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Underscoring the Post Apocalyptic World of The SyFy Channel's Dominion With Composer Bill Brown

Updated on April 23, 2015
Profile of Composer Bill Brown of the SYFY Series, Dominion.
Profile of Composer Bill Brown of the SYFY Series, Dominion. | Source

Composer Bill Brown is a veteran of video games, television and film. A very talented composer who has used his gift for music to create some very memorable music for the hit series, CSI: New York for nine seasons and has exploded musically throughout the video game realm as well for the past decade expanding his talents even further for games such as Captain America: Super Soldier for example.

Bill was given the opportunity to expand himself even further with the Syfy Channel's hit series, Dominion which is now heading into its' second season on the famed cable network. The supernatural action drama based on characters from the feature film 'Legion' is set in the year 25 A.E. and takes place during a catastrophic war between an army of angels and mankind that has transformed the world.

For this special Q&A interview with Bill, he candidly shares with me about his work on Dominion, the process he's going through to create the great music you've been hearing on the show and taking a stroll down memory lane with CSI: NY. So sit back and enjoy our conversation.

Profile Picture of Bill Brown of Dominion..
Profile Picture of Bill Brown of Dominion.. | Source

Q&A With Bill Brown

Thank you Bill very much for granting me the time to conduct this interview with you today. Your work is exceptional. Please share with the readers about what made you become interested in music.

BB: Thanks! For as long as I can remember, there has always been a part of me that needs to create something new. I was instinctively creating new sounds and melodies from something like the age of 5 or 6. It’s just a part of me, I wouldn’t be whole without it. I also love how you can escape into films, television or even games.. Live vicariously and experience things you might never have the opportunity to experience – When I was a kid it was Luke Skywalker and Indiana Jones, Han Solo or you name it. I feel so lucky to be able to be creating music for these things now, inspiring and entertaining and doing what I love to do.

Let’s talk about your recent work on the hit SyFy series “Dominion” which is now starting its’ second season. How did you get involved with this project?

BB: A good friend of mine is directing and introduced me to the team, and we hit it off right away. Funny as I was just talking with the head writer about the music in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars – both some of our favorite music ever!

Did you have a specific plan as exactly you want the music to sound stylistically each episode you’re given?

BB: I’m just getting started and am very interested in experimenting with really digging into writing thematic material for the characters.. We’re already using a theme I came up with early on for Michael in one of the sequences and it’s spot on. I’m just excited to be able to have so much creative freedom and to be supporting such a wonderful cast and crew; they really are awesome.

How do you collaborate with the producers on a particular episode throughout the season?

BB: It’s always a little different for each project. We haven’t actually started spotting yet, so that remains to be seen. But on projects like CSI:NY we would collaborate very closely, watching through the episodes together and deciding where the music would go and what it’s dramatic purpose would be.

Do you find it difficult to score each episode given the theme or the director/producers?

BB: There is a time factor with a TV show like this for sure. I’ll only have a matter of days to get it done, so the pressure is on! But that can be a good thing too. I scored 197 episodes of CSI:NY (9 seasons) just that way. It was an amazing run with a lot of creativity – It was a lot of hard work for sure, and we had a lot of fun with it too. I’m really looking forward to digging into full episodes of Dominion now.

Do you feel that your music grows and evolves with each season scoring a TV show?

BB: I really enjoy that aspect of it actually. What I have found is the writers will find a new path, a new feel or direction and it becomes organic for the music to evolve with the new directions. It’s a pretty exciting job. I also try to keep things fresh by experimenting with new instruments, sounds and studio tools to keep things fresh.. Things are always evolving in the studio and that’s great for the music.

What character or characters have you identified with the most that you personally felt should be one of the major musical devices in writing your music for each show and the season?

BB: I’m just starting to write for them, so I’ll need to come back to this question in a couple months to really let you know. I’ve already written the themes for Michael, Gabriel and Alex (the “Chosen One”) and am currently working on themes for Claire and Arika. I’ve gotten amazing responses from the team so far on the material.

Have you utilized any particular instruments to be featured as part of your score to signify a particular character or setting so far?

BB: That’s a great question. I’ve actually started using an instrument called the Ney to bring a biblical, ancient vibe to the score. I’m going to be recording more of it live here in my studio, along with some other exotic wind and string instruments. You might also hear some big choir recordings in season 2, again to bring forward more of the biblical, epic nature of the story. The score itself is very orchestral, very epic.

Do you think there will be a soundtrack of your music for the series?

BB: I sure hope so! (smiles)

You’re definitely no stranger to television with countless show and in particular you did nine seasons worth for CSI: New York the spinoff for the original CSI? How did you get involved with the series?

BB: Coincidentally, one of the same directors / producers I’m working with on Dominion (Deran Sarafian) brought me on board CSI:NY back in 2004 when he was filming the pilot episode, “Blink”.

Was it difficult for you to come up with new themes and material for each season as the series went along with new characters and storylines changing?

BB: I was constantly experimenting with new sounds and ideas musically, and I was also inspired by the new stories and story lines the writers were coming up with as well throughout the nine years. It never got old for me – I could have kept innovating and creating new themes and sounds for 9 more seasons if they wanted me too!

