International Email Interview: Q & A with Michael Price

Thanks to all of you who submitted questions for Michael Price. His answers are below!

Q: How did you become a composer of the TV series? Were you chosen or did you go through a selection?
A: David and I had both worked with Mark Gatiss before, and when they were looking for a fresh direction for the pilot, they gave us a call.

Q: Do you usually compose the music first before seeing the scenes, or do you watch the scenes first and compose the music according to them?
A: We wait for the edited picture, then work directly to that. Although we have got some established themes for Sherlock now.

Q: When composing the music for Sherlock, do you do them according to your personal view and tastes of Sherlock Holmes or is it according to Moffat’s and Gatiss’?
A: It’s very much a team effort. The opinions of Mark, Stephen and Paul McGuigan are crucial. We’re just a part of a bigger picture.

Q: Among all your musical work in the series, which one has the deepest impression on you and why?
A: I like the end of Reichenbach, and I know David is a fan of Scandal.

Q: Whose idea was it to use “The Thieving Magpie” for Moriarty’s theme song when he robbed the crown jewel? It really reminds me of the debauchery scene in “A Clockwork Orange”, which uses the same song. Is this intentional?
A: That was in the script, and I think it works very well.

Q: How did you work it with David Arnold to maintain the score for the whole season?
A: We hum down the phone a lot, and swap a lot of Logic files.

Q: Did you draw inspiration from previous versions of Sherlock Holmes’ series/movie’s music? What are they?
A: No. We tried to just respond to what was in front of us and take an approach that was true to this particular portrayal of Holmes.

Q: Before composing, do you research or do you just jump in and go with it?
A: Mostly it’s about sitting down with the picture in front of you, and having to do a whole episode in 2 weeks. It concentrates the mind greatly.

Q: What instruments do you use in your orchestra?
A: We use a combination of real strings, real guitars, mandolins and percussion and lots of more contemporary sounds from our sample collections.

Q: How long did it take for you (and Mr. David Arnold) in average to compose each Sherlock track? Also, which track is the most challenging for you to compose?
A: We usually get between 2-3 weeks to write the music for each show.

Q: Do you ever come to see the filming of the series to maybe find inspiration for your music?
A: No, but maybe this time around!

Q: Have you ever composed something for the series that end up not getting into the episodes? Or has it always been a straight compose-­‐and-­‐play?
A: Yes, sometimes. It’s a part of the process that there are several ways to play a scene and a healthy debate about that. We don’t always get a hole-in-one.

Q: Have you ever had a disagreement with David during your work? How did you settle it?
A: We arm-wrestle.

Q: How many members are there in the series’ orchestra?
A: The biggest group was about 20 strings for Reichenbach, and then all the things like guitars and percussion that we record separately.

Q: Can I just start off by saying you’re work is fantastic! -­‐ I’ve watched some of your live streams, will you continue to do more?
A: Thank you, and yes, I hope so.

Q: At what age did you start playing the piano?
A: 13 or 14?

Q: If you had to act who would you be, Greg Lestrade or Mycroft Holmes?
A: I think Mycroft, for the quality of his shoes.

Q: Did you get to meet and get to know any of the Sherlock cast?
A: Sometimes our paths cross, and Louise Brealey has just agreed to star in a film I’m producing. Which is great.

Q: How are your fans? -­‐ Do you get random people come up to you when they recognise you?
A: Film composers are usually totally anonymous, and we kind of like it that way, but it’s always very nice to hear that people have enjoyed a show or film.

Q: England loves you! Please tell us you won’t be moving country?
A: Thank you, and I’ve no intention of moving. I love England too.

Q: What advice would you give someone who wanted to have a job like yours?
A: Have patience, persistence and a slightly peculiar belief that it’s all going to be alright in the end.

Q: When and how the creation process begin?
A: From the first time that David and I saw the pilot and were blown away.

Q: Do all the characters have their own theme?
A: Sherlock, Watson and Moriarty definitely do, and in Series 2, Irene Adler did, and of course, the Hound.

Q: What do you like the most about writing music for TV shows or movies?
A: It’s a chance to be part of telling great stories to a lot of people.

Q: What is your earliest childhood connection to music. A moment with fond memories?
A: I started on the recorder, but then played Trumpet all the way through my childhood. That was fun.

Q: Any advice for young composers?
A: Write constantly, and find fun people to collaborate with.

Q: Is it easier to write independent music (e.g. like “Hope for better weather”) than film music or vice versa?
A: Just different. I like not having to answer to anyone sometimes, but then I love the thrill of being part of an amazing team like Sherlock.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
A: When you say “spare time” . . .

Q: Is working on a score easier if one works alone or in a team?
A: I like working with other people. It can be challenging sometimes, but often sparks off things that go in unexpected directions. And we have a ridiculously good music team on Sherlock.

Q: I really appreciate the musical themes in the show that belong to specific characters, and the way these are woven into the incidental music -­‐ however dramatic the action of a scene (e.g. Sherlock about to take a deadly pill), there’s always a reminder of who these characters essentially are and what the situation means to them (e.g. John’s piano theme coming in as he runs through corridors searching for Sherlock). When composing these character themes did you discuss ideas about the characters with the writers, and were there specific elements that you concentrated on?
A: I’m glad that comes through. It’s something David and I try and work on. You don’t want to hear exactly the same thing every time Watson walks into a room, but at key moments, it’s really great to be able to emotionally connect with him or Sherlock through the music.

Q: Do you have any particular aspirations for the third season of Sherlock ?
A: We’re waiting for the scripts, but, yes. David and I have already been talking about some new ideas.

Q: Is Sherlock a good violinist or just a show off ?
A: He is a show off in all things.


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