Score Bard

Article by Sarah Walker

For those of us with more, ahem, discerning ears, film scoring — the instrumental music written to enhance a story’s drama — can make or break a production. Ideally, it’s a thing of beauty that transports us, conveying emotions the images cannot. In reality, it can be an unrelenting assault on the senses, or overly dramatic schmaltz that offends our intelligence.

But not when it’s the work of L.A.-based film composer Craig Wedren.

“I always look at the music as the final character — this ghost that floats through,” says Wedren. “You’re not aware of it, you don’t know why you’re thinking or feeling the way you are, and this is frequently because of this all-important, nonverbal final character.”

Wedren’s composing style is versatile by nature — after all, pros have to adapt to each project and whatever music is required. But what catches our ear every time are his more languid, atmospheric scores, which is unexpected for someone who started out in D.C.’s legendary Dischord Records scene, fronting the post-punk band Shudder to Think (think Fugazi-type hardcore, but with Wedren’s dreamy, operatic pipes). But as the band achieved major-label status in the 1990s, touring with groups like Smashing Pumpkins and Pavement, Wedren’s interests began to drift toward film scoring, and in 1997, he and his bandmates hit the mother lode: writing and performing songs for Todd Haynes’ glam-rock opus, Velvet Goldmine, and composing scores for Jesse Peretz’s adaptation of Ian McEwan’s First Love, Last Rites, and Lisa Cholodenko’s debut feature, High Art.

Shudder to Think eventually disbanded, but Wedren’s newfound career took off. Twenty years later, this professional film composer has a résumé full of winners, including David Wain’s Wet Hot American Summer and Richard Linklater’s School of Rock, along with an impressive list of TV credits, like Hung, Reno 911!, and The United States of Tara. In 2017, Wedren and Pink Ape — the name of his studio as well as his soundtrack “collective” of musician and composer friends — created the score for the hit Netflix series GLOW, and he also released an electro-acoustic solo record, his first since 2011, titled Adult Desire.

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