Christopher Tyng talks about scoring the TV series “Futurama”

Christopher Tyng is a composer that has worked on various television series including “Futurama”, “Suits” and “Rescue Me”. With Volume 7 of “Futurama” hits Blu-ray and DVD this month, he is releasing a brand new remix version of the “Futurama” theme on iTunes. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Christopher about working on the show and his influences over the years.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you originally get involved composing for “Futurama”?
Christopher Tyng: It all started with Matt Groening when he was searching for the style of music for the show. He has heard some of the stuff that I had done prior. He called and asked for a meeting. He was getting a lot of demos from other musicians but I guess they liked what they heard on mine. The rest is history, as I have been with this show for the last 10 years. Matt is a great person to work with.

MG: What is some of your inspiration that you pull from for this show?
CT: The visual aesthetics of the show goes back to the 50’s/60’s idea of what the future will be like. So we really wanted the music to reflect the same thing. We were looking at the hey-day of bachelor pad space age music. That was the music version of what they thought the future would be. The synthesizers were just started to get popular. There was this whole new pallid of sounds. People were also trying to stretch the boundaries of what music was then. We looked at what was happening with music at that time, so some of the influences were Les Baxter and Martin Denny. Of course then the show also takes place in the year 3000, so even though it has that visual aesthetic of that 50’s/60’s era, it takes place way in the future. We wanted to take those influences and modernize them a bit. Matt has always been a bit component of having a orchestra and doing it live. I was able to go back and do some remixing with electronica music, so we brought in that element as well. It is really a nice hodge-podge of elements in our influence.

MG: How do you do to differentiate the score season to season?
CT: That is a really good question! What is really great about “Futurama” – and different from any other show that I have worked on – is that in each episode, the story is set in the future where anything in possible. The show gets its story lines from pop culture reference over the years. Every episode is like a different journey. That has actually made the music different from episode to episode. We have this big orchestral sound with this bachelor pad space-age sound. They go back to ancient Egypt and the music takes on that tone. What is really fun for me is that when I go in to record, I really don’t know what I am writing for the next week. Due to that aspect, my job has never gotten stale since it is always changing.

MG: Tell us about the new extended remix for the “Futurama” theme available on iTunes?
CT: We wanted something that was going to play at a longer length for the iTunes release. We are excited that all the fans of “Futurama” are finally going to be able to own this piece of music in their collection. The TV scenes always tend to be a little shorter and don’t play the full single track. Some parts of the remix actually go back to the original premiere of the show at Griffith Observatory, which is this circular dome at the top of Hollywood. They had a DJ there and I decided to come up with some music for the DJ to spin. So there is actually some stuff on this single that I did way back then that was never able to been released. We were able to take all those elements and made it into a really great single length release.

MG: How composing for a cartoon compare to your other TV work?
CT: For shows like “The Simpsons” and “Futurama”, it isn’t the traditional cartoon music like the old-school Warner Bros. In the show there might be an epic space battle with deep comedic irony involved. But the music will always stay like it is an epic space battle. I thought originally that getting involved with a cartoon would be a totally different mindset. In truth though, the shows aims to play the aspects of the music like they are completely legitimate. If they are doing an emotionally intense moment, then the orchestra swells in a “Braveheart” sort of way. We are treating the show like we are scoring an epic movie even though the characters are doing something so ridiculous. That is what makes “Futurama” such an interesting project to work on due to the fact that it has such a wide set of influences.



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