Interview with Daniel Licht

Daniel Licht is the composer of the new TV series “Body of Proof” which premieres on March 29th on ABC.  Daniel also does the haunting score for Showtime’s “Dexter”.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Daniel about his work on the TV series as well as the differences between each genre.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about working on the new TV series “Body of Proof”?
Daniel Licht: Well, I got hired last Fall.  I did the first thirteen episodes, but I think they are only going to broadcast nine this year.  It is a very interesting show. Dana Delany’s character on the show solves crimes by doing autopsies.  Once again, I am writing music with lots of dead bodies around [laughs].

MG: What were your inspiration for that score?
DL: A lot of it is very emotional actually.  It is a procedural, which means a crime is introduced in the beginning of an episode and solved at the end.  But it is always like an emotional wrap up because these are crimes of passion.  Dana’s character manages to get people to make confessions.  The music is just really emotional.  I wanted to do something interesting instead of the standard string with sad piano lines.  I mutated the piano samples and tried to give it an interesting sound to it, sort of a futuristic sound.

MG: What was your biggest challenge when working on that score?
DL: Well it is always challenging trying to find a sound for a show…or a movie.  That is always the biggest challenge.  You have to get the theme and find the key to the show.  The dramatic part is usually pretty straight forward.  The comedic elements are always the hardest to find the right tone for.  It took me a while to find just the right tone.  There is some comedy involved as well, not slapstick though.  So, that took a while to get the tone and comedy mixed together right.  But hopefully I got the write sound [laughs].

MG: Tell us about working on the score for “Dexter”?
DL: I have been doing “Dexter” for five years.  It certainly has been a great show to work on, well acted…well written…well shot.  It really makes writing music for it a real pleasure.  The key was finding the right tone.  The show has a little ironic twist to it.  Parts of it are just very dark comedy.  It has just been great though.  I tried to create the feeling of Michael C. Hall as Dexter floating through this dark reality.  It is like a slow motion eerie carnival sound.

MG: Do you find that working on “Dexter” today differs from when you first started?
DL: Yeah!  I try and keep it moving.  I try and bring in new things but obviously there are the classic themes that come back and are a part of the show.  I rearrange them sometimes and sometimes I bring them back exactly as they were but I extended or shorten them.  I have tried to get into different sounds for this season.  The last season you had Julie Stiles and her character, so I started using strings and woodwinds.  Woodwinds is not a sound that is used a lot in “Dexter”.  The season before that featured Jon Lithgow and we used a lot of smashing sounds, like beating on the inside of a piano and some more techo elements as well.  That whole season, they wanted the music driving from the beginning of the episode until the end.  It is like a pulsing sound throughout the episode.  I just try and keep it interesting.

MG: You have done quite a few feature films in the horror genre, is that a favorite genre for you?
DL: I liked to have a little variety for what I work in and write.  But if I had to just to one…like if someone said to me “You can do light comedy or this or that”…I would want to do something dark, if I had to do only one style. I like to get emotionally involved with the music when I am writing.  I want to get the deep emotions from it.  I find that challenging for myself.  Part of it is just getting an opportunity, the first film I got offered was a vampire film and that is what you become…an expert on what you have done.

MG: Do you find that it differs for each genre you compose for?
Oh absolutely.  I will do research if I am working on a film that takes place in a certain location.  I will reach the music.  I will do out and buy specific instruments.  Even mood-wise, working on really dark stuff all day will make you kind of moody.  I have also done some more comedic stuff as well and you fell lighter as it affects you mood throughout the day.