The Doctor Blake Mysteries, interview with the composer Dale Cornelius

Hi, I’m Dale Cornelius. I compose the music
for The Doctor Blake Mysteries and welcome to my studio. One of the things I really enjoyed
about working on this show, was that I had an opportunity to really work with theme
and thematic development. I composed the music principally for violin, cello, piano, classical
acoustic guitar and there was a little bit of electric guitar, which we used a Stratocaster
hooked into a vintage 50’s blues amp, and also vibraphone, zither and a little bit of
harp; occasionally some ensemble strings. I also incorporated some atmospheric tones
and synthesised generated tones, in amongst all those acoustic instruments to create a darker undertone.
George Adams was the producer and when he came to speak to me about working on the Blake
Mysteries, we talked about what his influences were leading up to creating the series. So this is the theme we originally came up with. You’ll notice that the melody is still the same and everything else is quite a bit different. These are of course, all sampled instruments; there’s no live instruments, because they were just
rough sketches. In the end, the producers decided that
this theme was too ‘feel good’ and wasn’t dark enough for the series and so we had
to look for other options. At this point, nothing had actually been shot, so we were
all flying in the dark a little bit. The theme went through various permutations,
but we seemed to keep coming back to this really strong melody, which everyone
really latched on to, but it was just how to present that melody that worked with the
show. Then once we finally saw one of the episodes that was cut and got a sense
of what the show was about, it all made a lot more sense…and so I came up with the
theme that you’ve heard. So, this is the theme I came with once I had a visual concept of
what the show was about. Same melody.
But in a minor key. So I kept the melody and created this counterpoint
line with the cello. Leaving percussion out of the score was a
conscious choice, ah, to create a stylistic sound for the show.
I wanted to create the rhythm through the instruments themselves, of the cello, the
violin and the piano, the harp and the zither, vibraphone, and create an atmosphere
and ambience just through that ensemble. Of course, the main theme is presented in
various ways throughout the show as well. And finally, at the end of the series (1),
it gets presented in a major key, for the first time. So that’s quite a bit
of build up; that’s 10 hours…. 10 hours of build up to hear it in a happy key, and it’s
quite a nice moment when it finally does occur. It was wonderful working on this show because
I got to explore melody. I think because of the period of the show, I wanted to combine
great melodies, with atmospheric tones, and melodies that had enough life in them
to….to weave and twist and work their way all the through (the series). I hope that’s given you some idea of how I created the style musically for the show and
I really hope you get to watch The Doctor Blake Mysteries! It’s a great show, it was
so much fun to work on, and thanks for listening.