FX The Series
Fireworks Entertainment (1996-1997)
No score soundtrack available; no video or DVD release
Music clip one, 0'58"
(142Kb) [Main titles theme from series one (.wav)]
Music clip two, 1'17" (910Kb) [0:18'39"-0:19'55" - from Webmaster's additional 2 review of episode 'Requiem for a cop']
While Buffy the Vampire Slayer afforded the generic variety to allow Beck to cover bases of scoring weird comedy, romance, despair, violence, horror, fantasy, etc., FX - The Series is a very different animal. Focusing on a special effects expert and basing the stories mainly on situations arising from his friends both in the entertainment industry (amoral producers? check! non-dowdy dowdy-but-feisty love interest? check! hot women in trouble? double-check if you liked The Matrix) and in the police (maverick cop? check! bumbling family man sidekick? check!), this series is a mostly light crime show with a nerd-techie fascination, so Beck basically creates two poles to swing from: the fun-loving jazzy style set up in the main titles music (with special emphasis on the funky double bass) and a darker underscore for the dangerous scenes and those involving Mission: Impossible-style execution. The result is efficient, never stales, but by pure necessity of the show, unobtrusive and mostly forgettable. There is little basis for operatic outbursts of emotion or anything adventurous, although with every rule there are exceptions. One is the episode 'Requiem for a cop', which eschews the lighter context of the show almost altogether in favour of a tearful crime-solving-gone-wrong, gun mafia, heistmen dressed as cops, tense ER/OR, and pressurising authorities lending the techie-nerd scenes more weight (heavier synth drum beats, more minor-key underscore). It shows how the format of a show can dictate how even the most talented composer can show his metal, and in this case the darker plotting and slicker action breaks the formulaic mould of semi-involved police work and jokey makeup fx, giving the music space to breathe. It helps too that dialogue is cut down in the process. The result is a high percentage of score for television. See Webmaster's additional 2 for an indepth analysis. The first series in particular emphasized the kooky jazz element, utilising jazz trumpet, saxophone and a chill-out double bass. Here is a hint of the style he developed for the film Confidence. Series two adds more to the mix as FX gets more complicated plotlines.
Webmaster's additional 1:
IMDb gives an idea of composing roles for the show. As can be seen, Beck has occasional assistance from composers whose names occur in his work for Buffy also. Justin Boggan claims Colvin wrote additional music for 'one or two episodes', but we would need access to the early 2 promo CDs in hope of proof. IMDb lists...
Original Music by:
Adam Berry (additional score)
Eric Colvin (additional score)
Kevin Manthei (additional music)
Webmaster's additional 2:
'Requiem for a cop'
(first episode of season two for which Beck received a 1999 Gemini nomination for "Best Original Music Score For A Dramatic Series")
The following cue-by-cue was created using a low-quality video tape recording due to the lack of digital media commercial release. My thanks to Maureen of fxthewebsite.com for sending tapes to me from America for the cost of the tapes and postage, since the show has never aired in the UK. Timings are not to be trusted due to commercial breaks, so descriptions are necessarily detailed.
