If you are in the mood for mystery, just watch any project that Torin Borrowdale has worked on. As a film and television composer, Borrowdale has added his unique sound to exciting projects including the Netflix series Locke & Key, the dramatic feature Searching, and the upcoming thriller Run. With the incredible ability to affect the mood of the visual image without overwhelming it, Borrowdale has shaped the way that audiences around the world experience their media. Last week, Blast Magazine had the chance to speak to Torin Borrowdale about his recent work on the hit series Locke & Key and his creative collaboration with director and screenwrite Aneesh Chaganty.
Blast Magazine: You’ve had the opportunity to work on some fantastic television and film in the past. What made Locke & Key feel like the right project for you to take on next?
Torin Borrowdale: What excited me about Locke & Key was the prospect of crafting the score from the ground up. It’s this whole world that already exists in the comic books; I felt like I was really helping bring it to life in the Netflix version. It was a great puzzle given the sheer number of characters and the breadth of dramatic situations they encounter. Luckily, with the tremendous expressive power of the orchestra, I had a vast richness at my disposal to match the depth of the narrative and characters on screen. Being able to compose the themes from the beginning was important and made the score a vital component of these characters’ introduction to the world.
Blast Magazine: Locke & Key has a lot of mystery and intrigue embedded in its storylines. Were there specific instruments you focused on to achieve that sound and build that feeling of suspense for viewers?
Borrowdale: The whole show is just one mystery after another and many of them needed their own musical identifiers. One of my favorites is the “drowning caves” theme, which is played on the flute and is meant to sound like ghostly whispers on the ocean wind. It’s very atmospheric: a few notes played very quietly that just linger in the air. You hear it a lot towards the beginning of the show when the characters discuss the tragedy. And the theme develops over the course of the season. When the kids go down to the caves for the first time, the mood becomes much more adventurous so the full-blown melodic version plays. When the tragedy is finally revealed, the theme is heard as an elegy, again whispered in the flutes. Having definitive themes like this helps complete the many story arcs and separates them from one another.
Blast Magazine: How does your process differ when you score a television show compared to a film?
Borrowdale: I approached Locke & Key very much like a very long film, with lots of characters. It was important for me to establish the main themes early: the family theme, Bode’s theme, and Scot and Kinsey’s love theme, because they needed to be molded to fit so many different moods and change over the course of the season. Under the constraints of a film, I wouldn’t be able to expand on these themes and explore their many dramatic uses. Bode’s theme, for instance, remains the same throughout but the modality surrounding the theme shifts. It’s very mysterious when he’s exploring the wellhouse, it’s very whacky when we step into his head, and it grows more mature by the end of the season. I would have done the same for a film character, but television provides many more scenarios to fully explore the theme’s possibilities.
Blast Magazine: What would be your best piece of advice for an aspiring composer?
Borrowdale: I’d happily pass this advice along to any aspiring composer because it certainly worked for me: “Write bold demos.” John Powell gave us that advice in a film scoring workshop and it stuck with me when I wrote the theme for Locke & Key. Many composers, and I’m guilty of this as well, tend to write very “safe” music that we know works but doesn’t make much of a statement. I wanted to make sure that my demo made a statement, whether that was going to hit the nail on the head or be completely wrong. And, luckily, I must have done something right because that demo became the show’s theme song.
Blast Magazine: With 10 episodes in its first season, what was the process like scoring Locke & Key and approximately how long did it take you from start to finish?
Borrowdale: I came on early while they were still editing, so I was able to send the post production team themes that I had written and they requested I score short scenes where temp music wasn’t obvious. This helped tremendously because it allowed me to prioritize the themes and make sure each one fit the characters and the show. It also allowed me to get ahead of the recording schedule, which, as always happens, gets compressed before completion. It also allowed everyone to get used to my score during the long editing process so that the score grew naturally infused into the show.
Blast Magazine: You seem to have a tendency to work on projects, like Searching and Run, that are more dramatic and suspenseful. Is that a conscious decision by you or are those just the projects that people want you to work on?
Borrowdale: I love collaborating with the same filmmakers again and again so it’s really a coincidence that the genres have turned out that way. As the working relationship grows, the creative process gets clarified. And as an artist, that opens up more opportunities for more creative expression. The projects I’ve worked on so far have allowed me to grow within certain genres but haven’t been so narrow that I get bored.
Blast Magazine: The films Run and Searching were both directed and written by Aneesh Chaganty. What has your creative experience been like with him and is your professional relationship more collaborative or independent?
Borrowdale: Working with Aneesh is extremely collaborative. I’m convinced he would write his own scores if he could, as he’s so detailed when it comes to the music. And he’s so smart; every picture cut matters so every musical beat matters too. When I work with him, I feel like I’m really translating his cinematic intentions into music. I’m not writing my own take on the music; I’m writing Aneesh’s take. He’s written the script, directed the action, been so involved in the edit, and music is another integral piece of his vision. I think what makes our scores match so well with our films is that we are so collaborative in achieving Aneesh’s intent.