‘Bloodline’ Composers on the Art of Collaboration, Combining Different Visions (Guest Blog)

Longtime friends Tony Morales and Edward Rogers reveal how working together on the Netflix series has both pushed and challenged them

Our collaboration began about five years ago, and at first we were both a little nervous about it. We had both had (and still have) our own separate careers going for several years. We found, rather quickly, that by working together and having that other person to bounce ideas off of that the creative process is quite different and that it can be incredibly rewarding and enjoyable.

Everyone creates differently, so once you commit to collaborating on a singular vision you enter into a new kind of interaction; it makes you a better listener and it makes you think about things in a way that might not come naturally to you. Collaborating for us has been a learning process, one that has evolved and continues to constantly change.

Every project we have worked on together has been unique and different. Our latest project is the new series “Bloodline” from Netflix. When we got started on it, we spent the first few months working closely trying to come up with the musical ideas and themes that would become the backbone of the score. The further along we got into the season the more we were able to work separately, but still in tandem, figuring out new ways to elaborate on these themes or utilize new sounds. But even when we work individually, it is such a luxury to have that other person to use as a sounding board. It creates a sort of built-in checks and balances system in which our individual perspectives combine to ensure that the end result is always as strong and effective as it can possibly be.

There are more ways than one to score any given moment in a piece of film, and we don’t always see eye-to-eye on the best approach. The key to overcoming these obstacles is to make yourself think differently — get out of your own head — and really listen to the other person’s ideas. Sometimes when we are faced with an especially challenging scene, we will work separately and each try to come up with a different approach. Then we get back together and present our ideas to each other. Sometimes it’s immediately obvious which of the ideas is more compelling and we will just throw the other idea away and move on. Other times we find there are aspects of both ideas we like and we will try to blend them and incorporate elements from both. Either way, the creative process has been altered from the way each of us composes on our own. By having this kind of shared, democratic approach we find the music we write together is different from the music we write individually, and this, in and of itself, makes the collaboration process refreshing and powerful.

To begin a project we get together in the same room and sketch out some musical ideas. We try to come up with a palette of sounds, colors and simple themes to become the building blocks of the score. Once we have honed in on the tone we discuss these ideas with the director and the producers in a spotting session to make sure we are all on the same page. Back in the studio, one of us will approach a scene with our own musical ideas and then pass that sketch to the other for feedback. This way each cue gets both of our attention and our imprint to make sure it is a true collaboration. What we don’t do, and is sometimes assumed with composers working together the way we do, is divide episodes where one of us will score Episode 1 and the other will score Episode 2 and so on. We feel it is our combined voice in each and every episode that is crucial to the storytelling and is ultimately what the series’ creators are most interested in when working with us as co-composers.

Over time we have learned the best ways to work as a team when interacting with directors and producers. It’s important for them to be confident that, while we are individual composers who bring different strengths to the table, we will be able to produce a unified score. Collaborating has pushed and challenged both of us. Yes, there are moments when we have different visions, but we try to embrace these moments and learn from them. Working through the creative conflicts helps build the trust that ultimately makes the collaboration effective.

For more information on Morales and Rogers, visit http://tonymoralesmusic.com/ and http://www.elrmusic.com/