Post and Carpenter – The Television Sound

The history of television in the 1980s cannot be told without discussing the music of Mike Post and Pete Carpenter. The team of Post and Carpenter first rose to fame in the 1970s with the music for The Rockford Files, and they even scored a pop chart hit with the theme to The Greatest American Hero. But their work for 1980s TV, especially the cop and detective dramas (such as Hunter) created by producer and writer Stephen Cannell, made their musical style the default sound of American television. They also worked with Cannell on shows like The A-Team, which was decidedly not in the cop/detective mold. Mike Post furthered his influence on the procedural genre after Carpenter’s death with his work on Dick Wolf’s Law and Order franchise, complete with the iconic “dun-dun” sound.

In the American Heritage Center, the Mike Post and Pete Carpenter Collection documents this work and is a great asset to researchers who want to look into this key moment and team in the history of television music. This collection collects the full scope of Post and Carpenter’s work in the 1970s and 1980s, from early shows like Toma and The Rockford Files, continuing on with A-Team and many shows they worked on for Cannell Productions in the 1980s that are not as well remembered, such as Riptide and Hardcastle and McCormick. Also included is Post’s solo efforts on the classic and influential police drama Hill Street Blues, co-created and produced by Stephen Bochco.

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Page 2 of The A-Team main title. From Box 119 of the Mike Post and Pete Carpenter Collection.

The collection mainly consists of the scores and parts used for recording, with most of them also including a cue sheet. These cue sheets are a valuable source of information on the many composers and arrangers who worked in the Post and Carpenter offices and who wrote many of the cues credited to Post and Carpenter, mimicking their iconic style.

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A typical cue sheet, this from an episode of Riptide, note the presence of the many orchestrators, including Walter Murphy. From Box 69 of the Mike Post and Pete Carpenter Collection.

This is not surprising considering that the team were scoring hundreds of hours of television each season. Included on these scores and cue sheets are names such as Ron Jones and Walter Murphy, both of whom have long composition careers of their own, with both even working together on the animated show Family Guy. Ron Jones also worked extensively on Star Trek: The Next Generation and even parodied his music from the show in later work on Family Guy.

 

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The first page of a cue from The A-Team by Ron Jones in the style of Post and Carpenter. Note the placement of his name first as composer and also orchestrator. From Box 119 of the Mike Post and Pete Carpenter Collection.

While the bulk of the collection is the scores, parts, and cue sheets, there are a limited number of “music timing” guides for the 1970s materials, including dozens of such guides from The Rockford Files. These are typed versions of spotting session notes and were used by Post and Carpenter as they went to work on crafting the scores for each episodes. There are a limited number of guides for other, short lived shows, along with some pilots that never went to series.

These materials provide a rich source of research material for film and television music scholars who wish to research the music for one of the most prolific composition teams ever, and whose music accompanied some of the shows that helped set the stage for today’s television landscape.

– Michael Harris, graduate intern

About Tyler Cline

Digital Archivist and head of digital services at the UW American Heritage Center.
This entry was posted in Composers, music. Bookmark the permalink.

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