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A Melodic Exploration with Composer Matt Novack

Matt Novack is a multi-media Composer who has scored for hit shows like General Hospital, Murderville, and Harley Quinn, as well as the film They Came Together starring Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler. Recently, Matt served as the composer for Miracle Workers: End Times, a TBS comedy starring Daniel Radcliffe. As a composer, Matt’s approach to storytelling is inventive, experimental, and playful: qualities that give his scores a unique flavor. 

Read on to learn more about Matt’s newest projects, his approach to music-making, and his journey as a composer. 

You recently composed music for Miracle Workers: End Times. How did you get involved in the process?

I was recommended to production by my friend and occasional boss, David Wain, who directed the first two episodes of the season. When it came time for the show-runners, Dan Mirk and Robert Padnick, to hire a composer, David gave them my name. I sent them some music after a brief conversation with Justin Pittman the Post Supervisor, and then after a great Zoom interview with the whole team, I was hired practically on the spot! Well, it was more like five minutes after the call ended.  After three seasons of mostly library music, I think everyone was excited to have their first full-time composer come from these types of comedies.

The show has a distinct vibe, reminiscent of the 80’s. What elements did you incorporate in your score to align with this overall tone?

We started with synths from that era such as the Triton and Juno, then as we searched and built new synth patches, we made sure they weren’t too modern sounding by “dirtying” them up to be more analog, older, and darker sounding and putting in mono before any effects were added.

What materials, software, and instruments did you use for the score? Did you come across anything new you haven’t used before? If so, what was the learning process like?

I write in Steinberg’s Cubase and in addition to the synths I mentioned I was inspired by the Junkyard setting of the show, so there are some found, junky instruments like some old rusty set of keys, springs and other percussion. Plus some great samples by Soundpaint like a marimba-esque instrument made from PVC pipes. There are also some orchestral cues (with samples) in there as needed for various parodies.

Greg Martin, my frequent collaborator, uses Ableton and is responsible for the killer metal guitar part of the main title bumper.

 In addition to your work on Miracle Workers: End Times, you also work in film, TV spots, podcasts, and video games. How does the workflow process differ for these mediums?

The process is mostly effected by how collaborative and involved production is, and how much time I have. With film, I typically have more time (but not always) to play around with ideas compared to TV which can be on a much tighter schedule. The interesting thing with Miracle Workers was that I, along with production, scheduled time at the start to work out the overall tone of the score before diving into each episode.

TV spots I’ve worked on have been pretty similar to TV with either a fully shot and edited cut, or animatic, plus temp score to start with. Temp can be very helpful as a frame of reference to get inside the heads of production, and of course is crucial when doing a score parody. I haven’t done many games yet, and none that have been published, but with the few small indie projects I’ve done, I started by writing initial themes and ideas based on a description of the game(s). It was actually pretty similar to how I started on Miracle Workers: I wrote a first draft batch of themes, which then lead to conversations about what worked and what didn’t.  Very collaborative.

Can you talk about your collaboration with co-composer Greg Martin?

Greg began as my go-to guitarist. He’s incredibly talented and a composer himself. I could play him my scratch and/or show him a scene which would spark ideas for different guitar techniques that would fit the story. As a non-guitarist myself, that kind of collaboration is crucial, and now Greg is a key part of my team. We co-scored long-form comedic promos for Ubisoft’s “Assassins Creed: Valhalla,” and Greg co-scored or contributed additional music to Murderville and Miracle Workers.

What is the first step you take in approaching a score?

Conversations with production and directors is so important. My goal is to get inside their heads and understand the story and try to help realize their visions. After that, I will watch the film, episode, clip or read a script or brief and get the story in my head so I can mentally start bouncing ideas around.  If there’s a temp score, I will watch it without if possible to get my own ideas first, then watch with it on to kind of meld those ideas together. Thinking about themes and what the score needs to do away from the keyboard is critical for me.

 With deadlines and full slates, how do you continually challenge yourself, so you grow as a composer?

I like to keep studying. I’ll frequently revisit music theory and orchestration textbooks from college, as well as studying scores and score reductions. Even when I’m busy, I try to squeeze in at least a few minutes a day.  When I do have more free time, I also like to practice by working on styles and genres that are a little out of my comfort zone.

 Can you describe your composing work in three words? 

Dramatically silly underscore

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For more information on Matt Novack, check out his IMDb and website.

This post first appeared on A Teaser For The Upcoming Single From Faiz Hassan Song, Baytee., please read the originial post: here

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A Melodic Exploration with Composer Matt Novack


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