October 20, 2010 | By

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Bear McCreary is one of the busiest composers working in Hollywood, and he’s perhaps best-known for his work for the rebooted Battlestar Galactica series. His latest project is the pilot episode forCaprica, the next chapter in the ongoing franchise, as well as the videogame which furthers theBattlestar experience.

McCreary’s identity is kind of two-fold: he’s the adept composer of orchestral scores in sci-fi, and blues-based horror scores notable for some great performances by musicians on guitar and percussion.

The best adjective for McCreary’s style is refreshing: the writing is succinct but never rushes the drama; it’s character-oriented, even in comedic works like TV’s Eureka (2007-2009); and there’s his affinity for percussion textures, whether electronic (TV’s Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), organic (Rest Stop), or a flawless fusion of both.

In our interview, McCreary discusses the differences between the musical worlds of Battlestar andCaprica, as well as his entry into film scoring.



Mark R. Hasan: How did you get into film music?

Bear McCreary: Film music was always my passion, and it was always what interested me as a kid; it’s really the only thing I ever wanted to do in the first place.

How did I get into it professionally? I moved down to Los Angeles to go to school, and did a lot of student films and worked on every project that I possibly could. I then ended up assisting a composer named Richard Gibbs, who scored the Battlestar Galactica mini-series, and at that time he was under such an intense deadline that I ended up writing some cues on that with him.

The producers got to know me during that process and knew who I was and what I was doing, and when it came time for the mini-series to become a full series, I got a shot at doing an episode, and the rest is history.

MRH: I have to admit that I’m probably one of the rare few who haven’t seen Battlestar Galactica.

BMBattlestar sounds totally different than Caprica. In fact, when you listen to Battlestar you’ll hear that there are little places in Caprica that I’m hinting at the sound of Battlestar – notably the percussion cues that make a couple of cameos (“Terrorism on the Lev” and “Zoe Awakens”) in theCaprica soundtrack really are the meat and potatoes of the Battlestar soundtrack.

However, with that said, there’s a very large orchestral presence in the Battlestar score as well. As the show progressed, the orchestra became more and more important to it, and so the orchestral music in Caprica is related, but it’s actually a very different sound.

Caprica is a very intimate chamber orchestra; it’s a very small score that fills up a lot of space emotionally and it feels very epic, but it’s in fact a very intimate sound. Battlestar is a very huge sound; there’s as many as four times as many instruments as I had playing on Caprica, so it’s a very different approach, but it’s the same idea.

MRH: Well I think what really surprised me about the Caprica teleplay is that it’s a pilot that basically deals a lot with character; there’s not a lot of action that happens, and there’s a lot of story and background which is kind of rare, and I wonder if that’s one of the things that attracted you to the project, because you had so many opportunities to explore the characters.

BM: Yes, that was definitely very exciting, and I’ve done a lot of science-fiction projects – so many that people often ask me ‘What’s it like writing science-fiction music?’ and I for one have never intentionally written science-fiction music.

Caprica was certainly one of those opportunities where it was entirely about these families. It almost struck me as a period piece, like I felt like I was doing The Godfather series or something; the structure of it is very classical, so that was exciting. It was also an opportunity for me to return to the Battlestar storyline from a different perspective

MRH: I really like the two themes in the pilot – the Caprica theme, and the tragic theme that reappears throughout the score.

BM: The two themes that you’re referring to are themes for each of the two families – the Graystones and the Adamas, and each family has their own thematic identity that I then weave into the score as we are learning about their past, and what they’re doing and what they’re going through.

The Graystone theme does sort of function as the de facto Caprica theme only because we hear it more often than the other one, but that was my approach – to have two different themes for the two different sides.

MRH: Is you background mainly in blues music?

BM: No, not at all. Actually, I’m a classically trained composer and pianist, although I play in a lot of rock bands and I definitely had a lot of pop in my upbringing, but I’m definitely coming from the classical world, really, if I had to pick a side.

MRH: I was really surprised at the contrast between your Rest Stop scores, which are sort of heavy blues/rock with great guitar textures, and the Caprica music, which is very classical, and includes elements from chamber and minimalism.

BM: Pop and blues are languages that I like to use. The Rest Stop films were tremendous opportunities for me to score a horror film with a bluegrass band, which is essentially what I did, and that was a tremendous amount of fun I’d love to say that I really grew up with that kind of music, but I didn’t; that’s just something that I’m passionate about, and I’ve come to enjoy now.

For me it’s always about finding something different, something new that I haven’t done before, so you’ll find that the scores that I’ve done for Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles sound totally different in the instrumentation and in the style than Battlestar, but I’d like to think that you can always tell that it’s me, just by the musical similarities that are there; I always like to find different instrumentations and different sounds for each project.

MRH: Do you do your own orchestrations, or do you have a team that you work with?

BM: I have a team that I work with extensively. It’s the only way to survive getting through [a heavy work load]. I generally have three shows and a couple of games and a couple of movies in the works at all times, so I definitely don’t have time to do my own orchestrations anymore. I did for the first season two seasons of Battlestar, and that nearly killed me.

MRH: Is there any particular genre that you haven’t tackled yet, because you’ve done horror, science-fiction, drama, and comedy?

BM: Well, I’ve love to do an eighteen hundreds period piece zombie musical. That’s a genre that I’d love to tackle. I think I’m ready for it.

MRH: It’s funny that you mention that, because there’s author Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a bloody fusion of Jane Austen’s story with flesh eaters that was published this past May by Quirk Books.

BM: Yeah, well that would be fun.


. would like to thank Bear McCreary for making time for this interview during an incredibly busy schedule, and Beth Krakower at CineMedia for facilitating this interview.

Visit Bear McCreary’s official website HERE.

Read the composer’s Battlestar Galactica Blog HERE.

All images remain the property of their copyright holders.

This article and interview © 2009 by Mark R. Hasan


Related external links (MAIN SITE):

CD:  Battlestar Galactica, Season 4 (2009) —   Caprica, Pilot (2009) — Eureka (2006) —  Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2009)

BR/DVD/Film:  Caprica, Pilot (2009)


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