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Interview: Composer Trevor Morris Ready for "Vikings" Season 3

Composer Trevor Morris conducting at the Score! Emmy concert
Composer Trevor Morris conducting at the Score! Emmy concert
Courtesy of Trevor Morris

Composer Trevor Morris feels lucky that he’s been able to score such television shows as “The Tudors” and “Vikings” which have rich stories and characters.

“We’re in this amazing ‘Second Golden Age of Television’ where people can really understand a quality show when they see it. ‘Vikings’ didn’t have a pilot, ‘Tudors' didn’t have a pilot.’ These shows were like ‘Let’s make it,’” Morris explained when reached by phone for an exclusive interview. “I think audiences are growing up and have a thirst for more intelligent, character-driven stuff.”

Showcasing the Viking culture on the History Channel

When talking about the show, Morris has high praise for Michael Hirst, the creator of “Vikings.”

“Michael really wanted to showcase that part of the culture that doesn’t get that much attention,” Morris said. “[The Vikings] are known for their brutality; they are big and tall and became conquerors. But there’s a whole other side of them that no one gets to know. This show is really exposing that.”

As he always does, the composer does a lot of research before writing the music for “Vikings.” He didn’t like all the instruments he and his team found in terms of what they did, however, but a few are in the score.

“There’s a fiddle-esque instrument called the hardanger, which is really beautiful. It has some resonating strings,” he said. “There’s also a very, very small instrument called the tagelharpa, almost like an erhu, a Chinese erhu. It’s this little rusty, squeezy, bowed thing. It’s in all the battle cues in Season 2. Something about it speaks to that Norse kind of primitive folk culture. It’s funny: it’s such a small instrument, but it speaks so big on screen.”

Raw cuts and locked pictures

Like its loyal fan base, Morris is anxious to learn what’s in store for Season 3 of “Vikings.” In August, he expects to see the first raw cuts of upcoming episodes.

“This show and a show like ‘The Tudors’ that I’ve worked on, I really have a great situation where I almost always work with a locked picture,” Morris said. “That’s very rare: in TV and movies, things are forever changing. I see early cuts just for my own reference to get a feel for it, but as for starting to work, I tend to work from the finished picture.”

Even if an episode changes along the way, Morris said he tries to write the best melodies he can, and they usually fit somewhere.

“My job is to write good music and tell the best story I can. When I know what the story arc is about, if the picture changes, we can usually find a way to make it work. I haven’t read scripts for Season 3 yet, but I will. I usually do on shows like this so I will know where our characters are going,” he explained.

Morris also points out that “Vikings” Season 2 was quite a bit different from Season 1: “For Season 3, I have this desire to freshen it up again. Of course, the DNA will be there, but I have this desire to find something new to say and try to evolve the score. I actually have this desire to find new instruments, new vocalists, and new ideas and try to push it forward. We’ll see if I can pull it off, but at the moment, that’s the plan.”

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