For composer Bear McCreary, scoring the hit TV series “Outlander” presented an opportunity to do something musically he’d always wanted to do. “I always was looking for an excuse to bring bagpipes into my own scores when I became a composer,” he says in our exclusive video interview (watch it below). “I grew up adoring Scottish folk music … I was so immersed in this culture.”
He had previously incorporated bagpipes into “Battlestar Galatica,” co-created by Ronald D. Moore, yet found there wasn’t a place for the signature sound in subsequent projects. Moore went on to adapt Diana Gabaldon‘s “Outlander” book series for the small screen, and according to McCreary, “When I realized he was doing this new show that took place in the Scotland of the Jacobite Uprising, which was right in the sweet-spot of the kind of music I adored from that era, I realized we could do something really cool with this.”
“Outlander” stars Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall, a British combat nurse in World War II who finds herself transported to Scotland in 1743, tearing her between the love of her husband Frank (Tobias Menzies), a straight-laced officer, and the chivalrous, romantic young warrior Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan). “When we think about the tropes of time travel stories,” says McCreary, “they almost always start in the present and move to the past or the future. The thing that makes ‘Outlander’ tricky is that it starts in the past and then goes farther back into the past … So I needed to help create this feeling of the 1940s for the opening of the show, and then separate that from the 1740s for the bulk of the show.”
He continues, “When we get into Scotland in the 1740s … the score gets very folky, and you hear bagpipes and penny whistle and fiddle, and everything’s kind of scratchy and raw. So there’s a separation not only in time but in culture … The music takes on a very different character.”
McCreary previously won an Emmy for his work on “Da Vinci’s Demons,” and was nominated twice more for “Human Target” and “Black Sails.” “Every time, it’s a tremendous surprise,” says McCreary of his nominations and win, “and a tremendous honor, because I think some of the best work happening in entertainment is happening in television … Winning the Emmy for ‘Da Vinci’ was … almost like an out-of-body experience when they called my name, and still I have statue up on my desk and I’m amazed that it’s there.”
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Photo: Bear McCreary at Creative Arts Emmys, 2013 Credit: Everett/REX
Photo: Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe in “Outlander.” Credit: Courte/REX