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A final ‘30 Rock’ showcases its unsung music man
Question of the Day
“I’m tired of writing goodbye music for all the characters,” Richmond said with a laugh.
For instance: The show’s “Liz” theme _ a bouncy, familiar tune heard since the very first episode that was often arranged with a Scott Joplin lilt, but here was reimagined as lush and sentimental.
With Richmond busy in the studio, Kilgore was in the control room piloting software that resembled a souped-up version of GarageBand while “30 Rock” music producer Giancarlo Vulcano logged the progress on a laptop and old-fashioned sheet music.
Next to be recorded was a piece that sounded like a mash-up of Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein; “Hoedown” meets “On the Town.”
“Jeff, I like that take,” said Vulcano at one point. “But it should be, almost, ethereal, yeah?”
“This is Jack’s big happy montage,” agreed Richmond. “He’s finally happy. He’s finally killing it!” Richmond addressed his musicians: “You ever see that movie `The Natural’? Like, when Robert Redford hits that ball up in the air?”
A large recording session isn’t the norm for “30 Rock.” More often, Richmond layers the instruments one on another, with many of them played by him.
“It’s not because I’m a great player, it’s out of necessity: I work so late, I generally can’t write charts for seven or eight pieces of music and bring players in,” he explained. “I play the piano and saxophones and clarinets. Giancarlo is very gifted with the guitar, banjo and ukulele.” Strings and percussion are usually synthesized, “but every triangle you hear is real.”
Late in the process, Richmond and Vulcano could typically be found at Sync Sound, a Manhattan post-production house, where in a cozy room on a Tuesday afternoon a few weeks ago, they were laying in finished tracks of music while scenes from the episode unfolded on a monitor.
“As an executive producer, I’m around for the writing and the read-throughs, so I know where the scripts are heading,” said Richmond, 52, who has curly, tousled hair, a beard and black-rim glasses, and speaks in eager bursts.
By a typical Monday, “I’ll feel like we mostly have it, and we start laying it in. But then we may find we have some holes, or realize this piece of music isn’t working, so let’s take it out. I start digging around for something, maybe a clarinet part from another piece, and I throw it over a scene to see if it works.”
If this all sounds a bit helter-skelter, the process is actually painstaking and exacting. A lot of “one more time” is heard.
It is only by Tuesday evening that the finished music joins the dialogue and sound effects, then merges with the finished video.
A little last-minute? “It happens quickly,” Richmond acknowledged, “but that’s just the way our schedule is, and it’s been that way for a long time.”
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