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24: Score Another Day -  Interview with Sean Callery



Fox's television-series-turned-cultural-phenomenon, "24," began airing some 13 years ago and with each tick of the proverbial and practical clock, with each twist, turn and double-turn experienced by Jack Bauer and his covert cohorts was the music of composer SEAN CALLERY.  Richard Buxton chats with the composer about the legacy and challenges of "24,"  and his return to the franchise with 24: LIVE ANOTHER DAY.


RB - How does it feel to be back working on 24 with Live Another Day?

SC - It's wonderful to be back. I was curious, after having written the last score for "24" over 3 years ago, how it would be fitting back into the series. For me, and for many of my colleagues, it felt as natural as ever. We picked up where we left off, and continue to work at making each episode as great as possible.

RB - You initially worked with creators Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran, and director Jon Cassar on La Femme Nikita before joining them on 24 and now Live Another Day. What is the dynamic like between you and the show’s producers and directors?

SC - Over the years we have developed this intuitive synergy with one another and it has evolved into a great collaboration that also grew into great friendships. These are very talented people, and I am very lucky to be working among them. With Joel and Jon, we went on to do “The Kennedys” together. Recently I scored a film for Joel Surnow called “Small Time,” which came out last month, starring Chris Meloni and Dean Norris.


24 Season 1

RB - What was it about 24 that attracted you to the show?

SC - I was just starting out, so I suppose I was most attracted to the notion of just having a job! I began work on the series 13 years ago, with just a couple of projects under my belt, and I was just grateful to have a job scoring and composing for anything. When Joel asked me to do "24", he had to really fight for me because 20th Century Fox and Imagine really didn't know much about me. I'm very grateful to him for standing by me like that. As far as the “24” story was concerned, I was completely hooked from the very first few pages of the pilot script. When early footage started coming in with the boxes and the ticking clocks, I remember thinking this was something very bold and very special.

RB - What are the greatest challenges when composing for a show set in “real-time”?

SC - The series grew into having quite a bit of underscore. It's almost non-stop, and the challenge with the longer music cues on this series was to be able to keep it interesting and arcing properly with the drama, without getting fatiguing in any way.

RB - How long did it take for you to compose 24’s main theme?

SC - I think it took me a few days of playing around with the theme at my piano before I arrived at what you hear now. I hadn't seen any of the picture yet. I was writing it based on having read the pilot script. I have this old Yamaha Disklavier (it still uses floppy disks) - and it records what you play on the keyboard and plays it back just like a player piano. I would record various ideas plunking around on the keyboard. It's kind of funny to watch the piano play back the various recordings I made; it's like an invisible person is sitting at the piano and you can hear how I was tentatively swimming around for the melody like a cat walking on piano keys.

RB - When originally conceived, how important were the various sound effects such as those for the opening 24 logo, the ticking-clock, and the split-screen sequences, and did you have any idea that they would become so iconic?

SC - I did think that the boxes were pretty special the first time I saw them. The ticking clock sound - which I did not create - is a great framing device for connecting us over and over to the real time format of the series. The random appearances of the digital clock throughout the episode is very effective too. I had no idea how iconic it would become. I don't think anyone knew. We were just focused on making a good show week to week, hoping it would get renewed.


Sean Callery and Kiefer Sutherland

RB - What do you consider to the be the lifeblood of 24’s music - is it Jack Bauer as the protagonist, the breakneck pace of the show, or something else entirely?

SC - It's hard for me to pin down a precise answer to that. From its origin, the show has always been infused with a frenetic, urgent pace and tension, depicting a day-in-the-life of a man who faced down extraordinary circumstances. Fans of the show speak often of the fun ride they have with that. Year to year however, our protagonist Jack Bauer has evolved and changed. He has paid dearly for the sacrifices he has made for his family and for his country. I have aspired for the music to evolve in that journey as well. He is not the same man he was 13 years ago, and while he is still surrounded by life and death circumstances with tremendous tension and pressure, Bauer's personal evolution is at the center of it all and that affects how he interacts with the world around him. He is the emotional core, so to speak, so it all kind of links together.

RB - Jack Bauer has had to endure a lot in the name of national security, but unlike many heroes that have come before, he’s not afraid to make a mess. How have you communicated such a character through your music?

