pretty badass and tough at the same time but yes she obviously has a deep hurt in Season 1 in the loss of Steve and then obviously there’s some awkwardness with her and Sousa and this year it gets even more complex with another possible interest and a love triangle so it’s really a situation where there is a lot of complexities to draw upon and the fact that she is written so well by our writers and then performed just so so spectacularly by Hayley, it actually gives me a lot to work with and it’s like baking or cooking with really good ingredients, it makes it actually easier to make it better and I’m really thankful for that, it’s certainly a blessing.
Listen to the Agent Carter theme here.
How does scoring season 2 differ from Season 1?
In a couple ways, I think one way is we started a little bit earlier, which was nice because we could develop some new themes for ‘Zero Matter’ and for Whitney Frost and for the Arena Club which has a new theme and all of that gave us some time to conceive of this going back and forth with me with the producers and making sure we’re getting what we need.
And then I think the other thing that’s really interesting is when we moved to Los Angeles shooting-wise, to really make that the locale, all of the look of the show is much brighter, it’s much flashier, and poppier and vivid, color-wise and think that’s really changed some of the music in terms we’re using, I’m certainly leaning towards more jazz-elements, a little more woodwind, some things that are maybe a little bit more up-tempo. A lot of the dark, New York stuff got dark and sinister quickly and I think things this year might have a little bit more bounce to it, just because it’s set in LA and it’s fun, and it’s 40’s and it’s really got that vibe and I think it’s given me a little bit more opportunity to explore sort of the fun aspect of the show.
So I read that you record with a full orchestra, why do you prefer live music to digitally created or synthesized sounds?
That’s such an easy one, I think that every real person that goes into recording a score, when you have, like in our case, we had 30 to 40 musicians sitting in room and you really get emotion from every single one of them, every single musician is just a magician in their own right and these are all people who I love and work with often and for each of them to bring all of their life experiences and when they see the title of the cues that might say ‘Peggy remembers Steve’ and all of a sudden they know what that means and they play with a little bit more heart and it says right on the top ‘play tragically’ or ‘play sympathetically’ they all bring that emotion just the same way as I did when I wrote it. So it’s 40 people collectively adding real, human emotion to a project and I don’t think that can ever be duplicated by computers.
And the other thing that I think that is important is that the show is in the 1940’s and I think having a human element, both in terms of orchestra and it terms of some of the jazz instruments are integral to making it feel like it belongs, making the music feel like it belongs in the show, it’s the same as having a cars that are from the right era, and costumes from the right era, I think it’s also important that the score has elements of that era as well and I think it gives the show some unique texture as well.
I’m a big fan of Galavant, and one of the things I’ve noticed about the score and the styling is that it sounds both medieval and modern, how do you create that unique sound?
Well I think there is a lot of artistic license in Galavant because of the comedy. Obviously we look on screen, and there’s knights in shining armor and all of that stuff and so that gives us that ability to play that and make sure we use things like harpsichords and things like, obviously all the orchestral instruments, and we use penny-whistles and things that are folk musically of the era. But then to be able to just switch on a dime, you know, Alan [Menken] has done these songs that one song maybe rock n roll, the next song maybe opposite like disco. Because of the fact that it’s comic and because that it completely is crazy and silly that allows us to just sort of stretch and we can almost do anything and get away with it because it’s really for comedy. I think if it was Game of Thrones, we couldn’t get away with it but for Galavant you can kind of get away with anything.
Ride Along 2 is now the top film at the box office, and you’ve worked on lots of other comedy films. How does scoring an action comedy differ from the period pieces like Galavant and Agent Carter?
In one sense it’s not that different because an action scene in a big movie because towards the end of the film there’s a chance that Kevin [Hart] could get killed, and that’s actually very similar to Peggy running down the alley, being chased by Dottie or something. There’s actually a lot of similarities to that, but I think the big difference with, at least the way I approach buddy comedies, which I’ve done a lot of with both Kevin and Ice Cube, but also Identity Thief with Melissa McCarthy.
There’s sort of a tradition in the best buddy comedies, I think, like 48 Hours or Beverly Hills Cop is sort of that way, where you not only have to have the action and you have the jokes but you also have the fact that you really need these two partners to have a really great repertoire with each other and you know, as in the case with this movie it very much comes with making Ice Cube, the straight man, and I play him very much as like a hard-nosed cop and very very serious where as Kevin is obviously kind of a silly guy. So Kevin has a lot of the fun and especially this year as we are in Miami with the second one we use a lot of Latin percussion and he’s wearing silly Miami clothes, and it’s very easy to have fun with that.
So I think the thing that was interesting about that, that’s different, is that it’s almost more like Galavant where you can open up your style and you can have hard cop music that transitions very quickly into either the serious villain music and then it can go right back to something that Kevin’s doing, where it’s much more light and groove-oriented. So I just think it’s a little bit more nimble and it’s a thing a matter of giving each character their voice and that’s definitely what we did with Kevin Hart and Ice Cube.
And lastly, if you could score any genre of film or TV, what would you like to do?
That’s a great question. I think in my heart of hearts I’m an epic adventure fan. The films that made me fall in love with movie music are things like Star Wars and Back to the Future and The Godfather and Braveheart and those kind of things. So at the end of the day, whether it be a period piece or a sci-fi thing, but I think a big, sort of, epic adventure that’s certainly where my original love story with film music came about, so I think that’s what I really would love to do.
Agent Carter is on ABC on Tuesdays at 9pm, Galavant is on ABC on Sundays at 8pm.
Ride Along 2 is currently in theaters nationwide.