[WATCH] ‘American Crime’ composer Mark Isham: ‘Keeping music to a single vocabulary’

During our recent webcam chat (watch above), “American Crime” composer Mark Isham revealed his approach to the score was “to keep the music of almost a single vocabulary.” The second season of this ABC anthology series examines the devastation that occurs when a working class student (Connor Jessup) accuses several members of a private school basketball team of sexually assaulting him. As the Emmy-winning tunesmith explains, “it’s almost as if the music stays slightly above the action of the story, and doesn’t have to be specific.” Rather “the music follows a more general, almost allegorical, symbolic function that makes it very connected to the heart, and the intimacy, and the warmth of the characters.”

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Created by Academy Award winner John Ridley (“12 Years a Slave,” 2013), each season tells a different story concerning issues of race, class, and gender, with stars Timothy Hutton, Felicity Huffman, Lili Taylor and Regina King assuming different roles. “It’s like a repertory company,” says Isham. In scoring season two, he says, “I wanted to keep it connected to the themes of the first season, and yet evolve, and also at the same time set a slightly new stage, since it is a new location and completely new story.”

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An added element this season are the issues of homophobia and gender assumptions about rape. “Emotionally, the evolution in this story is that it’s about sexuality,” he says, “not just emotional contact, but the physical contact as well.” Isham, who received an Oscar nomination for “A River Runs Through It” (1992) and won an Emmy for his title theme to “EZ Streets” (1996), praised Ridley for examining these themes with restraint. “He deals in these tremendously powerful issues,” he declares, “and yet there’s no melodrama here. There’s almost a reserve in the storytelling that just lets the emotions blossom.”

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