Interview: Home Fires Composer
When Home Fires began airing on MASTERPIECE, fans immediately praised its ethereal, melodic, and downright addictive opening theme. Behind every catchy tune is a musical mastermind--in this case Samuel Sim, rising-star composer. MASTERPIECE caught up with Sim to discuss his own musical past, the origin of the Home Fires theme, and the behind-the-scenes secrets that produce an attention-grabbing tune.
You can hear the full theme here, and be sure to tune in to the Home Fires Season 1 finale, airing Sunday, November 8, 2015 at 8/7c on MASTERPIECE on PBS.
First, a little
about yourself—You began composing at young age and established yourself quickly. Can you tell us how you got started in the
Growing up I was
always surround by music, I was three when I started playing the violin. But I
suppose the defining moment came when I was sixteen… I was writing and
performing the music for a theatrical production of A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream,
it was mix of classical music and psychedelic rock and involved me playing the
the concert harp and then switching to the electric guitar. Somehow this caught
the attention of film composer Michael Kamen [Grammy and Emmy winning, American composer known for his work with musicians including Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, and Queen], he approached me after a
performance and offered me a job. Michael was the most inspirational character
I’d ever met and so from that point I never looked back!
Before we get
into Home Fires—You
actually wrote the score for one of our fan-favorite titles, Emma with Romola Garai in
2009. Can you tell me more about scoring for Austen?
basis of a score can be built around a particular sound or group of players,
but for Emma I ended up writing very melodically driven music. There’s one
central theme that runs through the series representing Emma herself. This
theme morphs and changes as she interacts with the other characters, it culminates in a big sweeping string rendition as she eventual realizes that she’s fallen in
love with Mr. Knightley.
for Home Fires! Let’s start
from the beginning. Can you describe your process?
project tends to be different, but in this case I started writing after reading
the scripts and before I’d seen any of the footage. Simon Block’s scripts
seemed to have an authenticity to them that I found very inspiring. The main
title track was the first thing I wrote and the rest of the score grew from
What was your
inspiration when you created the theme?
lived through and fought in the War, and I was always fascinated to hear their
stories. But I set out to create something that represented a contemporary view
of that period in history rather than a pastiche the music of the time. For
some reason the mix of simple chords and classical counterpoint seemed to work.
On the theme’s
lyrics: Can you tell us more about them?
represent the women who were left supporting the home front while their loved
ones went off to fight. Consequently they are supposed to evoke a feeling of
resilience and unity in the face of loss and tragedy. Although the world as
they knew it is falling apart, they carried on fighting regardless. The lyrics
are obscured by the fact that there are several different lines being sung at
once, but that’s part of the point. Ultimately they found strength in their
unity with others.
Can you tell us
more about the recording process and the choir who performs the theme?
I had a very clear
idea of what kind of singing style I wanted, it was important to me that it
shouldn’t sound too classical or operatic. I worked with an ensemble called Synergy Vocals, they’re an extremely talented and versatile group and they
picked up on what I was looking for immediately. We had three hours in the
studio to record it. Each part was performed separately for greater control in
the mix. Caroline Dale [Award-winning English cellist] played the solo cello on it and I played everything
We’ve heard from
our viewers, and we’ve experienced for ourselves: This tune gets stuck in your
head! Is that something you were aiming for? Have you heard that reaction from
The music has a
very circular structure and I think the repetition certainly helps to make it
catchy. But yes, I’ve had an amazing
response to the music so far. It's great to hear that people like it!