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Law & Order’s Mike Post on Bluegrass, the Blues, and Whether It’s “Dun-Dun” or “Cha-Ching”

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Right now, it takes composer Mike Post an afternoon to write the music for a new episode of Law & Order. It’s only taken him about “30 some odd years” to get to that point.

“It depends on the episode and how much music there is, but I know the lane I’m in pretty well,” he tells Consequence. “Maybe it takes me a day, and then the two guys I work with, Andy [Birkhimer] and Jon [O’Hara], they’ll take at least two days to polish and tweak and fine-tune the thing. But I’m usually done in four hours or five hours, six hours, something like that.”

Post’s ability to work so fast on his two current shows (Law & Order and Law & Order: SVU) comes from both his decades of experience as a composer as well as the way technology has changed the process today. In a pre-digital age — “before VCRs, even,” he says — creating the music for an episode of television would be a multi-day, multi-step process involving a trip to the studio to watch the episode, days of composition, and a live recording session with an orchestra.

Thanks to modern technology, though, his work today is “more like the job began years and years ago in the silent movie houses, with organists looking at the picture and just playing music, classically-based usually, to accompany the picture. Those are our forefathers. We’re doing it kind of the same way they were doing it. We’ve just got a lot more firepower than a piano or an organ.”

What happens when there are no pictures that require musical accompaniment, though? That’s what Post faced in 2020, after the pandemic shut down all film and TV production for several months, and what led to the creation of Message from the Mountains & Echoes of the Delta, a new album of bluegrass and blues compositions.

Post thinks of the album as “two pieces — however, they have a commonality in that they would’ve never happened if it hadn’t been for television taking a [pause].” The idea to explore the bluegrass genre came first, he says, because he realized that “I don’t think I’ve ever heard a concert piece with a five-piece bluegrass band and an orchestra, and have it be a conversation.”

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