Even though there was a two year wait between Season one and two of Netflix’s Black Summer, viewers have spoken, and solidified the series as a fan favorite. Last week, the second season of Black Summer quickly jumped to Netflix’s overall Top ten list and Top ten list for TV shows. Netflix’s official Season two synopsis reads: “Winter comes with cold-blooded new challenges during the zombie apocalypse as frantic scavengers and violent militias battle the dead and desperate.”
There are many elements that stick out about the show, one of those being the original score by Alec Puro (Netflix’s The Crew, Hulu’s The Mighty Ones). We wanted to pull back the curtain on the musical component of the show, so we conducted the below exclusive Q&A with Puro.
Wicked Horror: Did you use a lot of the same themes in Season two, as you did in Season one?
Alec Puro: There are definitely a few themes from season one that appear in season two but they are more evolved and developed to fit this current season and the evolution of the show. For the most part I created mostly new themes for this current season.
Wicked Horror: Can you talk about the new themes you created for Season two?
Alec Puro: Because season two takes place in the winter and in much more rugged terrain than season one, I really wanted to compliment that with the new themes I created. This meant being very aware of the surroundings and leaving room for all the natural atmospheric sounds that come from the extreme cold, snow, etc. I really try to support everything happening on screen with the score and not get in the way which I feel gives the show a much more naturalistic real feel.
Wicked Horror: What did pre-production on Season two look like for you?
Alec Puro: When I begin each season I start very early on in the process by experimenting with different sounds, theme ideas and writing full pieces before I actually see or score to picture. For season two I definitely started by writing a bunch of new themes early on as well as developing existing themes further that we thought would work to continue in season two.
Wicked Horror: Does the show’s creator, John Hyams, have a very specific vision for how he wants the score to sound in each episode?
Alec Puro: Definitely, John has a very specific vision for the overall sound of the score as well as how score is used in each episode. John and I share a lot of the same sensibilities when it comes to music in film and TV. Because of this, we are very in sync when it comes to talking about and creating music for show. John guides me but also gives me a lot of freedom to experiment and come up with new themes and ideas for the series.
Wicked Horror: How much of the setting influences your score? For instance, in Season 2twothe show now takes place in winter with a lot of snow.
Alec Puro: The setting of the show definitely influences the score and what sounds I use to create it. Since winter was the backdrop of this season I really didn’t want to get in the way of things like how silent and muffled the sound of snow falling can be or what it sounds like when you are in the extreme outdoors, etc. To effectively compliment that desolate, lonely environment I took an even more stripped-down minimalistic approach to certain scenes to achieve the desired tone and feel.
Wicked Horror: What instruments do you find yourself frequently using to create the musical world of Black Summer?
Alec Puro: For Black Summer I find myself experimenting a lot with different synth sounds, drums/percussive sounds and even some guitar at times and running them through old guitar pedals and FX units to find new combinations that create cool new textures and soundscapes. I don’t really use any organic instrument sounds in Black Summer…and if they start out organic sounding, I mostly try to destroy them with FX, etc. and turn them into something completely different. Since the story takes place in a world that is so destroyed, I try to apply that same mindset to the sounds I use within the score.
Wicked Horror: IGN recently described Black Summer as “Minimalist without losing any spectacle.” Would you describe your score as minimalist too?
Alec Puro: I would definitely describe my score as minimal, having a very dark, atmospheric, electronic soundscape type of sound. I try and create a more minimalistic atmospheric/ambient sound which I feel really helps enhance what’s happening on screen. I work very closely with the sound designers on the show to create a seamless soundscape between the score and sound design that doesn’t distract from what’s happening in any given scene but enhances everything in a realistic and terrifying way. The score and sound design become one at many points which really helps build the anxiety and danger in a scene. Since the show is so engaging on its own, my goal with the music is to support and enhance that tension or anxiety in a scene without being distracting or even sometimes noticing there is any music at all.
Wicked Horror: How do you decide when less is more?
Alec Puro: My objective is to always service the story and enhance the viewer’s experience. What’s happening on screen really dictates when music should be more present or not. I always start out with a more minimalistic approach on this show but definitely add lots of layers when creating a cue which gives me options in the end if/when I start to peel things back for certain scenes.
Wicked Horror: What is your favorite part of working on Black Summer?
Alec Puro: I really enjoy the creative freedom and being a small part of what I think is a really amazing show. The tone and feel of the music I get to make for the show is some of my favorite type of music to create. Also, being surrounded by a team that is so talented in all their respective fields is truly inspiring. John Hyams has really given me the creative liberty to explore my musical palette while also servicing his vision for the show which has led to this project being one of my favorites to work on.
Wicked Horror: What would you personally like to see happen in Season 3?
Alec Puro: I thought the geographic backdrop of this season played a big part in the story telling and overall tone of the show. It would be really cool for season 3 to take place in an entirely different and extreme location to inform the story telling, music, etc. in a totally different way.