Sound & Vision: SHERLOCK - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Sound & Vision: SHERLOCK

The game is afoot for Chris Morley...

It's more than 100 years since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous creation first appeared on screen and his popularity shows no sign of slowing down. Perhaps, this is in part due to the reinvention of the character by new generations of writers and actors?

The 21st Century has seen Robert Downey Jr take on the role of Sherlock Holmes in Guy Ritchie's ill-advised update of the character, Broadchurch and Agent Carter's James D'arcy played a 20 something Sherlock Holmes for a 2002 made-for-television film, Jonny Lee Miller took Sherlock Holmes stateside for the long running Elementary series where he was joined by a female Watson, and Will Ferrell took on the mantle of the Great Detective in the comedy feature Holmes And Watson. But arguable the best modern day reintervention of the Holmes canon is the one by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss with their simply titled Sherlock.

Debuting in 2010, the show propelled Benedict Cumberbatch to international fame and received worldwide critical acclaim, with many reviews praising the quality of the writing, performances, and direction, but as ever, with this series of features, it's the musical accompaniment we're focusing on. Those duties fell to David Arnold & Michael Price.

David Arnold is perhaps best known as the composer responsible for five James Bond film scores to date, as well as working on Stargate, Independence Day, Godzilla and the 2019 Neil Gaiman adaptation Good Omens. As Arnold explained in an interview, how he came to work on the music for Sherlock was, seemingly, as a favour to an old friend...
"Initially Mark Gatiss just wanted to know what I thought about the show, he wasn't asking me to score it...but a few days after our meeting, when I had told him I thought it was the best piece of TV I'd seen in years, he asked if I could [work on the score]."
Not wanting to pass up the opportunity to work with his "old friend" Gatiss or miss out on scoring a show he "loved" but aware of his current time constraints, Arnold called in  the cavalry...
"I was working on a movie at the time and I knew I wouldn't be able to do it on my Michael [Price] kindly agreed to ride shotgun."
Award-winning composer, producer, arranger and music editor, Michael Price had previously scored Hot Fuzz and worked on the soundtracks to Children Of Men, and The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Agreeing to join the Sherlock musical team, Price revealed...
"We took a run at the pilot episode in a week or so, and most of the major themes we wrote then stayed. In hindsight, that was a pretty good week."
A pretty good week indeed! But the put in their homework in advance, as Arnold explained,
"[We worked] with the producers and sound crew to come up with a central theme and character for the series, then found what was going to be the defining sound of this show."
Outside of the main title theme, the duo developed music for each of the main characters, like "the Watson chords", Sherlock's hero theme, and sub-themes for the likes of Major Sholto, Magnussen, and of course Moriarty.

Pieces were often constructed using synthesizers, but the tracks used for the show were recorded using real musicians, Arnold says, to bring the music "to life". Similarly, Price comments that the musicians can adapt their performance of a score by responding to footage from the show, with the pacing of the music during recording being lead by the pacing of the show.

The composers worked with an ensemble of "generally around 12 strings" although this increased from the third season plus added "a couple of french horns". The additional musical investment into the 2014 series saw Arnold and Price win a Creative Arts Emmy for the score of "His Last Vow", the final episode in the third series.

Upon winning, Price, for his part, revealed his full admiration he holds for his colleague.
"He has an unerring, slightly irritating ability to pick things that are going to be great. I wish he would stop, quite frankly. He doesn't follow the herd, which is pretty brave.

When everyone else is putting more reverb on things, David is taking it off. When people are going big, he will go small."
Elementary, dear reader. Although something no-one has ever deduced is which composer is responsible for which segment of music. David told the Guardian,
"Although we both have our favourite bits, we never say who did what”.
Later revealing,
"The plan was to make it sound like it was a singular voice. Themes may be originated with one or the other of us, but they wouldn't be what they become without the other chiming in and suggesting different things that could happen. It's a proper collaboration."
With Price adding,
"Whenever people try and guess... they mostly get it wrong.

It's very much more about the show than one composer's ego."

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