Giancarlo Vulcano has worked on the music for 30 Rock since season 1. Working with composer Jeff Richmond, he writes music and arrangements for the show, and plays all the guitar-family instruments heard every week. He was producer (along with Richmond and Hal WIllner) of the upcoming compilation of music from 30 Rock. In the Liner Notes, he describes the process of creating new music for each episode.
Brain Work – Making Music for 30 Rock
By Giancarlo Vulcano
Here is how the music for 30 Rock comes to be. With each new episode, Jeff and I figure out if any pieces from the catalogue, now over 1,000 cues strong, might be useful in the new score. They almost never are. In 4+ seasons I can only think of a handful of times when existing cues did the heavy lifting for a second episode. Music you hear again and again on 30 Rock is usually only in strip clubs or bars, and music you think has been on the show before has probably been altered, the mix tweaked or the orchestration changed somehow.
The music catalogue having accomplished what it could, the score to each new episode usually gets made in the weekend preceding the final sound mix. Jeff writes some pieces, and audio files start to fly. He is a walking encyclopedia of American Music Theater/TV music/pop music in general, so these new pieces can be anything from ragtime to broadway to soap opera to muzak. Themes get assigned to characters and story lines, and the musical identity of the show slowly reveals itself. At first I don’t do much other than try and follow where he is going. Jeff is very wary of moving too fast when he is still in his ‘brain work’ phase. I’ve seen scores do a complete u-turn from Saturday to Sunday during brain work time. When Jeff is confident we have the sound for that episode, I jump in. I start adding a banjo or ukelele pass, or start programming a drum track, and these bits of audio might in turn become the basis for another cue. Computers crash and the server jams up, but in this kind of organic back and forth, Jeff and I sit in our respective home studios, usually on a Sunday night, shooting things at each other over the internet until all the pieces have been tweaked, mixed, bounced.
The writers, actors, and directors of 30 Rock give Jeff great material to work with, and the chance to do amazing things with the score. Here are 17 tracks worth. I am the one, very lucky person who gets to see this process up close, and I’ll be damed if I know what’s coming next. There is enough fantastic music in the catalogue for another album at least, but that’s enough brain work for now.