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Sleepy Hollow Preview: “The Kindred” [VIDEO and PHOTOS + Exclusive Interview with Composer Brian Tyler] 

Photo Credit: Fred Norris/FOX
Photo Credit: Fred Norris/FOX

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

With Jenny’s help, Ichabod is able to track down Ben Franklin’s key to purgatory and free Abbie without sacrificing another soul. And they have no time to waste. Abbie encountered Brooks during her time there and from him she learns Moloch is building an army. Moloch has also given Henry a soul-powered suit of armor. And what about the 2 other horsemen? How and when will we meet them? It’s so on.

“The Kindred” synopsis, from FOX:

Ichabod Crane and Lt. Abbie Mills concoct a daring plan to try to rescue Ichabod’s wife, Katrina, from the Headless Horseman by resurrecting a Frankenstein-like monster created by Benjamin Franklin. Meanwhile, Frank Irving faces new trouble after revealing the true details of his encounter with a demon, and Jenny Mills finds herself at odds with the new sheriff in town.

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If you’re as much of a fan as we are of the music of this show, I’ve got a little treat for you. I spoke to composer Brian Tyler last week about all things Sleepy Hollow. We talked about how he heard about the project, what instruments he uses to play up the emotion and drama of this genre show, the continuing evolution of the music and more.

TV GOODNESS: You were nominated for an Emmy for Sleepy Hollow’s main title theme music. What does that type of recognition mean to you?

Brian Tyler: “To me it was just a pleasant surprise, really more than anything. On Sleepy Hollow we’re really just making something we would want to see. We weren’t aiming for anything of the sort and so to have that response and that recognition was pretty cool.”

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

Brian: “I remember the Disney film and the books. To me, it was all blurred together as the original legend. The producers, Alex Kurtman and Bob Orci, are friends are mine who I’ve worked with many times. I met then on Eagle Eye when they were writing and producing that with Steven Spielberg. I had heard they were gonna do a new take on this. My mind immediately went to what I knew and I think a lot of that was formed by the original animated [film], as opposed to the more original story, the books. Instead of the Washington Irving short story, I was thinking the goofy, comedic type of thing. I was thinking, ‘How are they gonna do this? How are they gonna make this into a modern series?’ I asked this and Alex gave me this rundown of this guy in the colonial army. Two hundred years later he comes back and there’s this whole time travel concept. It was like, ‘What? This is the coolest thing.’ Just really, really exciting in a way that was making it a mystery, but there’s drama, there’s a horror component, there’s a sci-fi component, all these different things. It made it a show about so much more than this relationship you had between Lt. Mills and Crane that I thought was so interesting. When we started talking about it we thought we’d love to see this. Is Ichabod Crane traveling through time something other people want to see? We had no idea but let’s just go for it and see what happens. We were so happy that people really took to it.”

TV GOODNESS: How did you go about finding the sound for this show?

Brian: “For me, I was just writing melodies without seeing the visuals. Then when Alex and Bob and Len Wiseman, who directed the pilot, showed me some footage, it had a certain look. It’s part throwback old-school filming and then partly very modern. I wanted to do a 3 parts old school, 1 part new school balance. A lot of the sound is very, very pointedly 18th century were you have cellos and a violin and dulcimers and then there’s really stylized sound design and percussion that’s much more modern. It makes for an intentional anachronistic sound where you have something that- in my mind I always imagine – especially with the theme – I have a quartet with people from the 18th century furiously playing along on their strings and a dulcimer player and they’re all in 18th century garb and then the percussionists are straight out of 2014, all in the same room somehow. To me that was the best way to capture the out of time Ichabod Crane-ness. I think he’s still 3 parts 18th century and 1 part 2014.”

TV GOODNESS: Tell me a little about your process for composing for the show. Does it start with a conversation with the producer or do you read the script and that inspires you or do you wait to see a rough cut? When do you start creating?

