Mark Crawford (‘The Social Dilemma’ composer) on how he went from the doc’s sound recorder to scoring the entire film [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

When Mark Crawford started working on the recent Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma,” he was originally only working as a sound recorder for the film. “At the beginning I had no expectations that I would become the composer,” he tells us in our recent webchat (watch the video above). While recording he would think about what kind of music to put along to the film, sketched out some ideas and sent them to Davis Coombe, the film’s editor, who put them into some of the scenes which caught the eye of director, Jeff Orlowski. “He kind of stopped and said, “Who did this piece?’ And it always kinda came back to me and so that was where the first initial discussions happened.”

“The Social Dilemma,” which is currently streaming on Netflix, examines the way that social media platforms depend on hooking people into consuming content through their products. The film further delves into how this business model has had a toxic effect on society as well as the mental well-being of the platform’s users. The documentary snagged seven Emmy nominations this year including one for Best Documentary or Nonfiction Special as well as Crawford’s first career nomination for Best Documentary Music Score.

Crawford’s favorite part of composing the music for the film was just getting to play around with various synthesizers starting with a surge modular synthesizer. “It’s a crude synthesizer that has a bunch of wires and knobs and it’s more just playing around and punching in numbers and just seeing what sounds cool.” Through his experimentation with the electronic sounds, he was able to hone in on the theme that he wanted to focus on in the score. “It was really trying to find that sound of emitting the beast from this weird electronic instrument. That was just super fun.”

The film’s structure, which combines a standard documentary with a parallel narrative that explores how social media affects a family, proved tricky, at first, for Crawford to score. “What we came across was honing in on that dilemma aspect where there’s the narrative world versus the documentary world, humans versus computers, all these kind of pairings that I felt were riper for a musical idea.” He achieved this by scoring the beginning parts with the family in a traditional acoustic orchestration. When the family members get sucked into social media, the score takes a drastic turn using synthesizers. “As the film progresses, the music starts to break down and the computers start to take over–almost as if they’re taking the pilot seat for the latter half of the film in scoring.”

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