Emmy Award-winning composer Sean Callery says his ultimate responsibility is to enhance the storytelling in television and movie projects.
"The music is one component. There are many traits that are brought to bear to make a film," Callery explained in an exclusive interview. "I met a few of these people: the casting directors, the lighting guys, and the directors and the actors, of course. They all do such amazing work, and it [all] has to work together in a very unified way or the project suffers."
Currently nominated for "Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music" for Showtime's "Homeland," Callery now has 12 Emmy nominations under his belt, one of which he refers to as a "funny asterisk."
"I used to be a music director for Olivia Newton-John; I was going to go on tour with her back in the early '90s. She took ill, she had a health issue. She got better, but the tour had to be canceled," he said.
In need of a job, Callery took night shift work designing sound effects for "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine." One of his nominations is for being part of the sound crew for the series.
"My sound design experience on 'Deep Space Nine' was part of the education. I learned a lot about composing being on the mix stage of a show as high-end as the 'Trek' series. You were seeing how sound effects, music, and dialogue work together to tell the tale, to tell the story, in the best possible way," Callery explained.
Part of his job on the series was doing sound design for aliens, moods, and so forth. "I have to think that affected a little bit of me when I went on to '24.' Sound design sometimes can be a very wonderful flavor in modern scores. It's exciting; it's innovative; it's exploring," he said.
As a composer, Callery is part of what he calls a long production train. By the time he starts work on an episode of "Homeland," for instance, the work is so high-end that he is very grateful to be part of the show.
"When I first read the ['Homeland'] script, they asked me what I thought of it. The first thing that I felt intrinsically was that it would be cool to try some sort of jazz language, if we could. I hadn't done that on any of my other projects before," he said.
As the producers started experimenting with concepts, Callery said it became clear to him that the main title was going to have a sort of mosaic of chaotic imagery representing all the terrorists and political activity that took place in our world over the last three decades.
"[The main title] has a lot of wonderful sound effects and dialogue, and yet underneath it is this jazz piece. This piece with a jazz quintet playing this track; it features a solo trumpet. It's almost like a human cry, quite frankly. Very mournful," Callery explained. "It weaves in and out of this violent imagery in sort of a calmer, more mournful way."
The 64th Annual Emmy Awards will be broadcast on ABC on Sunday, 9/23, at 7PM ET/4PM PT.