Each 42-minute episode requires about 35 minutes of music, which Snow composes and records in five days. Carter, Snow and the music editor, Jeff Charboneau, "spot" each episode before composing begins, to determine which spots will require music on the soundtrack. Then, Snow is left to his own devices with only an occasional visit from Carter. Snow says: "I think he likes that I work out of my house because he lives so close to me. He can just drop by if he wants". Snow also believes Carter likes to hear feedback on the episodes. "I'm not involved with the script or the shooting or what goes into it that much. I just see the finished product, so he's very keen on my opinion. I have a pretty good 'American audience' feel for it.
"I'm also not as critical as the writers and producers are. Mostly, these things are pretty amazing to me. I may like a certain show better than another, but I always think they're professional". Snow's approach to the composition is very much tied into what he sees on the screen. "I look at these people's faces. I see speed, I see the pace of the action. it's very deliberate, almost slow-motion. To me, that makes it even more scary and spooky". The process of underlining that spookiness can be very complicated.
"It's really very subtle, very sophisticated, very abstract... very difficult to describe. But I'll see a scene, I'll see how it's played, I'll see how long the music has to be. But it really depends on the individual situation. An actor's face, his voice, his delivery are very influential in terms of thinking something is spooky, mysterious, eerie and atmospheric". Unlike some other composers, Snow does not have specific themes for each character in the show. Or themes for anything else, either. "Sometimes the music will play more feminine or more masculine or have more low-register instruments or the opposite. Contrast is very important. If it's all the same, one texture, it gets to be boring. The thing I like about doing The X-Files is you can do something sustained and then suddenly, something shocks in. It's a total surprise. And then someone's sneaking around a room-there's a lot of sneaking around on this show-and you'll pretend something's just about to jump out and the music will make this big swell but nothing happens. It can really get the audience wrapped up. On the other hand, you can know something is going to happen, but not lead up to it. You make like the music is almost going to stop. Then, the scare comes in and you nail it, screamingly jump all over it".
It didn't start nor will it end with The X-Files, even though that is his biggest claim to fame to date. But Mark Snow has done a lot more than compose for alien abductions, shadowy conspirators, and scientific mutations. He's been scoring for films and TV since 1975. His musical versatility has found a voice in more than a hundred TV-movies (Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, Something About Amelia, The Lost Capone, An American Story), a dozen television series (Starsky and Hutch, The X-Files, Millennium, La Femme Nikita - theme), TV miniseries (Children of the Dust) and a couple fistfuls of feature films (The Rookies, In the Line of Fire, Born to be Wild, Disturbing Behavior). He's been nominated for 10 Emmy awards for music.
Born in Brooklyn during the summer of '46, Snow grabbed hold of a piano at age 10 and never let go. He studied at Juilliard, where he and roommate Michael Kamen (now a successful film composer himself), formed the New York Rock and Roll Ensemble, performing and recording innovative rock and classical music. Along the way he got the film-composing bug. By 1974 he'd located to Hollywood and within a year found work composing for TV. Those hundred or so TV-movies and dozens of series soon followed. With the popularity of The X-Files, and its close cousin, Millennium, Snow found himself on the Hollywood scoring map, marked by very a big "X." Success has granted him a degree of independence, and allowed him to try new things, musically. "When you first start off you do two things: you copy the people you really love, and you do what you're told!" said Snow. "You want fast and loud? Okay! You've got fast and loud! And, as you continue over the years, hopefully you gain more respect, and as you gain more respect you become more independent, and as you become more independent you become more uninhibited, you feel like you can expand and stretch out and try different things."
Mark Snow has had a long but rewarding journey over the last two dozen years. Both he and his music have weathered the years well, each benefited from their experiences. "As I look back on my career, there's one thing that stands out as one of the great experiences, although at the time it was a real negative. I was working for Aaron Spelling doing a lot of episodic TV music, but I was basically doing the same thing each week. Then a new producer came in and said 'This is terrible! That guy - I want him out!' So, bang, I'm out. But that made me think - there's got to be more than one way to approach scoring a show. That really started opening my mind to all the different ways one could score a movie or a TV show. It made me experiment with a lot of different approaches, and it made me comfortable with whatever sense of style that I have now." As evidenced by the versatile examples collected on this CD, Snow's varied approaches have served him - and the many films he's scored - very well.
(Author: former editor/publisher of the legendary CinemaScore magazine, Randall Larson is currently senior editor for Soundtrack Magazine and author of several books on film music.)
Snow's awards include
- An American Story (Emmy nomination for Best Score)
- Children Of The Dust (Emmy nomination for Best Miniseries or Special)
- The Little Kidnappers (Genie nomination for Best Score)
- The Lost Capone (Emmy nomination for Song, Lyrics and Score)
- The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All (Emmy nomination for Best Composition)
- Something About Amelia (Emmy nomination for Best Score)
- Nowhere Man (Emmy nomination for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Main Title Theme Music)
- A Good Day to Die (Emmy nomination for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Music Composition for a Miniseries or a Special (Dramatic Underscore))
- The X-Files (Emmy nomination for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Main Title Theme Music)
- The X-Files (Emmy nomination for Best Main Title)
- The X-Files (Emmy nomination for Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Dramatic Underscore) - twice)
- The X-Files (ASCAP Award for Most Performed Underscore - twice)
- The X-Files: Movie (ASCAP Award for Most Performed Underscore)
Sometimes, other music than Mark Snow's was used. Here is a (hopefully) complete list of the songs. Pretty much all of the songs in mp3 can be found somewhere else then on my site, because those butt-holes from the IFPI took care of deleting them. If you want and dare to host them, let me know. Oh, and these little IFPI fucks can't even warn me first, they just need to send it to some authorities first. If they asked me, I would remove them without asking. I didn't know I was doing anything bad. Yeah, they have nothing better to do than sniff around and chase people.