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Saturday, November 10, 2018
MORE DETAILS ON DONAGGIO CUES USED IN HOMECOMING
ASIDE FROM OPENING DTK THEME, MUSIC FROM 'BODY DOUBLE'/'CARRIE'/'RAISING CAIN' APPEAR IN LATER EPISODES
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/homecomingep1b.jpg

Amazon Prime's Homecoming, which premiered last week, opens with the same music that opens Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill, which was scored by Pino Donaggio. Instead of moving through a hallway toward a bathroom, as in the opening moments of Dressed To Kill, the camera at the start of Homecoming (each episode of which is directed by Sam Esmail) moves from a close-up inside an aquarium of fish, and pulling back to reveal its placement in a large office where Heidi Bergman (Julia Roberts) is setting up her desk and looking at the file of a recently-returned young soldier she is about to meet for the first time. When he enters her office (continuing the same shot, with Donaggio's DTK theme still playing underneath), he looks at the aquarium, saying it's nice, and asks her if she likes fish. "Not especially, it was here when I got here," she responds with the distracted nervousness of meeting someone for the first time. "I decided it's...soothing." As he has a seat and the two settle in for the start of their first session (at this early point in the story, we are not really sure what the session is about), the camera moves toward the window behind her desk, looking outside of it before a cut takes us to the other side of the window and Donaggio's music gets louder, the camera pulling back to reveal a courtyard scene outside, where a bird walks into frame and lifts itself up onto a ledge, perching and making a sort of deep squawking noise as the episode's title is revealed in large white letters. From here the music abruptly ends as the episode cuts to a different window but in a different, much narrower aspect ratio and quieter music, in what is revealed to be a flash-forward.

Donaggio's "Telescope" from De Palma's Body Double is used in the opening moments of episode 5 ("Helping"), in a sort of playful twist on the kind of romantic preparations taken by Gloria in Body Double, Jenny in De Palma's Raising Cain, or Kate in Dressed To Kill. The music is cut-off abruptly to enhance a bit of humor, yet the end of the episode calls back to this opening in an absurdly dark fashion. The beginning and end of the episode also manage to call back to the opening moments of episode 1, pairing the two Donaggio themes into a unifying thematic strategy.

I have only watched the first seven episodes so far, and I understand there is more Donaggio to come in one of the three remaining episodes. I can tell you that Episode 4 ("Redwood") brilliantly uses Donaggio's suspenseful "Bucket of Blood" cue from De Palma's Carrie to show the investigator visiting the location of the Homecoming facility during one of the flash-forward sequences.

"When we started talking about music, I started talking to my editors about those classic scores by Pino Donaggio, Bernard Herrmann, John Williams and John Carpenter even,” Esmail tells IndieWire's Chris O'Falt. "I just started thinking, this is going to be really unfair to ask a music composer to ape David Shire’s Conversation theme. That’s just ridiculous, or to ask someone to ape Michael Smalls’ theme from Klute."

O'Falt's article goes into the challenges of getting the rights to use so many varied pieces of existing scores, and includes a handy episode-by-episode list of all the scores used:

Esmail broached the subject with music supervisor Maggie Phillips when she first interviewed for the job. She found the idea discomfiting. “People have licensed a score piece here or there, but there’s no real paper trail for older scores like there is for the other music we license,” said Phillips. “There was no way of estimating costs, at all, and the people we were licensing from wouldn’t even know. The NBC-Universal clearance team and my team, no one had ever done this before.”

Still, Phillips took the job and it became an extensive research project to determine who owned the scores’ publishing rights, and then the actual recordings. Once that was determined, another journey began: locating the recording and digitizing it for the show. (While there might be obvious appeal in a “Homecoming” soundtrack comprised of the best thriller scores from the 20th century, that was a licensing bridge too far.)

Pre-existing scores meant tremendous time and expense. Sometimes Phillips discovered dead ends, or scores that couldn’t be licensed. Phillips and NBC-Universal also had to work with unions to make sure dozens of session players would be paid for scores they played decades ago. However, Phillips’ bigger concern became the creative side.

