‘Masters Of The Air’ Music Is A Love Letter To The Late Michael Kamen, Says Composer Blake Neely – Sound & Screen TV

‘Masters Of The Air’ Music Is A Love Letter To The Late Michael Kamen, Says Composer Blake Neely – Sound & Screen TV

Composer Blake Neely called his score for Apple TV+’s Masters of the Air a tribute to his mentor, the late Michael Kamen. Kamen gave Neely his first job as an orchestrator on Band of Brothers, the first in Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks’ World War II series trilogy.

“It’s a love letter to Michael,” Neely said, choking up at Deadline’s Sound & Screen Television live-music event talking about Kamen, who died in 2003. “I got my start in this business because of Michael Kamen. On Band of Brothers I was one of his orchestrators. Then we lost him.”

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The producers of The Pacific asked Neely to work with Hans Zimmer and Geoff Zanelli. Neely did so reluctantly, but stopped producer Gary Goetzman in his tracks when he began asking Neely to collaborate again on Masters.

“I said, ‘No, I just want to do this myself,’” Neely said. “I want this to have a single voice.”

Neely wanted to return to the sound Kamen created for Band of Brothers. He felt The Pacific got too somber, even though it was a war drama.

“I wanted to have that same nobility but I just wanted to launch,” Neely said. “The hardest thing for me was figuring out how to make it, every pun intended, fly. That was my inspiration, flight.”

Neely got specific about the notation of that majestic score.

“The B-17s in all the action scenes have this specific hum,” Neely said. “I think it was A flat. I’m pretty sure that it was. So if I wanted it to be more tense up there, I could write in A or B flat, something against the key. It’s super nerdy for composers out there. If we wanted to calm things down, I’d just write in the key of A flat and go everything’s fine.”

It took a long time for Neely to arrive at that. He said he spent three weeks on an island off the coast of Washington state but failed to find inspiration. He forced himself to come up with something during one late-night session in his living room. He was able to watch all nine episodes of Masters of the Air at once though.

“We keep referring to it as the movie, the nine-hour movie,” Neely said.

Neely said he couldn’t help but keep adding instruments to the score. The main title had more parts than the Sound & Screen stage at UCLA’s Royce Hall could handle, though Neely found their performance “amazing” too.

“I think the main title is probably 160 players by the time it finishes,” Neely said. “It’s not something to brag about, sorry. I just couldn’t stop.”

Check out the panel video above.

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