EXCLUSIVE | 'Black Lightning' composer Kurt Farquhar on scoring for TV and film and getting an emotional release from both
Farquhar is one of the most prolific composers in the industry, widely regarded as the "musical voice of BET". But even so, working on 'Black Lightning' was a new experience for the musician
Composing scores for shows and movies can be a very difficult task. The artistes who do this work have the difficult job of capturing the mood of a scene without overpowering the narrative playing out on screen.
In an exclusive interview with MEA World Wide, "the musical voice of BET" and award-winning composer Kurt Farquhar, who is responsible for the scores of multiple shows and movies including The CW's 'Black Lightning', revealed how he goes about his work.
"I get deeply immersed in the story... in the moment," Farquhar said. "I allow the moment to tell me where to go, how far to go. I allow myself to be swept away by the story...becoming one with it."
"Scoring for TV and scoring for film are two very different disciplines," he continued. "That's why I truly like doing both! I get an emotional release by hopping between the two."
"As for my process...I allow it to change based upon the needs of the project that I'm working on. I find that this aids in keeping me creatively fresh and constantly evolving. I sometimes choose projects solely, because of how much it will force me into a new box."
Farquhar is one of the most prolific composers in the industry. But even so, working on 'Black Lightning' was a new experience for the musician.
"Composing for this particular superhero has been a very different experience," he explained. "On the one hand, there is so much musical lore, so many expectations when it comes to superhero music. On the other, there hasn't been an enormous amount of superhero TV series that have an African American in the lead."
"You want to acknowledge this musically, but not obviously in a trite way. No need to hear a hip hop beat every time you see a black face and no need to run away from it either! There's also, the challenge of the extensive use of a variety of songs. The challenge is to make the shift between score and songs to be organic and natural."
He added, "Being versed in the different styles they use has helped, but whatever the style we're doing...I always find an interesting twist...like giving traditional, orchestral instruments a rhythmic style that's more akin to Kanye than to Mahler or string lines that are written like a Miles Davis jazz solo etc. Anything to challenge the obvious!"
"I have worked for Mara and Salim Akil for many years. That said, I feel that they really took a chance on me as I had very little history in the sci-fi or superhero genre. I definitely believe that my work on the series Stitchers may have made it easier to see that this was something that I could do. For me, it has felt like a truly natural fit!"
"I listened to a lot of superhero scores because Salim said that he DIDN'T want this score to sound too much like any of them! He really wanted me to chart new ground. At the same time...as I said...there is so much superhero musical lore. I approached change without feeling the need to completely toss out the baby with the proverbial bathwater," he shared.
Though today he's an accomplished and much-sought-after figure in the industry, Farquhar started life on the streets of Chicago. From there began an epic journey, his musical talent and artistic education taking him to the Music Conservatories of France.
"I was just thinking (earlier today) as I left a meeting at Disney," Farquhar reminisced. "This all seems like another life, happening to someone else sometimes. Whatever it is...I'm truly thankful for it all!"
"The amazing highs, incredible bumps in the road (and the perseverance through it all) are a part of my artistic palette. I take them with me to every gig! These elements that shaped my journey are the clay with which I mold artistic vision. I embrace the journey...ALL OF IT!!!"
Though 'Black Lightning' is currently on a break, you'll be hearing Farquhar's work on a number of other projects.
"I've been having a lot of fun on a CBS comedy starring Cedric The Entertainer called 'The Neighborhood'," he said. "It's a wonderfully funny and heartwarming show created and produced by the amazing Jim Reynolds (The Big Bang Theory, Samantha Who)."
"I'm also very excited about 'Ambitions', on OWN produced by Will Packer (Think Like A Man, Ride Along, Girls Trip). BET's 'Games People Play' produced by Tracey Edmonds (Soul Food) and 'American Soul: The story of Soul Train' produced by Jesse Collins (The New Edition Story, The Bobby Brown Story). Lastly, in January 2020 check out 'The Kamiyah Mobley Story' directed by Jeff Byrd on Lifetime.