The Sandman Composer David Buckley Takes Out Season 1 Highlights [Spoiler Interview]

What instruments, as you put it, did you want to create those “tiny imperceptible” tones in Episode 5?

For me, it’s all about negative space. I mean it’s a tried and true formula that sometimes leaves you with the slightest smell and hint of a disturbing noise, [and that] can do a lot more psychological damage, or leave a psychological impression, than a big growl.

There’s another show I scored called “Evil,” which is quite a fun show on CBS. It’s very, very different from this and has a humorous thread running through it, but there are moments of horror, as the name suggests. A lot of times I’ll write a piece of music for it, and then I’ll start taking it out and then I’ll get to this sparse version of it. We can all agree, “Oh, that’s the scariest version” when you’ve thrown out all the junk, when you throw away all the stuff you point at people and say, “Be afraid. Be afraid. Be afraid.” and then you’ll find only this floating, wailing, dying sound. And that’s the one that makes you nauseous. That’s the one that makes you want to find your pillow to hide behind.

Episode 5 for me was studying psychology, music psychology, playing with things. Real subtle manipulations of sounds, to make people more and more on edge. It’s not about writing a tune. It’s not about being smart with harmony. It’s about trying to mess with people, but in the most subtle way.

Again, when it comes to scoring different notes, you’re obviously having a lot of fun with the grain convention in Episode 9. The strings are hilarious when Stephen Fry puts it all together.

Yes. Well, again, we didn’t want to play the serial killer because we didn’t want it to be a grim cue. We just didn’t want grim music there. At the same time, there is certainly a playfulness in the music. That’s one of my favorite songs called, I think, “God Tells Me to Do It.”

It’s comically cheerful.

Yes, there is spice in it. In fact, I had to rewrite that because the first time I wrote it, I got a note back saying I made the serial killers feel like they were serial killers, that they’re all bad guys. They don’t want to do that. There is also a mundaneness to that convention. They might as well be cleaning agents.

When the Corinthian sits down and gets the applause, it almost sounds like a corporate commercial for a retreat or something.

That’s an interesting one. Maybe my instincts weren’t quite right there per se, as I was going more serious on my first version of that cue. And I was, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. We want to celebrate this guy. We want to like him. He’s a good guy. He’s got a smile and a wink.”

When you’re doing a show that’s not quite right, it’s like sometimes you need a little help to hear, “We want to approach this more than that way.” Sometimes, unfortunately, the only way to really have that conversation is to present a piece of music and be told “No.”

You can talk about things endlessly, and you can say, “Yeah, I’ll do this.” And then of course, when it actually becomes flesh, there’s a difference like, “Oh, that’s what you meant by the color red.” Ultimately, if you put a piece of music there, you’ll have something tangible to love or dissect.

What vibe did you want to help hit with The Corinthian?

Yes, he has a lot of charm and he would like to know what it is like to feel human. He’s the bad guy there, but not in a standard or conventional sense. So this is actually quite a subtle sound. It’s two elements for him, I wouldn’t really call it a theme, it’s more of an atmosphere for him, which is an electric trumpet, which is a moody, slightly waxy, trumpet-like thing. It almost doesn’t sound like a trumpet. And then there’s that very low one, which I call Dr. Dre bass, just a really slow moving bass with glissando in it. Like, “Duhn-brr-rrr.” I don’t even know on TV how well it translates, but it has a bit of sexiness to it without being a saxophone solo, which would be awful.

When the Corinthian and Sandman crossed paths musically, did you want to bring them together?

Yeah, if they happen simultaneously, I can’t remember. It’s been a while since I’ve actually worked on the show as we obviously put it in the can a few months ago. So I can’t remember such a detail. I can remember another detail with Desire, that they only have a few moments in the show, but they’re a really cool character.

So there is a theme, but then there is a moment within that theme. It’s this weird vocal thing, but there’s a moment when they talk back about Dream. And so Dream’s theme reappears above Desire’s theme. So those two things coexist. I mean, I think that happens everywhere.

It goes back to my point of letting the audience enjoy it and not feel like I’m telling them what to do. I’m not desperate all the time to say just because a character comes on screen that they should play their theme as soon as they get on screen because that would be pretty grim. I mean, it would be pretty infantile. I mean, a standard kind of scoring procedure, characters have a musical identity and what feels best at any given moment is my approach.

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