Though you could probably fill a large stadium with studies supporting the belief that music enhances children’s cognitive development, you needn’t be a clinical psychologist to know that the little buggers just plain dig tunes. And in TV terms, the younger-skewing a show is, the more music it needs.
That bodes well for people like Jared Faber, the principal of L.A.-based Blind Lemon Music who has made a living scoring shows like As Told By Ginger and Bear in the Big Blue House. Though it’s likely that millions of people have heard his work, most would be hard-pressed to name a Faber composition – and apparently that’s exactly the way it should be. ‘I know I’m doing my job if nobody notices the score,’ says Faber, explaining that score music exists to reinforce an event that has occurred or to imply a subtext or danger. It should never upstage the show.
An alumnus of California’s Berklee College of Music, Faber cut his chops on scores for Pink Panther and Magic School Bus CD-ROMs in the early ’90s, and later for a variety of animated Nick shorts. But his big break came in 1999, when he was hired to tune up half a season’s worth of Bear in the Big Blue House episodes for Henson. Since Bear is a preschool show, Faber was required to write wall-to-wall music à la classic cartoons, with raw instrument sounds punctuating every move the characters made.
Though Klasky Csupo’s Ginger isn’t as music-intensive, it’s no less challenging. When the show’s in production, composer Faber has to churn out 12 to 15 minutes of music per 23 minutes of footage each week. Unlike Bear, however, the music for the tween-targeted Ginger is more in tune with contemporary musical tastes.
‘I try not to make it too [condescendingly] ‘kidsy’. It’s music that kids of that age group would listen to,’ says Faber, who co-wrote the theme tune (sung by popster Macy Gray) with pal and Ginger creator Emily Kapnek. Contracted to score another two seasons of Ginger, Faber is also developing music for a number of kid-targeted pilots from New York-based prodco Honest Entertainment, including a preschool show called Terry Mite.
Reluctant to divulge what he charges, Faber says that composers can get anywhere from US$2,000 to US$22,000-plus for a half-hour network show, noting that theme songs generally garner a premium tab. That’s not including the residuals composers receive whenever their music is sold or airs across any format or medium.