SC - I've never been asked this before and it's a great question. One appealing characteristic about Jack Bauer is that once he has made a decision about something, he is laser focused on that objective. He doesn't stop until he succeeds. There is that forcefulness and determination that Kiefer exudes so well in these moments. On some action sequences in past seasons, that single-minded focus has manifested itself musically via very unwavering rhythms, beats, or held textures / sonorities that do not let up, regardless of what obstacles get in his way. The notion is that nothing is stopping him, and the music isn't stopping either. I do not always take this approach; much depends on the tone of the scene and the storyline.

RB - There’s an emphasis on electronics in the show’s music. What advantages do you think electronics provide that live instruments cannot?

SC - From the earliest seasons, Executive Producer Joel Surnow was a huge fan of sound design and experimentation. I don't see it so much as there being an advantage / disadvantage kind of thing. It's more like the vocabulary is being expanded. There are more musical tools to choose from, experiment with and be creative with.


24: Live Another Day

RB - Are there any significant differences in the way you have approached composing Live Another Day compared to the original series?

SC - Fundamentally, no. The 12 episode format however, has yielded some neat surprises. For one, the action is much more concentrated episode to episode. There is so much going on in these episodes each week! It's a great ride.

RB - 24: Live Another Day has moved the show across the Atlantic from the US to London. Is the new location reflected in the music?

SC - I'm not making any conscious or intentional choices to have the music be different because we are in London. Having said that, seeing Jack running around London is very cool because it's so fresh looking, and the new locale exudes a different kind of energy. I'm following my instincts based on what I'm seeing and feeling, as I would do in years past, and the hope is that the score continues to evolve in a natural way.

RB - Other than the main theme, can we expect to hear any thematic references to music heard in previous seasons of 24?

SC - There are lesser known themes that spoke to the notion of personal sacrifice as the series went on. These ideas continue to play out in “24: Live Another Day,” and I have found myself arriving back at these themes. This was something I did not plan, but it works so well for how the story is unfolding.


RB - Live Another Day extends the life of what was already the longest-running espionage television series. How do you go about keeping the music of 24 fresh when you’ve had to compose so much of it?

SC - I have asked that same kind of question to director Jon Cassar. He has directed Kiefer in so many scenes where Jack enters a dark room or a hallway with a gun drawn, and you are just as tense and dialed into that moment as you were 8 seasons ago when you first saw a moment like that. I asked Jon why it still feels so fresh after all these years. He didn't have a clear cut answer. I don't have a clear cut answer either, but I think it lies in the idea that everyone's commitment to keeping true to the show's spirit and its energy is so ironclad. Each episode has its own feel, its own flow, and I think everyone working on the show, from the writers to the actors on down, aspire to remain fresh and true to each moment.

RB - Do you expect to release a commercial score of 24: Live Another Day?

SC - I would very much like to. I have heard from some fans requesting music from Seasons 6-8. I am trying to get it all done.

RB - It has been almost 13 years since the premiere of 24. Are there any moments in the show’s lifetime that especially stand out for you, both from a musical and collaborative perspective?

SC - There are several, but one pops up. It happened in Season 2. It is in the middle of the night, and Jack volunteers to sacrifice his life by flying a small plane with a ticking nuclear bomb onboard into the Mojave Desert, and crashing it into an unpopulated area. Along the way, he discovered the head of CTU, George Mason (played by the great Xander Berkeley) stowed away. Mason was exposed to a fatal dose of radiation in the first two hours of the season, and is near certain death from radiation poisoning. He convinces Jack, who is still mourning the loss of his wife, to embrace his life again, and let Mason steer the plane into the ground instead.

There is this beautiful sequence that follows where Jack parachutes out of the plane as Mason plunges the plane downward. Ian Toynton's direction is simply masterful, shot so beautifully as Jack floats down silently towards the desert landscape. There is no dialog, just imagery. There is palpable relief and catharsis in this extended sequence, as Jack lands safely while Mason sacrifices himself and crashes the plane at a safe distance, saving thousands of lives in the process. A beautiful moment in the series.


You can find out more about Sean Callery and his current projects at his OFFICIAL SITE



24 (Soundtrack) by Sean Callery

24 Seasons 4 and 5 (Soundtrack) by Sean Callery

24: Redemption (Soundtrack) by Sean Callery

24: The Game (Soundtrack) by Sean Callery






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