BACKSTAGE – INTERVIEW WITH DYNAMIC MUSIC PARTNERS
The World’s Finest: Was there ever the thought to use a traditional score for this show? Do you think it would have worked? Why do you think the final result that we got worked so well for Young Justice?
Michael McCuistion: [Producers] Brandon [Vietti] and Greg [Weisman] made it really clear at our first meeting that they did not want a traditional score for the show. We were really excited by this, since we had already scored all of the episodes of “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited” traditionally (and had a great time doing so!). It was a smart move on their part to want something different they had a great deal of confidence in our ability to create a unique sound for their new series based on the music we’d written for the shows we’d scored before, and we were totally on board with that direction.
Kristopher Carter: What we realized when we spotted the first episode was that when we were in the presence of the original Justice League heroes a “traditional” (i.e. “orchestral”) scoring approach really was appropriate, and helped the music for the young League stand apart even more. So, we went with that idea, and the few times that we encounter the original League in the series there was a feeling of maturity and legacy present in the music that we all believe highlighted their presence and payed homage to their experience level and authority.
The World’s Finest: How closely did you collaborate with the show’s producers to make sure the show’s score was exactly what everyone wanted?
Lolita Ritmanis: Brandon and Greg had a very definite vision for their show. Every aspect of this series was carefully thought out, and music was no exception. Way before we were offered the series, the producers had compiled a list of soundtracks that they were listening to for inspiration. When we began composing the first episode there had already been an immense amount of back and forth, in the form of dialogue with both producers as well as an extensive back and forth demo process. Since we also composed the theme, we had received feedback from the other executives along the way as well.
Kristopher: Was the direction for the music what “everyone” wanted? That’s a tough concept to consider. I believe that “everyone” whose vision was being considered in the decision making process was pleased. It was very freeing to compose music for this series.
Lolita: It was such a departure from what most would consider “super-hero music.” While all three of us greatly enjoy composing epic, orchestral “super-hero music,” it is extremely rewarding to look for new ways to work with iconic characters, especially characters that are so very multidimensional as the characters of Young Justice.
The World’s Finest: And, a semi-follow-up, how closely do producers and musicians work together when coming up with the sound for any given animated series?
Lolita: I would venture to say that for the most part the composer is still steering the ship in this regard. Our job is to listen to the wishes of the producers and then work towards creating the sound that they are looking for.
The World’s Finest: Can you break down what the role was for each DMP member when creating a score for an episode of Young Justice?
Michael: Our work process together was pretty seamless since we all three were involved in all parts of the process. At least two of us were usually present with Brandon and Greg for spotting the episode (deciding where music will go and how it will function/feel). Then we divided up the music cues and assigned them to one composer to write, keeping in mind any segues and thematic material that needed to be addressed. We each write individually and simultaneously, and we post and review each other’s cues as we’re working our way through the episode, so that (along with many, many years of working together!) keeps the musical direction intact throughout the episode. Then at least two of us were present when presenting our cue demos to Brandon and Greg, and we each made whatever changes were necessary and delivered our own material to our music editor who assembled everything into a single delivery to the mix stage. So the three of us really take on all roles throughout the process at one time or another.
The World’s Finest: Looking back at your work on the show, what are your thoughts on how you pulled off the show’s unique soundtrack? Anything you’d consider doing differently?
Lolita: Less was more. Allowing an idea to evolve, giving it room to breathe, allowing the scene play out without commenting on every aspect of the drama through music. There was absolutely nothing resembling what some may refer to as “cartoon music” in the Young Justice music vocabulary. We dealt with textures, moods and subtleties.
The World’s Finest: Moving on to the soundtrack release itself, it covers the entire series. Can each of you list out a couple favorite tracks on the set?
Michael: It’s really tough; the musical palette is so varied for this music so it’s hard to compare. I think more about the scenes and the characters the story that I’m writing for. In that respect I really enjoyed the Red Tornado episode “Humanity” and the Cheshire episode “Insecurity” both of which have cues represented on the soundtrack.