Character names to follow:
Tyler - movie FX man
Angie - Tyler's assistant
Leo - main detective cop who dies quickly
Francis - the Leo's sidekick cop who ends up in hospital
Sanchez - Internal Affairs cop (female) chasing Tyler
[0:00'00"-0:03'10"] Opening of the episode. Leo meets (undercover) with the heistmen: Beck delivers heavy combined-bass note (combination appears to include low piano and pizzicato double bass) with syncopation and doubled at a minor 7th with middle strings (cellos, perhaps with violas, with a 4-note lead-in) [Ex.1]. Above this a deliberately weak high string 'chord' consisting of a minor 9th (an octave plus creepy semi-tone). Gritted-teeth gloom and tense whine are more than the sum of their parts because in combination the starkness of the distance between low and high tessituri amplifies their effect. Leo's backup, Francis, is shown waiting to come in after him outside: The underscore here shifts to synth drumkit and 'mysterious' high piano line (unharmonized and tracing an obscure chord). Scene-shift to Tyler monitoring surveillance: cooler beat, with ascending-step brass synth (this is partly because we, the audience, identify most with the central character, and the music shadows our expected reaction to seeing his face for the first time, but the timing coincides more with his use of electronic surveillance, which reflects the viewer's presumed principal fascination with the series). Note that the rhythmic momentum behind each of these three distinct scenes as the camera cuts between them is maintained throughout, thus joining them seamlessly in the viewer's mind: it is made clear that all this is happening on a continuous timeframe. Francis moves in, whilst watched by other baddies: at this point the synth-beat is maintained (a nod to the Mission:Impossible set-up of plans) whilst the syncopated motif re-enters. The result is brittle but not as dissonant at the description sounds; rather, it feels like an accumulation of tensions. The underscore tones down as the scene shifts back to Leo and the main gang due to dialogue: quieter syncopated bass with marimba [?] slow-trill semitones - a nice touch, which is also uncertain in nature because it is tonally uncentred. Shifting back to the outside-baddies, the percussion scoring is thickened ([Ex.1] is there in the background) and a recognizably melodic theme is introduced on clarinet [Ex.2] and later trumpet, with romantic arch and droop: at this point the scene shifts pick up speed as scenes link and a explosives are primed, which makes music shifts impossible but instead allows the composer to step back and make a single statement - i.e. that something important is about to occur. The music halts with a huge explosion - explosions not only obliterate useful underscore but are normally have more impact within a bubble of silence - and re-enters as it subsides with mournful synth choir (some oboe doubling later), developing [Ex.2] without soundeffects as Tyler dashes out into the aftermath. The music ends on open fifths - an idea Beck used on Buffy - which effectively avoids the emotional finality of a major or minor-key completion chord whilst still creating some sense of repose prior to.
[0:03'10"-0:04'36"] Credits. Synth screeches and gradual entry of techno synth percussion, and finally the familiar trumpet-led jazz theme (used prominently in series one) based on Herbie Hancock's 'Cantaloupe Island'. This is a slightly less kooky version of the credits theme which accompanied the first series, perhaps indicating a slightly more intense tone to the second, and perhaps adding extra synth percussion to up the 'cool-techie' factor.
[0:04'36"-0:06'07"] Strings enter on a repeating rising scale cycle, over which a meditative piano line introduces a new melodic theme [Ex.3?] which is a distant relation to or development of [Ex.2]. Low brass and choir lace the underscore as Angie enters the chaos in search of her boss. A flute melody [Ex.4] (not used again) enters when they find each other: this opens out with choir to a fuller orchestral sound (the first in the episode) and then drops back to plaintive harp and wind when they see the bodies in bags taken away. This comes very close to the melancholy cue Beck had the opportunity to score many times in Buffy, where a simple minute with strong emotion but empty of dialogue allows a composer to breathe a little. (hear [Ex.3-4 clip])
[0:07'24"-0:08'25"] "Take care of him" the mobster wants his heistmen to tie up the loose end of Francis. A low bass note slides a tone down to quietly pulsing underscore for the hospital ER as Francis is treated. All hospital scenes of this sort owe much to the ER style of scoring and this is now exception - a repetitive urgency (a cluster of semitones) helps tie down the sometimes chaotic feel of such scenes and the medical mumbo-jumbo that percolate them. Francis's wife enters, heralding a not unexpected abrupt break into sympathetic wind melodic material, utilising the romantic droop from [Ex.2]: in this case oboe and horn running in parallel 6ths (a typical romantic move) with material tending to droop (a characteristic which runs through a number of Beck's projects and again for good reason - it works for sad scenes). The fact that the wife is watching her husband's plight enables Beck to continue rhythmically, though, and here there is more percussion, mainly because it doesn't conflict with the melody, but also because it helps Beck to move on to the more funky underscore for the next shift: a car arriving at the crime scene, introducing us to the female cop, Sanchez (Internal Affairs) who is to investigate what appears to her to be a bent-cop-caught situation. It is also a style more associated with Tyler, who she is about to encounter: cue jazz synths and bass with drums. This cue also includes a small return of the "'mysterious' high piano line" mentioned earlier, although here the firmer harmonic context and jazzy instrumentation doesn't lend it as much intensity.