Brian: “Well, at the very, very beginning I had more of a head start because the pilot is something that they work on for quite a long time. Then once the series, like any series, gets greenlit and they start doing more episodes, you don’t base it so much on the scripts. You’ve established what the sound is and you want to keep the continuity going. The first time I start that creative process is when I see the episode and it’s usually in the form of a rough cut, not quite done. For the first 13, which was the first season, we stayed ahead of it, sometimes perilously. We’d always go in a way where you have these unique moments in pretty much every episode except there’s a 13 episode arc to so many of these characters and beyond, actually. So many of these characters are still going into the second season and we’re in the middle of it. So, in a way I try to treat it as an ongoing movie. You want to reference themes that you’ve established already, but then you bob and weave as you go.”

TV GOODNESS: You touched on this a little already. With a genre show like this, are there instruments people expect to hear in horror so you stay away from them? Are there instruments that you play in a different way?

Brian: “There is something to that. I think what I do, at least – and I’m not sure everyone needs to do this – but I try to establish limitations in a way, early on and come up with a template of instruments. I really think that spawns more creativity in a way. If you can use anything, it ends up being a big mishmash of incongruous ideas. A lot of the instruments we’ve established, we stick with and we focus on instead of on what instruments can be used here and there. We say how can we focus on the things that are the true heart of music – which is the written note, the melody – how to do chords and chord progressions through harmonies to evoke something emotionally for the viewer? That’s where I’m at with it.

Of course, there’s always things introduced here and there that are instrumentally new, but it’s really the introduction to new music itself. I think those two things can be conflated easily where sometimes I’ll hear someone say, ‘Well what instrument do you want for this character?’ No one on this show has asked me that, but I’ve heard that before in movies and whatnot. I really try to emphasize that the important part of it is the tune, the melody. It’s the thing you can whistle and you can hum later. When you think of Darth Vader and you think of, ‘Daaa daaa daaa da daaa daaa da daaa daaa.” No one is thinking, ‘Oh, he’s trombones.’ I think he is that melody. Not to say it’s not important what instruments are used – it is, but that’s established. The idea of live strings, certain kinds of percussion with a dulcimer, this tweaky piano thing we do and the various instruments that we use and an occasional voice, I think you start with that and then you really do your best to create melodies that evoke.”

TV GOODNESS: Have there been any changes in the music between season 1 and season 2 and are you allowed to tell me anything about season 2?

Brian: “Yeah. It’s a good question. The instruments and the template hasn’t changed, but because of the storyline there are certainly new melodies and there’s new characters. I think the fact that you tie in so much of what was built – especially with ‘Bad Blood’ at the end of last year – and it got really crazy there. The music will do a few things, I think. It’s going to tie in to the past in a very real way. There was a lot going on last season and it’s been a while since last season. Someone may be thinking, ‘Gee, I don’t know if I’ll be able to catch up,’ but the music is there also to remind you, I think subconsciously, what’s going on in the last season. We [had] Abbie trapped in purgatory. There’s a whole thing with Ichabod’s wife and the headless horseman. There are a bunch of twists that I can’t reveal, but there is this through line that makes you feel like you’re on a continuous journey and it connects to the first season in a way that’s seamless. So when you say, ‘Is there a difference between season 1 and season 2 musically,’ only in that it’s evolving as it was in the first season. I think what we are aiming for is that some day in many years people will be able to go back and start watching it and go straight through from the pilot and it’s just continuous. It’s more Godfather 1, Godfather 2 type of style, Empire Strikes Back and [Return of the] Jedi. It just keeps on going.”

TV GOODNESS: Do you have any favorite cues or musical moments from the series so far?

Brian: “The music with Ichabod and Katrina is something I’m particularly proud of. It has a lot of that emotional impact that I think makes a series that is a genre series [go] to the next level, made this poignant, nostalgic. There’s pain in there, but there’s love. There’s all these great dramatic devices. That was always something that I really felt needed to be done right, so there’s that theme. There are some moments that were just tweaky, that I also enjoyed like the Sin Eater music that had particular strangeness that I found appealing. It’s crazy. There’s so much. I tend to think of the episodes on the whole and there’s so many that I loved from last season that it’s hard to separate it all and tell you what my favorite is. But there’s also something coming, I think it’s the third episode that’s got some real cool stuff that I think people will enjoy.”

Edited for space and content.

Sleepy Hollow airs Mondays at 9/8c on FOX.


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All images courtesy of Fred Norris/FOX.

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