Geoff Ames of ComingSoon recently spoke with acclaimed composer Sean Callery about his amazing new soundtrack for the TV adaptation. Halo.
live action Halo star of the series Pablo Schreiber (american gods) as Master Chief, the iconic Spartan super-soldier and humanity’s last hope against the alien Covenant; Natasha McElhone (ur.Californication) as Dr. Halsey, the brilliant, controversial and incomprehensible creator of the Spartan super-soldiers; and Jen TaylorHalo games) like Cortana, the most advanced AI in human history and possibly the key to human survival.
Callery has received 17 Emmy Award nominations and four wins, and has written music for television shows such as 24, Homeland, Minority report, Jessica Jonesand film shooterstarring Liam Neeson.
Jeff Ames: What attracted you to the Halo series?
Sean Callery: I’ve never worked on a project before that had such an extensive and deep storyline. There are so many beautiful characters and diverse worlds in the game. Halo Universe. I was drawn to the task of writing a story so grandiose in scope and yet so intimate in its fundamental glorification of humanity.
What was your approach to the bill? Was it a project where you considered the product’s extensive history or wanted to dive into it with a fresh approach?
The answer is indeed a bit of both. The producers were very eager to develop new themes and sounds for this particular story, which is separate canon from the game’s storyline. At the same time, we all felt that there had to be a genuine connection to the huge and amazing work that preceded this series. I have a lot of respect for the music from the game, and from the very beginning everyone wanted to make sure there was the right balance between any quoting of thematic material from the game and the newer themes that I composed specifically for this particular canon.
What part of Martin O’Donnell’s original Halo theme did you implement?
The main title has the first line from its iconic original theme (performed by solo cello and vocalist Lisbeth Scott) at the very beginning of the main title, and then it transitions into my Master Chief theme. Wanting to connect the world of the game and the world of the series, I literally connected both topics in the Main Header. I’ve always thought about the fans of this great franchise. I love how the main title came out and I hope fans and non-fans alike will appreciate it.
You’ll also hear occasional quotes from the game’s themes throughout the nine-episode season. At first I quoted too much and we realized that the sparse approach was more powerful and efficient.
Were there elements in the score that you didn’t use in previous projects?
I collaborated with French cellist Vincent Segal on some great sound design textures, using his electric cello to create brilliant sounds. And I also collaborated with fellow composer Colin Stetson on one of the most amazing moments on the show. You will hear this particular piece at the end of episode 6.
What was the most difficult part of the score?
We worked very hard to find the right musical tone for the show. I knew that these are characters that have been around for over 20 years and exist now in a separate environment and storyline.
We had the creatives from 343, Amblin, Take 5 Toronto, and our director and showrunner come forward with their own perspectives and credible observations. We were all very interested in getting this musical needle properly threaded.
Were there lines/themes that you created with the intent to explore them in future seasons?
Yes. I hope that all the characters will return and that the themes will develop further.
Is there a track that you are particularly proud of?
There are several that I have for various reasons. There’s a big moment in the middle of episode 4 when John reveals parts of his past that are suddenly uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time. And as I mentioned above, collaborating with Colin Stetson created a great moment on the show that exceeded my expectations.
Given your amazing portfolio, where does Halo rank in terms of the projects you’ve worked on?
Halo stands next to other great shows I’ve been fortunate enough to work on, like 24, Homeland, and Jessica Jones, just to name a few. It was a rich and joyful experience and I met many new friends along the way.
What is waiting for you on the horizon?
The pilot, set in the Wild West, is fast approaching, and Fox’s legal drama is being told in an anthology format featuring a different story and character each week. This is an amazing project.
Any additional thoughts?
We hope to have a soundtrack release announced in the next few weeks. Be aware of!