[0:09'56"-0:10'27"] Sanchez states her case in their first meeting, making her accusation against Tyler also: a cor anglais-led theme actually hints at the style of the hospital-visiting wife, but this is probably more a parallel than a reference, and the scene is rounded off with a lower piano spread chord.
No music for Tyler's interrogation.
[0:13'01"-0:14'10"] Sanchez leaves the interrogation cell, with Tyler shouting after her to check the type of explosives used (evidence that Leo was not involved in their procurement): Beck's cue to start the next FX-led scene as Tyler plots his escape. He re-introduces a weaker-scored (piano only) version of the syncopated motif (part of [Ex.1]) along with the semi-tone slow-trill - almost a shimmer now it is re-scored for upper-strings with some harmony. This shifts to a new gear as a heistman-with-platform-shoe gets the word to take out Francis: a neat combination of synths, percussion and pizz double bass for his entry - catchy enough for us to remember him as a key character - leading into low string underscore as his boss parts company.
[0:14'48"-0:15'39"] Tyler continues his escape, under the nose of Sanchez: Beck immediately re-introduces the syncopation/trill combo from 13'01", which maintains continuity. Synthesizer keyboard (jazz organ) underscore as his escape trick 'movie magic' is discovered - a jazzy element of humour. Note: This theme sounds very familiar, as if it comes from the previous series or even the film. I would be interested in any comments.
[0:16'46"-0:17'17"] Jazz organ plus drumkit underscore covers the tail of Tyler's decision to contact Francis at hospital and Sanchez following his trail. This scoring is more reminiscent of his normal FX scoring - cosier and fun.
[0:17'45"-0:17'57"] Intermittent background restaurant music as the mobster informs his heistmen to "take care of business" over the 'phone. Barely audible and unlikeluy to be Beck-scored
[0:18'39"-0:19'55"] Low synth strings cover a scene change from the heistmen back to the hospital. A piano line developed from the 'mysterious' motif is featured over quiet drumkit and vocal double bass. This shifts gear into synth-heavy wallpaper onto which Beck superimposes the dropping sad melodic line and gradual insinuation of strings: this is again used to follow Francis's wife as she causes a diversion to allow Tyler a chance to see him. Things get put on hold (the beat all-but disappears and melodic line halts) as the platform shoe hitman enters the hospital corridor dressed in police uniform. The scene ends with a gunfire-like bang. (hear clip2 for this cue)
[0:20'02"-0:24'09"] Post-commcercials, the music re-enters immediately, in the same minor-key mode. Only subtle hints of the syncopated motif ripple the surface as a dialogue-heavy section ensues: Tyler explains the plot to Francis's wife. The underscore following their conversation and gradual suspicion of the false cop is underscored similarly, with the addition of electric bass guitar, and more gunfire as he enters Francis's room. Heistman and Tyler tustle over percussion, limited harmony, some piano tinkling (hint of 'mysterious') and the return in more synthesized voice of the syncopation - the latter growing to dominate as the cops chase Tyler through the hospital (leaving the hitman to escape). Tyler's escape from the hospital starts with a further electric guitar note crescendo leading to a very slow full-synth version of the slow trill, developed. At 23'16" Tyler enlists Angie to help him escape: cue a slight return to the drooping minor-key theme on upper strings here. A brief brass melodic line helps bring the drumbeats to a close. In all, this makes for a cleverly worked cue, which also manages to play below the surface of the action and dialogue.
No music for Francis's heated discussion with Sanchez.
[0:25'10"-0:25'50"] Francis reveals the plot couldn't have been carried out without a police leak. Plaintive oboe and piano scoring as he explains this, leading to piano over solemn brass chords as he stands up for his deceased colleague with Sanchez. Brass ends on an open fifth again - which fades as we return to Tyler and Angie driving away.
[0:26'26"-0:26'29"] Tyler announces he want's to break back into the police station: a swelling of brass and strings prior to commercial break.
[0:26'33"-0:32'11"] Tyler arrives at the police station. Heavy cool percussion with intermittent slow-trill - this time on a minor-third interval instead of the usual major/minor second. Strings are also used, especially when less percussion is needed and more still tension. An interesting inclusion is a low string note which splits chromatically [Ex.5] to the interval of a major second - a creepy effect which is underused in this episode. An electric bass guitar crescendos as the one of the boss's men shoots the failed hitman. Beck also introduces other less definable elements to follow the stops and starts of Tyler's break-in to retreive a name-list from Leo's police locker. The music is rudely interrupted when Sanchez catches him leaving, but it is only a brief interruption: the suspense music continues as Sanchez starts covering for Tyler under the noses of her superiors. The scene ends with another final-sounding brass line (all this has been in minor key).
