A still from "Mia." Photo Credit: PBS Television.

A still from “Mia.” Photo Credit: PBS Television.

GALO: So in terms of composing music, I think you said on your Web site that cinematic music is your passion — not that you haven’t tried a lot of other formats, but the way you can totally immerse yourself in the process with film is amazing.

DR: Yes. I still actively compose music for concert performances and live events. There was an amazing giant projection event done in the Beverly Hills area. It was called “One Night,” and we took two blocks of the city and turned it into a giant performing space with flying cameras and projectors that would project on these skyscrapers; I wrote live music for that.

GALO: That must have been very exciting!

DR: There was a video posted that’s very fun and it’s called “Fly By-EZTV.” [We found a clip that we believe is the video Raiklen is referring to here.]

GALO: Well, I’m sure that was a popular project.

DR: Oh yes. The streets were just packed with folks that were out on the town, and suddenly this amazing show started to happen — they filled up the streets and grassy areas to watch it and everybody stayed.

GALO: Sounds fascinating.

DR: It was a live event with live musicians…that is definitely part of what I do and I’d love to do more of that.

GALO: Speaking of your involvement with other musicians and the act of composing, I assume your early training was on the keyboard, but do you have other instruments that you work with that are your favorites?

DR: Yes, every instrument that I work with is my favorite that day [laughter].

GALO: I understand that. It’s like when you write stories, your favorite characters are the ones you’re writing at the moment, so whatever that instrument is you’re working with, that’s where your passion is. Since we’re talking about film and your continuing interest in that, there are two things I was interested in hearing more about — one is the vampire-noir pulp project Blood Kiss, with the writer Neil Gaiman, and the other is your work on Space Command.

DR: Yes. Space Command is a series of six adventures set in a hopeful future we can all be a part of, where it’s a kind of retro future that’s going to be a better kind than the present. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, there were all these science fiction stories that called for a future where we would be our best selves, where technology would elevate people out of poverty, which would be the beginning of a new enlightenment. And then starting in the 1970s up to the present day, there was a shift toward these terrible futures — there have always been those in sci-fi, for instance Metropolis [groundbreaking 1927 film by German director Fritz Lang] — but there was also a balance of showing an optimistic, hopeful vision, and that’s been lost in the last few decades. We wanted to do something that would bring back that spirit — that sense of adventure and of being our best selves; that the future could elevate all of us through technology and cooperation. So I was fortunate enough to meet Marc Zicree, one of the greatest sci-fi writers. Marc is the only one to have written on Twilight Zone, Star Trek, Babylon 5, and others. He made every great sci-fi show and has also written several bestselling science fiction novels.

GALO: Yes, I think Marc Zicree is prominently featured on the Web site for Space Command.

DR: He’s great at telling people about the show and the world view we’re building together.

GALO: This is a very hopeful message because for those of us who grew up in the 1950s, there was a feeling with some of the science fiction films of the time that an alien coming to earth was not necessarily a bad thing, but rather that they were trying to remind us of a better way to live, as opposed to our fascination with nuclear warfare. I’m thinking of The Day the Earth Stood Still, starring Michael Rennie. I think that had a very strong message.

DR: It did and it was directed by Robert Weiss, one of the most honored people in the history of the motion picture academy, and it also had the first all electronic band in the history of the world.

GALO: Really?

DR: Science fiction fans and movie fans can be proud. Bernard Herrmann was way ahead of the curve there and it was a wonderful picture. You could actually see the recording session…1951. This is before rock ‘n’ roll, electric guitars, synthesizers and all that.

GALO: That’s fascinating. I didn’t realize that film was so revolutionary for the music of the time. Are you using a lot of electronic music in your own composing now?

DR: Well, I am a person of my time, so yes. I use a lot of electronics but I believe in human performance, so I blend live acoustic instruments with electronics. Violins and movies were just made for each other; whether during a thriller, a romantic comedy or a sci-fi movie, those strings have a rhythm that goes to some ancestral archetypal memory. It tells the story of nature, the world comes alive and you can take it with you. After you’ve finished watching the movie, the music will stay with you.

GALO: So true.

DR: Electronics are so good for creating certain tonalities and atmospheres that suggest the future. Of course, the electronics are always going out of date, so if you are looking at the electronics of the 1950s, it sounds quaint because that’s how they saw the future back then. With all our technology now, we think we have it right — but [what about] in a hundred years? So, acoustics that are played by master artists stand the test of time. You know rock ‘n’ roll still uses acoustic guitars.

GALO: That’s true. Besides your respect for the past and the whole history of classical music and where it’s taken us up to the present, it’s fascinating to see all the new developments that you can be a part of. In line with that, I was interested to read that you’ve been involved with a successful radio program, The Classical Fan Club. That’s an interesting project for you. Has that been an eye-opener in terms of the audience that you’re attracting? Do you find there are more and more young people becoming familiar with the classics?

DR: I evolved the Classical Fan Club into a soundtrack show that appears on “StarShipSofa,” which is a podcast, actually the only one to win a Hugo award, the top award in science fiction. So I find there are soundtrack fans from all ages around the world, and they have a very broad range of tastes. Some people like the symphonic orchestra style and some like the electronic computer sound. Pretty often, people just want something that sounds good.

GALO: Isn’t that the truth. It must be fun to be hosting a show like that. Is it still running?

DR: Yes, I should be getting another episode together soon. I have on my “to do list” to review the soundtrack to The Hobbit.

GALO: What about this new project, Blood Kiss, that’s still in the works.

DR: Well, Blood Kiss is vampire noir; it is Golden Age Hollywood plus vampire. Michael Reaves is a writer who also possibly has 500 screen credits to his name.

GALO: [Pause] 500?

DR: Almost beyond belief. He’s one of the most prolific and respected writers, and he’s a longtime friend and writing partner of Neil Gaiman. He’s a terrific writer and terrific person. It’s a wonderful adventure crossing the sci-fi fantasy world with the golden age of Hollywood.

GALO: I love the idea of that mix.

DR: It was Michael’s idea and then Neil came aboard.

GALO: I’ll be looking forward to that project. Have you received some feedback on Mia?

DR: Well, we just came from Lincoln Center. They had a packed house — people loved it, they were asking questions long past the time they were supposed to. We got a really positive review in the New York Times; we’re starting to get air dates in San Francisco, Portland, and Denver.

GALO: Okay. This is one of those whimsical questions. But I’d like to ask it anyway. Who are some of your favorite composers from the past, living or dead? If you had an opportunity to sit down with them today, who pops into your mind?

DR: Good question. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Debussy, Tchaikovsky…there are so many. I’d like to meet Bartók and Wagner.

GALO: And what about some of the living ones?

DR: James Horner, Scott Moran, James Ferrin, David McMurray are all colleagues and wonderful composers; for concert music, Philip Glass, Stephen Reich, John Adams. I don’t know…I’m a big fan of Stephen Sondheim, his music as well as musicals.

GALO: Sondheim — certainly a giant in my book. That pretty well sums up what I wanted to ask. It just seems you’re a very busy person what with your own enthusiasm and curiosity in so many different directions. Do you see a continuing involvement with your work on Space Command?

DR: I’m a producer on that…we’ve finished photography, we have a terrific cast, and we just need to finish the visual effects. That will all be done, hopefully, in the next few months.

GALO: Well, we can look forward to that. I want to thank you for taking the time to talk about Mia and these other projects. We wish you the very best. Just keep on being as creative as you’ve been and we’ll have lots to look forward to.

DR: Thank you.

For a list of air dates for “Mia,” please visit this Web site by clicking here. If you’d like to learn more about David Raiklen, please visit his Web site.