- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 13, 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) - Watch an episode of “House of Cards” and one of the first things you’ll hear is a trumpet fanfare. A single note repeated four times, the martial musical flourish is the perfect opening for the Netflix show about Machiavellian politicians in Washington, D.C. It’s actually a little too perfect, says the series’ composer, Jeff Beal.

“When we think about what Washington sounds like, what government sounds like, it’s the trumpet, the military trumpet,” Beal says. “It’s so obvious, I avoided putting it in the score for a long time. But once I saw the main title sequence, and I saw all these iconic shots of Washington, D.C., I thought, ‘OK, I think we can go there. I think I can try this.’”

Against a background of sinister-sounding strings, the heroic horns in the “House of Cards” title track suggest official Washington without the pompous self-assurance of, say, “The West Wing’s” theme song. That lone horn sounds a little lost, a little tragic, just like the show’s main characters, Frank and Claire Underwood.

“What I love about the music and the show is that they prove that audiences don’t want to be spoon-fed,” Beal says. “People like things that are sophisticated, that invite you to pay attention.”

Beal’s manipulation of contrasting ideas is perhaps why his “House of Cards” score has become a bona fide cultural phenomenon. In addition to winning an Emmy, it’s been featured on several podcasts and NPR, and given unofficial lyrics by singer-songwriter Father John Misty. And, on Thursday, the National Symphony Orchestra will premiere “House of Cards in Concert,” 10 symphonic suites by Beal based on his music from the series. A panel discussion with series creators Beau Willimon and Michael Dobbs, plus several cast members, will follow.

To create “House of Cards in Concert,” Beal plucked his favorite melodies from the 26 hours of music he’s written for the series. He then wove those strands together based on the abstract ideas they convey. The result? Eighty minutes of music, including “Portrait of a Marriage” and “Betrayal,” that will be both familiar and new to fans of the series.

“It’s a remix and an adaptation of the music I wrote for the show,” he says. “I took parts that used to be in the background and rewrote them to fill an entire concert hall.”

For instance, one melody that keen-eared fans might recall quietly plinking on a piano will be played with gusto by a full complement of piping woodwinds. With the help of an angry mob of cellos and string basses, the title theme’s sneaky bassline will transform from a veiled threat to something closer to outright violence. And the lone trumpet line that Beal initially wasn’t sure about including will be echoed and amplified by just about every instrument with a spit valve.

To further enhance the music, Beal selected his favorite scenes from the series and edited them together into a reel that will be projected behind the orchestra. The mashup isn’t a summary of the show to date. It’s more impressionistic, like the dream you might have after a weekend of binge-watching the series.

“As a film composer, I spend a lot of time writing music around video, so it was fun to do it the other way around, choreographing the visual montages to the music,” he says.

The result? An immersive, cinematic experience that, Beal hopes, will introduce new listeners to the beguiling world of contemporary classical music.

“I hope the concert can be a gateway drug for other kinds of symphonic music,” he says.

Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW; Thu., 8 p.m., $19-$79.

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Information from: The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com


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