[0:32'56"-0:40'16"] FX-lite-jazz moment, using the familiar FX theme (see comment at 14'48") as Sanchez accepts Tyler's offer for help. This shifts seamlessly into a thudding return of the syncopated bass together with a brass catch at the end of the phrase replacing [Ex.1]'s original pre-phrase motif, dragged back into hushed underscore (with drumbeat and upper strings hinting occasionally at the drooping theme) as the plot to ensnare the heistmen gets going; it re-emerges from time to time, and the level of scoring is forever mutating to follow the action. Note also a return for the slow-trill (semi-tone movement, on strings); reference to the 'mysterious' piano; reference to the dividing-strings motif [Ex.5]; and even slightly to the use of chorus. This give a good sense of the plot both culminating and turning full-circle. Choir and portentious brass herald the second explosion of the episode. As Sanchez delivers an ultimatum to the ensnared heisters an oboe enters with a hint of the drooping melodic theme, but the drumbeat is uninterrupted and the syncopated bass returns immediately after. As the boss hitman resolves to blow himself up with his colleague, Beck uses a crescendoing mid-tone string cluster - effective in cranking up scary tension (see its classic use by Stanley Kurbric's hijacking of Ligeti in 2001 and The Shining).
[0:40'16"-0:43'27"] Silence for the third explosion. Followed by a reprise of the choral theme used after the first explosion - this time it is lended a more determined flavour by drumbeat, and it is soon taken over by oboe/cor anglais-led orchestral synths. Another seamless shift shows Beck moving straight from this into a more pop-based end for the episode - he does this by maintaining the drumbeat, exchanging oboe for pop female duet, and orchestral accompaniment for guitars, busy piano - and eventually synths when we follow the characters to Leo's funeral, and rounded off fittingly with a gregorian monk style 'gloria in excelsis deo'. The catch is that at some point in this shift we are not listening to Chris Beck but to a song called 'Silence', performed by Sarah McLachlan with Delerium, from their album 'Karma'. A fascinating end, and it is interesting to note how a similar coming-to-terms-with-death scene is played out at the end of Buffy season 6 (not Beck-scored) with more McLachlan vocals.
[0:43'29"-end] End credits music. Credits listing: Music by Christophe Beck / Music Supervisor - Mike Sikkas / Music Editor - Zoran Borisavljevic
Webmaster's additional 3: links
"Tyler FX - 256 Brewery Lane"
A very decent archive of links, and database of authors/titles and other information on the series.
Lists some pop songs, but concentrates reasonably well on Beck's involvement. "The first season opening theme may or may not be a jazz classic. This was mentioned on the forum, but the music was never identified specifically enough to be sure." and "Christophe Beck received a [snip] Gemini nomination for "Best Original Score For A Dramatic Series" for this episode." referring to #110 - Eye Of The Dragon (1998 nomination) and #201 - Requiem For A Cop (1999 nomination). N.B. The e-mail address bounces which pehaps means the site is now no longer maintained.
Links page to some F/X sites. An area titled "F/X: The Series Partial Bible!" under construction with characters, timeline, episode listing (some episodes contain much detail also) and some other facts.
Very little content, but has the "theme song" for download in .wav format. Added here.
"F/X The Website" Bluntinstrument's recommended site. Easy to navigate, fan-friendly forum/chat room/trivia, fan fiction, fascinating nerd's floor plan of the hero's loft appartment, and an episode guide. No music/video clips. Many thanks to webmaster Maureen Thayer for copies of select episodes sent to me for review. F/X never appeared to make it to the UK and is unavailable commercially for purchase, so I am indebted to her.
Some interviews archived relating to the series, but no mention of music
A welcome thought-provoking (or pretentious, depending on your viewpoint) site featuring a review of the show, episode ratings, and essays with related bibliography. Once more, no mention of music.