Having scored Seasons 2 and 3 of Durham County, composer Peter Chapman isn’t a newcomer anymore, but his music is a fresh mix of the abstract, the impressionistic, the melodic, and the weird.

Chapman took over the scoring chores for Season 2, basing his score around the main theme by Tom Third who mentored Chapman through the rigors of TV scoring, and shares the same interest in fusing traditional and non-traditional musical elements within a digital realm.

Series co-producer/co-writer/director Adrienne Mitchell has said of Chapman:

“He’s awesome. He’s a young composer who’s classically trained and has a kind of instinct that I haven’t seen in a long time. He’s able to somehow get inside the dark recesses of a character’s mind but still connect with them and understand them, and evoke their humanity in the music he’s working with.

“The work he’s done is just stupendous, and in Season 3 he just blows it more out of the water… He’s the kind of guy who will go out and find a piece of metal and a piece of wood and maybe some weird, rusted bicycle bell off a bike, put them together and find a way that they can create a sound. [He’ll] record that sound, then put it into his system, and create an orchestral piece from it in a way that’s haunting and minimal… He’s so avant garde, so unique and interesting, and so perfect for our show in that respect.”





Mark R. Hasan: How did you get into film composing?


Peter Chapman: It was something that I knew I wanted to do. I went to The Ontario College of Art and design [OCAD] for design, and about halfway through the program, I kind of started to realize that this wasn’t what I really wanted to do. I wanted to write music, but how do you actually make a living writing music?

I had to take an elective, and I ended up taking a sound/audio course that was coincidentally taught by Tom Third (who actually did the music for Season 1 of Durham County eight years later). Here’s a guy that’s actually doing it. I remember a trip down to his studio which was filled with all the classic music toys that I’d always wanted.

Then I got into doing a lot of ad work after that. I started just hustling everybody I knew that was in the business and did a lot of free, and then everything kind of tied together a few years ago when I finally hooked up with Arpix Media, the music supervision company for Durham.

It ended up with Robert Carli representing me as a composer, and then it was sort of funny because they all knew Tom and Tom knew me, and they all knew Adrienne, who was the producer, and when Tom couldn’t do Season 2 because he was doing The Listener (2009), they kind of turned around and looked at me and said ‘You should do it,’ so that’s how it came. Durham was my first TV series. Before that it was just a lot of ads and that kind of stuff.


MRH: Did you find the ads helped prepare you for handling different subject matter for Durham County, was Durham a completely different animal and was a bit of a shock?


PC: Durham was definitely a different animal. Cutting my teeth on ads was amazing because you’re constantly thrown into these situations where someone’s like ‘Hey! Write a tango!’ and you’re ‘Yeah, sure… I can… write a… tango.’  Meanwhile I’m thinking ‘I’ve no idea how to write a tango,’ and I’ve got eight hours.’

The music for Durham is kind of out of left field. Only a small portion of it is kind of melodic. There’s a lot of really crazy soundscapes and sound design that goes into the score, so rather than thinking a lot about ‘Here’s my orchestra. What am I going to do with the violins?’ it was more like ‘I need to find a sound to put here that is really freaky and no one’s ever heard. I’m going to use this violin bow on my garbage can and see what happens.’ You end up looking for really far out sounds.


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