When the 2009 Emmy nominations were announced a few days ago, only one omission truly irritated me. The nomination list is never perfect, and there are often multitudes of oversights to be called into question, but I never really get too upset. This one blunder was an exception. Michael Giacchino — the supremely talented composer for ABC’s LOST — was nowhere to be found in the ‘Music Composition for a Series’category. Not only should he be nominated every year, not only should he win this category every year, but the award should be named after him. I’d call it the ‘Michael Giacchino Award for Unprecedented Excellence in Television Music Composition.’He is in a class all by himself, and that’s not up for debate.
To paraphrase LOST co-creator and showrunner Damon Lindelof’s statement on the Season 4 DVD, ‘Bad composers will tell you what to feel with their music. Good composers will take what you should already be feeling and personify that feeling through the sounds you hear.’Michael Giacchino would certainly be a ‘good composer’in that description. He doesn’t force you to feel something. He knows what you’re feeling, and his music makes you experience that emotion tenfold. My favorite example of this phenomenon is the track ‘Parting Words’from the Season 1 LOST soundtrack, which plays during the launching of the raft. The viewer is already feeling nervous for the endeavor that lies ahead. Sad for the family and friends that the adventurers are leaving behind. Hopeful at the prospect of rescue. Giacchino swirls all these sentiments into a sweeping composition that really has no business being on the small screen. But Giacchino doesn’t care. He is composing magic.
His brilliance does not end there, however. Beyond the incredible emotions his music highlights, Giacchino is perhaps the most innovative composer in television history. LOST fans will point out that he actually uses spare parts of the fuselage set as percussion. He has employed harps, guitars, xylophones, and other such instruments that are rarely heard on television. His trademarks — the forceful trombone and the versatile strings, the latter of which can exemplify both your feelings of terror and of tremendous pleasure.
The music Giacchino scores for LOST evokes the work of another trailblazing composer, Howard Shore. Giacchino’s majestic compositions are essentially TV’s version of the music in The Lord of the Rings. Shore created pieces that placed you in Middle-earth with the heroes, experiencing the events just as they did. Giacchino does the same for LOST. And for television, well, that’s just remarkable.
Part of me likes to think the Emmy committee left Giacchino off their list because grouping him with these other composers is an insult to him. Of course, that part of me is wrong, but one can dream. Michael Giacchino is one of the great pioneers of modern composition. Do not allow an award show to make you believe otherwise.
(You can also hear Giacchino’s work in FOX’s Fringe, as well as on the big screen in Star Trek, Ratatouille, Up, and many others. Below are just a few examples of his work on LOST.)