Lolita: I do not want to really divulge my favorite cues, I will however venture to say that this is a great CD to listen to in the car. The mood from start to finish takes you on a somewhat eclectic journey!
The World’s Finest: Can you run us through the selection process for the soundtrack, namely how you decide which cue and pieces of music get picked, and so on?
Lolita: It really is quite difficult narrowing the selection process. Trying to figure out which 70 minutes to include on a CD when we have close to 500 minutes of music to choose from is an arduous process.
Kristopher: It involves a fairly lengthy process of listening, reviewing, and then making sure there is a variety on the disc that hopefully represents the show.
The World’s Finest: It seems to be a real struggle at times for an animated show’s musical score to get a proper soundtrack release. What benefit comes from getting a show’s music released, and what can fans do to keep these coming?
Michael: Having a soundtrack really cements the connection between the fans and the show. It gives the listeners a way to bring the characters and stories into their everyday lives by experiencing the “sound” of the show apart from the visuals. In a way, the soundtrack can become the soundtrack for each person’s life – certain cues might be connected not only to a scene in an episode but also to whatever time, location or event that occurs while listening apart from the show itself. That probably sounds a little grandiose, but that’s certainly how I experience soundtracks that I love! Perhaps the number one thing that fans can do to help get a soundtrack release is to band together and make sure their voices are heard. There is strength in numbers (just look at how important television ratings are to the networks – those are based entirely on numbers). The more massive the voice, the more someone might pay attention to it. Thank goodness for the awesome guys at La-La Land who have been listening to fans’ voices for many years and are actually making these soundtracks happen!
The World’s Finest: As this interview wraps, we have a two-part question. First any chance we’ll be hearing more of your past and present work released on compact disc or digital download?
Michael: I think it’s safe to say that it’s OK to hold your breath! There are great things in store in the future and we are extremely excited to be able to bring as much of our music to release as possible. We can’t really divulge anything right now, but we are working diligently to continue to make our music available. It’s so deeply gratifying to know that there are fans and friends who are listening and enjoying what we have done and are continuing to do!
The World’s Finest: Second what are you working on right now, and why should fans check it out?
Lolita: We are so grateful to our fans who have followed our work throughout the years. It is deeply humbling to, on a regular basis, come in contact with those who appreciate what we do! Currently we are extremely proud and excited to be working with Eric Radomski and the team at Marvel Animation on Marvel’s Avengers Assemble. This series is epic in scope, and we have the opportunity daily to dive into the deep end of orchestral, timeless scoring. It is very much a theme driven approach, allowing us to craft themes for every single super-hero, as well as to develop some fairly juicy themes for our villains as well. We also scored an upcoming DTV project for Marvel, more about that once it is released!
Kristopher: We are also thrilled to be in our second season of Kaijudo with Hasbro (Season One: Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters, Season Two: Kaijudo: Clash of the Duel Masters airing on the HUB.) Working weekly with supervising producer Gary Hartle has been a great adventure. Gary cares so deeply about each and every character as well as nuances in the story line. For a composer to be able to delve into deep discussions with the producer about a particular character’s facial expression, or subtext in the dialog, and then compose music that adds a layer to the already complex landscape is very rewarding. Our palette contains traditional orchestral instruments as well as an array of ethnic instruments, giving Kaijudo a very unique sound.
Lolita: Besides the wonderful world of animation, we have begun work on a live action pilot (too soon to divulge any details), plus individually this summer DMP composers have had or are about to have concert works performed in Latvia and Italy – with the composers in attendance.
The “Young Justice: Music from the DC Comics Animated Television Series” soundtrack, collecting an assortment of music from the two-season run of the acclaimed “Young Justice” animated series, is available both directly from La-La Land Records and from other major outlets in both compact disc and digital download formats.
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