“Most editors are used to sending a scene to a composer, and having a composer hit those beats and write to those beats and emotional storylines to make it work,” said Phillips. “On ‘Homecoming,’ the editors, and our one music editor, had to to carve it out of preexisting score written for a different movie. We’d have to combine a few scores, and there were times I had to tell them to replace some scores, because they were too expensive after they had carefully crafted it to work with their scenes.”

As the first few episodes hit the editing room, Phillips and the editors started to see an even bigger creative problem. In the 10-episode series, there are longer, key scenes between Heidi (Julia Roberts), a counselor helping veterans adjust to everyday life, and Walter (Stephan James), a young soldier back from a tour in the Middle East. The show ultimately arcs around their many-layered relationship.

“It’s a weird tone between the two of them,” Phillips said. It’s slightly romantic, it’s a little emotional, but you don’t want to push it too hard. It should be pretty subtle, and the scores that we were using were really big scores… a lot of these things we found to put under those scenes felt very heavy handed.”

Often, published scores don’t include quiet moments of “underscore,” but rather the showy moments of action, drama, and emotion. Phillips started to doubt the feasibility of using entirely pre-existing scores.

“I called one of the producers and I was like, ‘I really don’t know if we’re going to be able to do this,’ and it was mostly because I was trying to help the editors find stuff for that first scene between Heidi and Walter,” said Phillips. “So they sat down and talked to Sam, I wasn’t there, and Sam was like, ‘Absolutely no. I want all pre-existing score.'”

Esmail recalled the moment he realized there was no turning back on his concept. “Music is everything to me,” said Esmail. “It’s the heart and soul of a movie or TV show to me because it can be such an injection of tone, and I think tone is everything to a story. So I just took a moment and said, ‘We should embrace this.’ This is too critical for me to ask someone to be derivative, which is also not very fair to them, but also, I wouldn’t want that. I would always constantly compare it to the real thing, and just thought it was so critical to the kind of tightrope walk that we’re doing with tone in the show that I just thought, ‘Let’s just go for it.'”

Phillips agrees that using older scores as temp music would have been a mistake. Music supervisors and composers refer to this as “temp love,” in which creators fall in love with the temp music and ask composers to mimic it. Like many, Phillips believes it’s not only a horrible way for a director to collaborate with a composer, but it’s also why so many scores in the last 15 years sound the same.

Phillips did get Esmail to use a few more modern scores for the show’s quieter moments. She also established a “No YouTube” rule for the editors: Not only were many scores pulled off the internet knock-offs that wouldn’t match, Phillips also wanted to secure the original recording before the editorial team started cutting to it.

Now that she has the final product, Phillips is impressed by how organic the music feels to the show, and the future possibilities for television scores.

“You don’t hear scores this big in TV, and it added so much of the tension,” said Phillips. “It’s a thriller, but it’s a slow burn. It’s not like you are wondering what’s behind the corner. The scores make it feel very thematic and heighten the tension and add to that edge-of-the-seat feeling you’re getting while you watch it. I don’t think it’d be like that without that big dramatic score on top of these scenes.”

So would she recommend using pre-existing score to other creators? “No,” laughed Phillips. “This ended up working because it was so organic to how Sam saw the show and shot the show. He’s a crazy genius, who was backed by a producing team willing to spend the money to see the process through.”

Below is list of the scores used in “Homecoming,” by episode.

Episode 1

“Dressed to Kill,” composer Pino Donaggio
“All The President’s Men,” composer David Shire
“Marathon Man,” composer Michael Small
“Vertigo,” composer Bernard Herrmann

Episode 2

“Klute,” composer Michael Small
“Duel,” composer Billy Goldenberg
“The Gift,” composers Daniel Bensi & Saunder Jurriaans

Episode 3

“Capricorn One,” composer Jerry Goldsmith
“The Andromeda Strain,” composer Gil Mellé
“The Car,” composer Leonard Rosenman
“Chariots of Fire,” composer Vangelis
“Gray Lady Down,” composer Jerry Fielding
“Star Chamber,” composer Michael Small

Episode 4

“The Amityville Horror,” composer Lalo Schifrin
“The Day The Earth Stood Still,” composer Bernard Herrmann
“The Hand,” composer James Horner
“Carrie,” composer Pino Donaggio
“The Andromeda Strain,” composer Gil Mellé
“L’Apocalypse des animaux,” composer Vangelis
“All The President’s Men,” composer David Shire

