Interview by Teresa Martin - @Teresa__Martin
Mark Isham has an impressive career that has spanned more than three decades. He is an accomplished composer having scored over twenty films, numerous television shows, and solo works. These have won him Grammy and Emmy awards, an Academy Award nomination, and the Henry Mancini Award for Lifetime Achievement, to name a few. A master trumpet performing artist, he has played with acclaimed jazz bands and some of the greatest orchestras in the world.
In 2011 he was introduced to an entirely new audience when he agreed to compose the enchanting music for the hit TV show Once Upon a Time. Once Upon a Fan recently had the honor of speaking with Mark Isham in this exclusive interview.
The Once Upon a Time score utilizes these motifs to great effect. One that is particularly memorable is the one for Snow and Charming. Could you describe the musical decisions you made when you wrote the theme?
It's important to get the emotions just right - the timeless quality of their relationship. I wanted it simple, but also rich with a classic feeling, but modern in concept.
What is one of your favorite tracks in the soundtrack?
I love the “Belle” theme as well as the “Siren” theme.
Do the producers share spoilers with you in order to prepare?
Yep - helps plan out which themes need to be substantial.
How much of the music for Season Two have you written? Which themes for the new characters can we look forward to hearing?
We are on 2x04 right now. Captain Hook, and Aurora and Philip have themes so far. I can't say more than that now.
Could you give us a stylistic preview for the Season Two music?
More of the same - Hook gets us into a more classic, swashbuckling mode.
What is the process for a recording session of an episode?
The episode is spotted (placement and timing of music is decided), and then the music is written. Next the music is demoed and approved by producers, and sketched out for orchestrators. Once music is orchestrated, the orchestra and studio are booked, and music is copied out for musicians. The electronics parts are recorded- sessions prepared for orchestra. The orchestra is recorded in about 3hrs, and then the music is mixed in 5.1 [surround sound] and finally delivered to be dubbed.
What advice would you give to people who wish to compose for movies and television?
Study film music - understand the wide variety of emotions that can be expressed in any story. MOST IMPORTANTLY - just do it! COMPOSE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE!
What would you consider to be your greatest musical achievement?
Yet to come?
Do you watch the show at home?
Yes, with the family and a few friends
What has been your favorite episode and which character do you love the most?
Impossible to say, but I'm liking Hook right now.
Are there any musical projects with which you are involved that you would like to share with your fans?
I'm scoring a new film about Jackie Robinson called 42.
Once Upon a Fan would like to thank Mr. Isham for his time and generosity in sharing his insights with us. You can follow Mark on Twitter or check out his website.