As part of our San Diego Comic-Con coverage; I spoke with composer Kurth Farquhar about his work on the hit series Black Lightning as well as his career. This interview was begun before the convention and completed after.
How did you get into composing?
I got in the old-fashioned way…nepotism! My brother helped me get my first job.
Can you tell the readers about the process of getting into the industry and how you go about scoring for a series, especially when you first see the look, and characters, and footage for a show?
There is no one particular way to get into the industry, but interning or working in some capacity with a known, successful composer would definitely help. Writing for a library is also helpful. As for my process for scoring a TV series or film…it starts with me asking a LOT of questions. The types of questions that help lead me to where the director or producer is interested in going. After all…it’s their project…not mine. Further, I am not a fan of seeing the project too many times before I actually start writing. I don’t want to dull my reaction to the picture.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced scoring Black Lightning and what have been your greatest triumphs?
There were two challenges that stood out: 1. Creating a sound that felt different and specific to these African American superheroes and other characters, while remaining true to traditional superhero lore. 2. The blending of the score (in an organic way) with all the songs that I knew were going to be used in this series.
It seems to me that the show blends music styles of different eras. How do you balance this?
I make a great deal of effort to go into the songs and transition out of them in a way that leaves you uncertain as to where the song ends an the score begins and vice versa. I don’t want that feeling of “here’s the songs…and now here’s the score”. I want them to seem to be of a whole.
As a follow up; I would say that the music for Cress is different from that of Nafessa.
Yes, that’s right! The “Jefferson Pierce” character is ambivalent about returning to “Black Lightning” and you hear that in his theme. “Anissa” however, (the character that Nafessa portrays) is all-in. She wants to do something (and do it now) and you hear that in the intensity of her theme especially when she battles.
How many hours did you compose for the series and how much that music made it into the final episodes?
It was a LOT of music and it varied from episode to episode. I was very fortunate though. I would say 95% of what I wrote for the season remained in the show. There were few if any changes after the fourth episode.
What can we look forward to in terms of the music for Season 2?
I start writing two days from now, so check me later and I’ll let you know! J
When scoring a show, or film, how much lead time do you have? What is made available early in the process?
In the beginning we had 10-12 days. By episode 6…I was turning episodes around in 4 days. I generally only like to see episodes when it’s time to write, so it all feels fresh and exciting to me! I want to feel like a fan seeing it for the first time. The only difference is…I get to be a part of the end result! I LOVE THIS JOB!!!
What are you looking forward to at SDCC and how many times have you been to the convention prior?
I look forward to seeing and meeting the fans and seeing what is exciting them! Last year was my first Comic Con and I came down with my two young sons True and Kamen. They’re with me this year too! It’s become our tradition. We have a ball! Boys Night everyday!!!
What do you like to do in your free time?
I love to cook! I’d want be a chef if I wasn’t a musician.
What do you have upcoming that we can look forward to?
Season 2 of Black Lightning coming Tuesday, October, 9th, “The Neighborhood” on CBS premiering October, 1st, “In Contempt” on BET and a feature film from Lionsgate/Codeblack called “#Two Minutes Of Fame” starring Jay Pharoah from Saturday Night Live.