Ten Minutes with Mark Snow
Award winning musical composer for TV shows including “The X-Files,” “Smallville,” and “Blue Bloods.”
Photo by Douglas Foulke
Mark Snow has composed music for some of the most successful television series, including “The X-Files,” “Starsky & Hutch,” “Smallville,” and “Blue Bloods.” He has won 34 ASCAP awards. A Washington resident, he also scored orchestral pieces for Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, Children of the Dust, The Day Lincoln Was Shot, and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
Were you musically inclined as a child?
My mother was a kindergarten teacher and proficient in basic piano; my father was a drummer who played with the big bands and on Broadway. My start in music was when they wanted me to take piano lessons, and I said I’d do it only if I could stay up and watch “I Love Lucy.” I won and went to High School of Music and Art and then on to Juilliard.
When did you first enter the music world professionally?
I had a roommate named Michael Kamen. He and I formed a group called The New York Rock Ensemble. We dressed up in white tie and tails and performed. We took the Branden-burg Concerto and did a heavy-metal version and then slid into our acoustic mode. We became the darlings of New York society, playing for Paleys, Plimptons, and Rockefellers. We lasted about five years. That’s when I decided I wanted to compose music for film and television.
Is that when you moved to LA?
Yes, it was my wife who decided we should go to LA where she had family. I would write for TV shows, become wildly successful, and live happily ever after. So we drove across country, and six months later I got my first job doing music for an Aaron Spelling series called “The Rookies.”
When you are hired for a show, do you have to read the script first?
Reading doesn’t tell you much. Ideally I get a video of the show. Usually they’ve dubbed in music trying to give me an idea of what they are looking for. Then I go off and start writing.
You have done music for some of television’s most successful shows. Do you have a favorite?
One would definitely be “The X-Files.” The quality and creativity of the show were so fantastic. It was like doing a mini-movie every week. My other favorite would be the work I did for French director Alain Resnais. He saw reruns of “X-Files” in France and hired me to write music for his movie Private Fears in Public Places.
What brought you back to the east coast?
LA was changing. We had great fun there but it lost its appeal, even though it has the best weather in the world. We lived in Santa Monica and our wonderful Main Street turned into Rodeo Drive.
You have three daughters. Are any of them following in your footsteps?
No. One of them is a marvelous masseuse; the other two are twins and work together in a commercial art studio.
What do you like about living here?
We have made wonderful friends. In LA, you get close to people you were working with on a project, but once it was over, so was the relationship. There is such consistency in this community and you get to know everyone’s name.