Looking back, how do you feel about working on the show all those years?

BB: It’s great to have an amazing opportunity like that, and those were really gratifying years for me professionally and personally. I honestly feel so lucky and grateful to have been a part of it.

Have you thought about putting together a soundtrack album series and if you did, what would you love to put on it?

BB: We talked with CBS about that, but they weren’t doing soundtracks for their shows scores in general. I think CSI had one song compilation soundtrack if I remember correctly.

You’ve also done numerous video games as well including the most recent “Captain America: Super Soldier” for example. Do you enjoy working in the genre?

BB: I love it. As a matter of fact, I’m starting another big online game project this summer and can’t wait.

What’s the most difficult thing you’ve encountered as a composer working on video games so far?

BB: I would have to say that the asset management on Captain America was out of control ridiculous. But it was my fault because I wanted to write separate themes for all of the characters in the game, for every level, at every moment.. Split into reactive / interactive blocks, recorded live and mixed in 5.1 – just imagine how many Excel spreadsheets that took up!! It wasn’t easy. But that’s music for games!

Do you feel that writing a score for a game is similar to that of working on television show or a full-length movie?

BB: With games, the player is steering it and they usually live with the music for longer periods of time, and I have to create a score that will work for each different scenario. Film and television projects are the same every time we watch them, so I can be much more specific when I’m writing for them. Creatively, I’m always trying to create something exciting and new – That’s the adventure of it for me.

Name a soundtrack you’d personally love to release?

BB:Dominion Season 2! (Smiles)

What is your favorite film score that you’ve written to date?

BB: I like different ones for different reasons. ‘The Devil’s Tomb’ allowed me to write some really wild orchestral music in the sci-fi and horror genre (recorded live in Prague), the Film “Brother’s Keeper” allowed me to write a more ‘Newman-esque’ score along the lines of ‘Road to Perdition’, also recorded with a big orchestra and something I’ve always wanted to do. And more recently, my score for ‘Layover’, Joshua Caldwell’s charming, introspective French language indie allowed me to create an almost all-guitar score – something that came naturally out of all of my seasons of working with incredible guitarists, recording and writing for CSI:NY.

Which composer do you personally feel has influenced your music?

BB: Bernard Herrmann has always been a big influence, especially his scores for Psycho and Vertigo. When I was a kid John Williams’ music for Star Wars introduced me to film music -His orchestration and use of themes is just inspiring.

I really want to thank you once again Bill for granting me this interview and I really honored to meet you and everything.

BB: Thanks! Great to meet you too!

Very special thanks to Bill Brown for being so gracious with his time and for the fun interview. We must do it again. Special thanks also go to Brenda Cambreros. You're awesome.

Dominion Season Two will premiere on the Syfy Channel in July

Profile Picture of Composer Bill Brown
Profile Picture of Composer Bill Brown | Source

Bill Brown Biography

Bill Brown is an award-winning composer and creative force behind the musical scores of fan- favorite TV, film and video game thrillers, dramas and super-hero adventures. Widely recognized for his experimental approach to developing a unique sound and for creating dynamic orchestral landscapes, Bill is best known for composing the compelling musical backdrop for all nine seasons of the hit CBS series CSI: NY. His music will soon be heard on season two of Syfy’s post-apocalyptic thriller, Dominion.

Bill’s passion for composing is followed closely by his interest in cutting-edge sound technology. Developers regularly approach him to beta-test new music and sound design products, and he is considered by many in the music community as the go-to resource when a product or technology recommendation is needed. Continually experimenting with new technology, live instruments and custom sampling, he is currently exploring the capabilities of Moog Music’s limited reissue of modular synthesizers and more in upcoming projects.

The results of his passion for creating cinematic themes and compelling new sounds can be found throughout his captivating and powerful electronic and orchestral scores. This is especially true for a large swathe of his work that includes Bill’s score for Marvel’s video game Captain America: Super Soldier. Nominated for Best Original Music at the Canadian Video Game Awards, this score exemplifies his creative talent for developing thrilling, complex orchestral music that combines heroic themes with eerie, pulsing cinematic atmospheres.

A wealth of other popular titles in the gaming world owe their brilliant scores to Bill. This includes The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction from Vivendi Universal, the action-adventure shooter, Wolfenstein, and Command & Conquer: Generals. Bill received a Golden Reel Nomination for Best Music for Lineage II: Gracia – The 2nd Throne, and has won awards from the ITVA, BMI, and Music4Games. His scores have also received award nominations from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, L.A. Weekly, and the Game Audio Network Guild.

Bill’s repertoire includes music for suspense and drama features. He composed scores for The Devil's Tomb, starring Cuba Gooding Jr.; Dark Prophecy, directed by Anthony Zuiker; Brother's Keeper, Dermaphoria, and Trapped. His credits also includes the French language independent film Layover, which premiered to glowing reviews and excited audiences at the Seattle International Film Festival in June of 2014.

As Josh Mills and TJ Amato, the directors of Brother’s Keeper, exclaimed, "The level of passion Bill put into this score far exceeded anything we could have expected, and it shows. Watching the way that each of these cues was masterfully put together truly was a work of art.”

© 2015 DANNY GONZALEZ

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