Episode 5

“Body Double,” composer Pino Donaggio
“The Taking of Pelham 123,” composer David Shire
“The Conversation,” composer David Shire
“Escape from New York,” composer John Carpenter & Alan Howarth
“The Thing,” composer Ennio Morricone
“Narrow Margin,” composer Bruce Broughton
“The French Connection,” composer Don Ellis

 

Episode 6

“High-Rise,” composer Clint Mansell
“Scanners,” composer Howard Shore
“The List of Adrian Messenger,” composer Jerry Goldsmith
“Copycat,” composer Christopher Young
“Creation,” composer Christopher Young
“Three Days of the Condor,” composer Dave Grusin

Episode 7

“Gray Lady Down,” composer Jerry Fielding
“The Thing,” composer Ennio Morricone
“The Andromeda Strain” (TV Series), composer Joel J. Richard
“Christine,” composer John Carpenter & Alan Howarth
“The Parallax View,” composer Michael Small
“The Thing,” composer Ennio Morricone
“The Fog,” composer John Carpenter
“Halloween 3,” composer John Carpenter & Alan Howarth

Episode 8

“The Conversation,” composer David Shire
“Christine,” composer John Carpenter & Alan Howarth
“Halloween 3,” composer John Carpenter & Alan Howarth
“Altered States,” composer John Corigliano
“The Andromeda Strain,” composer Gil Mellé
“The Fog,” composer John Carpenter

Episode 9

“Body Heat,” composer John Barry
“Dove Siete? Io Sono Qui,” composer Pino Donaggio
“Raising Cain,” composer Pino Donaggio
“Legend,” composer Tangerine Dream
“Oblivion,” composer Anthony Gonzalez & Joseph Trapanese
“All The President’s Men,” composer Michael Small
“The Eiger Sanction,” composer John Williams

Episode 10

“The Dead Zone,” composer Michael Kamen
“The Andromeda Strain,” composer Gil Mellé
“Opéra sauvage,” composer Vangelis


ADAM NAYMAN ON THE VISUAL STYLE OF 'HOMECOMING'

Meanwhile, at The Ringer, Adam Nayman delves into the visual style of Homecoming:

The all-around excellence of Amazon’s new 10-part thriller Homecoming has been covered already on The Ringer; not since that show about mean rich guys (I think it’s called Succession? Can anyone help me with this?) has an original series gotten so many Twitter-verified writers so excited. Fortunately, the hype is justified, at least on a level of pure craft. The Ringer’s Alison Herman correctly describes Esmail’s aesthetic as “heavily stylized, filled with split screens, overhead shots, and a constant accompaniment in an intricately composed composite of nail-biting scores,” to which I would only add—in case there’s any ambiguity—that this kind of audiovisual ingenuity is very much a Good Thing. Even in a year when directors like Atlanta’s Hiro Murai have already demonstrated serious chops in the TV format—and even without the knowledge that Esmail is trying to find a way to visualize material that began in podcast form—the Mr. Robot helmer’s bravura showmanship is worth celebrating. So how about doing it with some of the same detail-oriented focus that the show has itself? I thought you’d never ask.

The first shot of Homecoming’s pilot is also the first opportunity for Esmail and his team to play a game of spot the reference. As the camera tracks back from the aquarium in therapist Heidi Bergman’s office, Pino Donaggio’s satirically overwrought score from Dressed to Kill plays in the background. The obvious in-joke is that Brian De Palma’s 1980 thriller hinges on a plot twist involving a psychiatrist with a secret, and the shot’s slow, elegant movement copies De Palma’s style.

As the camera locks into place and Heidi prepares to deliver the first line of the show, the blinds on either side of her create a frame within a frame whose dimensions mirror the 1:1 aspect ratio used in the flash-forward scenes. Even within the reality of the show’s 2018 timeline, Heidi occupies a narrowed position, suggesting a lack of knowledge despite her authoritative position behind her desk. More importantly, the show’s visual signature has been established almost subliminally.


Posted by Geoff at 2:11 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, November 10, 2018 2:21 PM CST
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