One of the most powerful tools that show creators have in their arsenal is music. Music can help images stick as well as trigger emotions that correlate to the characters on screen. For filmmakers and media fanatics, the music in a scene can help dictate certain action, express certain feelings, or signal something important. For more casual audiences, it’s part of what makes film and TV so fun. Either way, we owe a lot to those who bring it to life.
One of those people is Kevin Kiner, who has worked scoring various different shows ranging from Star Wars Rebels to Jane the Virgin to Making a Murderer, and more. Most recently, he scored 10 episodes of the upcoming Netflix series Narcos: Mexico.
Kiner’s musical range is vast, making the composition task constantly demanding, but he notes that it’s all a part of working his dream job. We got the chance to ask Kiner a few questions about his role in one of the most unique jobs in the industry:
THE GAME OF NERDS: What made you decide to give up your touring music career and write for film and television?
KEVIN KINER: Once I got married I made the decision to get off of the road. I had seen what the road does to relationships, and wanted to be able to raise my children as a present parent. Fortunately that has worked out. I also feel I’m a much better composer than I am a conductor or guitarist.
TGON: How is composing for film/TV/Games different from other types of musical composition?
KINER: I personally don’t compose very much music for music’s sake. When I see picture I suddenly start to hear things that had never occurred to me before. So for me, my muse is the drama of a visual medium.
TGON: For Clone Wars and Rebels, how do you balance taking inspiration from the original John Williams score and creating something of your own?
KINER: THAT is a very delicate thing. Initially for Clone Wars George [Lucas] wanted to use John’s themes very sparingly. I think that was good for me creatively in that it freed me up to take inspiration from John’s sensibility but use my own voice within those parameters. I drew a lot and continue to draw from the composers who inspired John: Korngold, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky (who, like John was such a great master of melody) and many other classical masters. In Rebels we decided initially to use a lot more of the original themes, but as the episodes went on I wrote more and more of my own themes. After a while I think they hopefully meld into a brand new sound that is obviously very much Star Wars yet is also unique to the Rebels identity.
TGON: If you could score something from one franchise, which would it be?
KINER: Well, I’m very fortunate in that I’ve scored both of my favorite franchises – Star Wars and Superman. Those are both dream gigs for me.
TGON: What is one thing you feel that people misunderstand about film/tv composition?
KINER: Possibly some people pigeonhole television composers into that medium only. Whenever I score an animated Star Wars project or a Star Wars video game my mindset is that I’m scoring one of the features. Same orchestra, same melodic and classical sensibility.
TGON: Do you feel that composing for film/TV offers you much creative freedom?
KINER: Yes!! When I wake up in the morning and turn on the studio I literally can write anything I want to. Also, with the variety of projects I work on there is always a fresh style that I get to explore. From Making a Murderer, to Jane the Virgin, to Narcos, to DC’s Titans, to the new Clone Wars episodes, the variety of musical styles is so wide! It’s one of the things I’m most proud of in my career, my range.
TGON: You’ve done many big projects lately — which did you feel was the greatest challenge? Which did you enjoy the most?
KINER: The most challenging will always be Star Wars. John [Williams] set the bar so high with the original films, that I will always be striving to get my chin up to that level. In fact I challenge ANY composer to do that – it’s a very tall order. As for which I most enjoy, that’s a tough one. My most truthful answer to that question would be that I most enjoy writing really good music. As to when I have accomplished that, I’ll have to leave that up to you and the rest of the viewing and listening audience.
You can hear more from Kevin Kiner in your favorite TV shows, or learn more about his music at http://www.kevinkiner.com.