From Modern Family to Rectify: Q+A with Composer Gabriel Mann

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There’s a pet project at Gabriel Mann’s house that, given his schedule, he hasn’t had much time lately to devote himself to.

“It’s going to be a cabinet for record albums, made entirely of Lego pieces,” said the composer, best known for his peppy main title in Modern Family and melancholic musical interludes on Rectify.  “It’s almost two-thirds done. I’ve used up thousands and thousands of pieces. I had to special order a few hundred of them.”

The attention to detail and precise configuration it takes to build a piece of furniture from random plastic bricks parallels Mann’s approach to scoring.

“I’m the writer, composer, producer,” he said. “I’m usually doing all those things, and they’re all very micro and detail-oriented. There are all these micro decisions that go into making one piece of music.”

Los Angeles-based Mann has worked on projects as diverse as Dr Ken and Rosewood for television, and on video games such as Fear Perseus Mandate. He’s also a member of the acclaimed band, The Rescues.  He had just come back from holidaying in Italy before throwing himself into a full work schedule but set aside some time to chat with Cinema Thread about his upcoming movie projects, his brand new studio, and how he almost became a doctor.

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Modern Family

Cinema Thread: Have you always been musical?

Gabriel Mann: I liked music and always considered myself a musician, but as a kid, I didn’t have any inkling that you could do this for a job. I’m from San Antonio, Texas; it’s not a small town but not exactly metropolitan either. My dad was a doctor, my mom a psychologist, and I sort of thought that that’s what jobs were. At college, I was a composition major but was also pre-med. By the time junior year came around, I decided I wasn’t going to be pre-med anymore.

 

CT: Then what happened?

GM: I got into the film scoring program at USC, and a lightbulb went off – I could do that. I started doing weird random jobs tangentially related to music – like working as a studio wiring technician, and producing and mixing other peoples’ albums. I joined a band, was also in an a capella group and started writing for video games.

 

CT: The opening sequence to Modern Family is ridiculously catchy. How did you come up with it?

GM: I wanted to try a big band sound to make it exciting right out of the gate. I felt like we’d gotten it, but then we started generating a whole other direction, ultimately coming back to what everybody liked in the first place. That’s the challenge of working in music and in the media. Sometimes you think you’ve really nailed it – but you may or may not have nailed it for somebody else.

 

CT: And your work on ‘Rectify’ is a very different animal.

GM: I love that theme. I love what it sounds like. The score couldn’t be more different (from ‘Modern Family’). There are long scenes of no dialogue. That show was more about creating a vibe where lush, melodic things happen, or some very raw, tense things. And then there are beautiful little songs on a solo piano.

 

CT: What do you have coming up next?

GM: I’m working on an indie movie Humor Me. Then the fourth season of Rectify starts and Rosewood is starting its second season, and we’re finishing the second season of School of Rock. So there’s a lot of stuff. I’m also building a new studio in Culver City as we’ve outgrown the one we’ve been in for 16 years.

 

CT: And let’s not forget The Rescues.

GM: The Rescues still exist, but it’s not the focus of everyone’s lives anymore. We go from show to show, and it’s wonderful. We’ve all arrived at this place where we’re working on many projects at the same time and they’re all different and it’s great.  The Rescues has a residence coming up in October at the Hotel Cafe. We work so much with modern technology, that it’s great to get the rush of playing live music in front a crowd.

 

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