The challenges presented by X Company differ significantly from those of Flashpoint. While some characters have a specific sound associated with them, overall the focus was on creating musical themes that were team- rather than character-based, music that reflects the unique relationships between characters, or heroism, regret or friendship, for example. “And those can apply to a number of characters,” Posner says, “including reluctant soldiers on both sides, such as Germans who were against the Nazi regime. They’re musical themes that provide subtext – beyond what’s happening on the screen – about the emotions of different characters.”
Aside from the occasional “luxurious moments” where they work together on a specific piece of music, typically Bhatia and Posner work in separate studios on different cues. “There are people I know of that work together on one workstation, taking turns going at things in the same room, but that’s never how we’ve worked,” Posner says. “Amin comes from a much more traditional classical background. I’m a piano player and have spent a lot of time playing classical music, but my background is more the pop and jazz world.”
“There’s a big difference between music for film or television and music for music’s sake.” – Ari Posner
“Still, both of us clearly love orchestras. That’s the overlap,” Bhatia says. “But we’ve both expanded our palette and our repertoire and taught each other things. And sometimes we’ll completely change it up and take on something that would normally fall into the other’s lap.”
Regardless of how they split the workload, communication is key. “We’re usually the first ears to hear the music of the other,” Bhatia says. “We go over the music before we get together with the client and listen to what the other has done, if we haven’t already during the writing process.” Bhatia also cites the contribution of their go to music editor, Joe Mancuso, who he credits with helping them keep the ship sailing beautifully.
Increasingly, Bhatia says, composing music for film and television has become much more similar. “The quality of television is at the point where it equals features in the use of the technology and in terms of the things people are doing creatively.” Still, in both cases, he adds, “You have to leave your ego at the door and ask, ‘What does the show want? What tells the story best?’ That’s the most important thing.”
It’s an ethic they do their utmost to instill in up-and-coming composers looking to work in this segment of the industry. “Some younger composers come in thinking that if they come up with a big John Williams melody it’s going to propel them to the stars, but it’s our job to say, ‘Remember that you’re an accompanist, not a solo artist. The film is the star. Everything you do has to serve the film.’”
While composers are the unsung heroes of the film and television industry to an extent, their contributions are critical. Bhatia and Posner greatly appreciate the recognition of that reality by performing rights organizations like SOCAN. Both have been members of SOCAN for some time; Posner since 1990, and Bhatia since 2010 – when he re-negotiated his previous deal with BMI to allow him to be represented by SOCAN for the world with the exception of the United States.
“SOCAN is highly respected worldwide,” Posner says. “I think it’s up there with the best of the PROs, and it’s a testament to the organization that so many high-level composers and songwriters remain with SOCAN because of the services they provide.”
“There’s a big difference between music for film or television and music for music’s sake,” he continues. “When you’re watching a show, most of your attention is on the visuals, the dialogue, the story. As a composer you have to say, ‘What’s the best way to fit in here, but not attract attention to myself. I sometimes call it being invisible, creating music that makes people feel the right things without anyone taking notice of it.”
Doing so effectively requires recognizing that, and being willing to learn continuously, Bhatia says: “That’s the joy. You’re thrust into something you never thought you’d do and have no choice but to do it, and you come out of it having tried something new, put your own spin on a genre or style you’re perhaps not familiar with, and are that much better for it.”