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How do you put music to child sexual abuse — especially if the accused predators are musical icons?
That’s the challenge composers Chad Hobson and Nathan Matthew David faced as they scored HBO’s “Leaving Neverland” and Lifetime’s “Surviving R. Kelly,” respectively. The documentaries are built around interviews with the alleged victims of Michael Jackson (two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who claim Jackson abused them as children) and Kelly (more than a dozen women who contend that Kelly seduced them while still teenagers).
Hobson - Los - David - Approaches - Interviews
London-based Hobson and Los Angeles-based David took very different approaches, yet in interviews with Variety stressed that they took pains to avoid sensationalizing or overly dramatizing the stories. “Neverland” featured acoustic musicians while “Kelly” was a studio production using synths and samples.
“The scoring approach to ‘Leaving Neverland’ was to imagine a walk through a beautiful and magical forest,” says Hobson. “But as you travel deeper into the forest it becomes darker, more distorted, the limbs of the trees becoming more twisted and sinister. … It needed to sound rich and filmic, fairy-tale like.”
Hobson - Soloists - Sessions - Schedule - Orchestrators
Hobson recorded full orchestra plus soloists over multiple sessions. “The schedule was extremely tight, so I used orchestrators in different time zones” to handle the detail work of preparing scores — more than two and a half hours of music, he estimates.
Complicating matters, emotionally speaking, was the unexpected death of Hobson’s father the Friday before he began work. “In many ways this score is about loss,” he says, “loss of innocence, loss of my father, loss of an icon.”
David - R - Kelly - Music - Months
David worked on the “R. Kelly” music for several months and, as it was a six-part series of one-hour shows (as opposed to the two-part, four-hour Jackson doc) that were in a constant state of flux with new footage being added, he wrote much of his music “away...
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