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Intruders Preview: “And Here…You Must Listen” [VIDEO and PHOTOS + Exclusive Q&A with Composer Bear McCreary]

Photo Credit: Cate Cameron/BBC

Photo Credit: Cate Cameron/BBC

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

So, I can’t really say I know what’s going on yet, but I’m intrigued. The shepherds are waking the “intruders” up early. One commits suicide, which seems to be the plan, but when Madison doesn’t kill herself Richard returns with the intention to kill Marcus, the intruder inside her. He hesitates when it seems like the real Madison is pleading for her life, which allows her to escape and go on the run. John’s wife Amy is acting very strangely and disappears after she leaves town for a business trip. All the clues and evidence John’s found so far lead him to believe that she’s having an affair, but John can’t get any answers until he tracks her down. Gary, an old friend from the force who is now a lawyer, tracks John down and asks for help on a missing person’s case. John’s not interested in pursuing it and he’s obviously a little distracted with his own problems.

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I spoke to Bear McCreary a few weeks ago about a number of his television projects, including Intruders. He talked about what made him want to be involved in this series, how he found the sound for this moody, atmospheric show and why Intruders has been one of the most exciting shows he’s ever worked on.

TV GOODNESS: How did you hear about Intruders and what made you want to do it?

Bear McCreary: “I first heard about Intruders through my friends at BBC America, with whom I’ve collaborated with to do Da Vinci’s Demons. So Courtney Conte, Julie Gardner, Jane Tranter, there’s a number of producers that worked on both of those shows. As we were wrapping up the second season of Da Vinici, they started talking to me about this new show that they were doing and it sounded really intriguing. I really wasn’t in the market to take on another television show. But when I read the synopsis and then found out that it was being produced by Glen Morgan, a producer I’ve admired for many years for his work on The X Files and feature film work he’s done, I just knew right away I had to get involved. I chatted with Glen about it and realized he and I share a lot of the same musical instinct and I suspected that it would turn out to be a really wonderful working relationship. Turns out my suspicions were true. It’s been a fantastic experience.”

Photo Credit: BBC America

Photo Credit: BBC America

TV GOODNESS: I think the music is so atmospheric and rich and moody and really helps set the tone. Do you approach a project like this, something that’s a paranormal thriller, any differently than you might approach a different type of project?

Bear: “Normally I would say no, but in the case of Intruders I really did change my approach radically. I wanted the score to feel atmospheric and scary and, obviously, there’s a great many horror TV shows and movies that do this. It’s very easy to do synthesizers and ambient samples and clusters and things like that. That’s easy. So that was actually not exciting to me. I sat with Glen and we talked about it and he ended up talking about the scores he admired the most, even though he couldn’t quite tell if they would be appropriate for Intruders. He kept talking about scores to conspiracy thrillers in the ’70s, movies like The Conversation or Three Day of the Condor and we started talking about Rosemary’s Baby and these kind of things. In all those scores there’s a very acoustic, organic, simple, stripped down quality. So I thought to myself, ‘Ok. Let’s try that.’ I decided to score the entire project with solo piano, but there’s inherently a disconnect here because if you need ambient clusters and you’re playing piano, it’s not really gonna work. So I ended up kind of destroying a couple pianos. I mean, literally we were bashing a piano with a sledgehammer. We broke the strings and we were bowing the strings with fishing wire and pulling on the strings with pliers.

There was a piano up the street from our studio. A house had tragically burned to the ground. Thank God no one was hurt, but in that house there was a grand piano and they were gonna throw it out. So we said, ‘No, no, no. Bring that over to the studio.’ We rented a truck and brought this husk of a piano that had been burned down and started making all these sounds on it.

Every sound you are hearing in Intruders comes from a couple of pianos that we sawed and smacked and broke and destroyed. The result is really cool because it feels like it’s synthetic, ambient score but when you listen to the sound it’s alive, it’s organic, it’s resonating strings, striking hammers. It’s really cool. It sounds like nothing else I’ve ever done partly because the sounds are entirely new. That was a real challenge for Intruders, was coming up with something that sounded alive and dead at the same time.”

TV GOODNESS: Was the process for finding the sound of this show any different and do you do anything specifically to get inspired when you’re about to start working on the score?

Bear: “Finding new sounds is what I do to get inspired, so in the case of Outlander, I polished up all my research on Scottish music. I found my bagpipe player and my fiddle player. In the case of Intruders, I decided to use solo piano. We went into the studio and recorded all these horrific sounds that we created using pianos. Just going though and hearing these sounds is very inspiring. By the time I sit down and look at a cut of the show, ideally all that research has already been done. So I can already start hearing where certain sounds will go. That’s what I do to prepare while I’m waiting to get the show, I’m finding my sound and maybe sketching some themes, so that when I look at the show for the first time I already know where certain things will go.”

TV GOODNESS: Are there certain instruments you always gravitate towards or you stay away from depending on what type of show it is?

Bear: “I’m caught in a dilemma. The dilemma is when I find players that I respond to personally and who musically understand what I’m trying to accomplish, I will want to used them on everything. You’ll see the Calder Quartet plays on a number of my scores. And you’ll hear Malachi Bandy Viola da Gamba – that’s featured prominently in Da Vinci  you’re gonna start hearing him in other projects that I’ve done.

But the problem is you don’t want the scores to sound the same, so oftentimes I am reaching out to my players and I’m trying to find either different instruments that they play or different techniques. The Calder Quartet is a fantastic example of this. They are two violins, a viola and a cello. They’re just like any other string quartet you’d go see, except that they are so exceptionally skilled and so dialed in that we’ve started developing a shorthand. For example, if I’m recording Black Sails with them, there’s little things I may not even be able to articulate. I’ll just say to them, ‘Guys, that needs to sound more Black Sails. That’s starting to sound like Da Vinci,’ and the next take it’ll sound more like Black Sails because they know Da Vinci is certain techniques and Black Sails are other techniques.

So, to answer your question I go to great lengths to make sure that each show has its own sounds, its own musical personality, but very often that is accomplished by using recurring people.”

TV GOODNESS: Were there any challenges or surprises on Intruders while you were composing?

Bear: “The surprises in Intruders, I gotta tell you, come from watching the show. That show. You have no idea how far off the edge of your seat you’ll be later in the season. The first episode is creepy and it’s kinda chill and it’s moody and atmospheric. It ratchets up and up and up and by the end you won’t even be able to take it anymore. It’s one of the most thrilling shows I’ve ever worked on. For me on Intruders, the real challenge has been trying to keep pace with that evolution and making sure that the tension is always appropriate to the drama. Because as you saw in the first episode in the beginning it’s creepy and by the time you get near the end it is white knuckle thriller. It is really tense. For me, it’s just make sure that I am accentuating that narrative growth.”

Edited for space and content.

Ready for more? Here’s an episode synopsis for “And Here…You Must Listen,” from BBC America:

Jack desperately tries to find Amy in Seattle but her movements offer more questions than answers; Madison finds herself in a train station with a ticket to Seattle, an envelope of cash and a mysterious key. An act of humanity has serious consequences for Richard.

Intruders airs Saturdays at 10/9c on BBC America. Here’s a link to episode 2, available now.

VIDEO

PHOTOS

All images courtesy of Cate Cameron/BBC.

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