I got a call last night from Brian Keane, a producer I’ve worked with on a number of projects. Brian is scoring this season of “Copper”, a BBC series about a detective in New York City in 1864, directed by Barry Levinson. The episode Brian is working on now (episode 19, in case you’re counting) has a scene with some VERY big emotions in it, and he’s decided to use harmonica as the lead instrument for the cue. Normally strings would do the job, but as Brian said to me once, in emotional terms, harmonica is the street version of a violin.
I went over to Brian’s studio last night for a “proof of concept” session. The challenge here was to make sure the harmonica didn’t sound like cowboy music. It needs to be grittier and darker than that. So goodbye chromatic harp, goodbye hand vibrato, goodbye high-pitched warbles. I went for strong tones on a diatonic harp in second position, with a trailing throat vibrato, and the punchy harp with delayed throb seemed to do the job without straying into cowboy-land.
The proof of concept sold the harmonica, and this weekend I’m recording some takes in my home studio. The engineer sent me a Quicktime video clip of the scene, a click track, and two takes of the score for the scene, with and without the scratch harmonica part (which was played on a synth harmonica patch, and sounds like a cheery little accordian.) I also have a session scheduled with Brian on Monday afternoon. Stay tuned for more on how this project comes together. And in the meantime, check out the trailer for “Copper” below.