Prodigal Son is a new series on FOX starting September 23rd, 2019, which centers around a young profiler whose father is an infamous serial killer. It’s a dark police procedural wrapped around a family drama with a chilling and heart-wrenching musical score created by Nathaniel Blume.
Playing a serial killer known as “The Surgeon” is everyone’s favorite former progenitor of the Lycans, Michael Sheen. The show’s lead, Sheen’s profiler son, Malcolm Bright, is played by former Walking Dead “Jesus” Thomas Payne. Fans of the long-lived zombie series might not even recognize Payne who is transformed from his former look.
PopAxiom interviews Nathaniel about making music and cracking bones for the Prodigal Son.
Hello Trumpet My New Friend
Thanks to mom, Nathaniel “… picked up the trumpet at age 11.” As he puts it: “She just thought it would be a good thing for me to try.”
As it turns out, Nathaniel had “… had an affinity toward that [trumpet] and music in general.”
“In the 90s, I started to seek out trumpet music. And at the time, John Williams’ Jurassic Park score was one of the first things that stuck out; scores like JFK, Stargate and Independence Day from David Arnold.”
As high school came to an end, playing the trumpet was still mostly a hobby. “By the time I got to college and started writing, it took hold that it was what I wanted to pursue.”
Nathaniel calls professor and author of The Score: Interviews with Film Composers, Michael Schelle, “an encouraging figure” who “pointed in the direction of composing.”
About Prodigal Son
Nathaniel followed that inspirational gesture to shows like Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, and the CNN Documentary Series 60s, 70s, 80s, etc. The current destination: Prodigal Son. “I got the script for the pilot and immediately had a lot of ideas.”
How does one get into the mindset of creating music for a show about a police profiler and his serial killer dad? For Nathaniel, “The jumping point was … The Surgeon.”
“I got on eBay, found a surgical tool kit, bone cutter, I got a plastic tarp to double as a bodybag, and had a sampling session here at the studio where I recorded all these sounds … slamming the bodybag, cutting gauze with scissors …”
But the deep dive into detail didn’t end there as Blume also snapped, “… dried-out chicken bones with the bone cutter.”
Nathaniel took this “… slew of material … and made a playable instrument out of it which acts as a foundation for the percussion in the score.”
But Prodigal Son is more than just a nerve-chilling soundtrack. “At heart, the story is really a family drama. The protagonist is dealing with the baggage of having a serial killer father, and his relationship with his mother and sister, who also have their baggage.”
For Nathaniel, the balance between family and fright was a key part of the sonic puzzle. “The score straddles that world of giving the show the emotional nature it needs at times but also playing on the tensions, horror, and thriller aspect of the story.”
“It’s fun keeping the tension and anxiety high for people for an hour.”
Cracking bones makes getting into the mindset of Prodigal Son a more direct experience. How does that compare to scoring for a superhero show, film, or documentary? “The initial process isn’t that different. You really have to come up with a sound world and the emotions and the feelings from scratch in any case.”
“The differences come with a TV program that goes on, for a season or even years. The challenges that come with that is how do you stay in that sound world but also make it feel like it’s shifting and adapting with the show.”
For a movie: “… you get more time to sit with it, but then you create the music, it works, and you’re done.”
The CNN Decades Series demanded something entirely different that the usual purpose of music in movies and television: “… they really didn’t want to tell the audience how to feel. They wanted to let the audience figure that out for themselves.”
What working composer today does Nathaniel look forward to hearing from? “I always look forward to what John Williams does.”
“But really, since I’m in a building with three other composers, Blake Neely. Sherri Chung, and Daniel James Chan, it’s always fun to see what they’re doing. We all work together and support each other.
Nathaniel adds a recent Oscar-winner to the list, “I went to USC with Ludwig Göransson (Black Panther), so I’m always excited to see what he’s doing.”
Prodigal Son is the latest addition to Nathaniel’s continuing work, “… co-composing The Flash and Arrow with Blake.”
Thanks to Nathaniel Blume and Rhapsody PR for making this interview possible.
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