Working on this blog series has reminded that some of the most enduring music I've created had decidedly unpretentious beginnings. This is certainly true of a piece I composed for Cooper University Hospital that became one of my longest-running themes in the Philly market.
The project began with a frantic phone call from Jon Harcharek, then Creative Director of Winning Strategies Advertising. The agency had produced a new campaign for Cooper only to discover that another advertiser was using the same stock music they had selected for their spots. This isn't unusual. Stock libraries stay on top of current trends in music because producers tend to want the latest thing. American Beauty had won Best Picture in 2000, and Thomas Newman's ethereal, marimba-infused score had a distinctive vibe that would appeal to a wide range of advertisers, making it a prime candidate for a library knockoff. And with fewer libraries to choose from in those days, the odds of multiple producers selecting the same music were much higher. When Jon sent me a copy of the stock piece I immediately recognized it from a number of spots I had seen.
My job was to compose something that sounded similar to the stock track without infringing on either it or the Thomas Newman original--in other words, to create a knock off of the knock off. I suggested doing something entirely original, but while Jon was open to the idea he indicated that his client was very happy with the stock piece and unlikely to approve a drastic change. Time was of the essence, so I produced three demos in a single day, one of which featured a marimba part much like the one from American Beauty. I was hardly surprised when Jon called to say that this was the one his client preferred. So I added a few additional elements, finalized the mix, and created the various versions the agency had requested. I sent the finished track over to Shooters, and within a few days the revised spots were on the air.
The piece wound up backing every Cooper radio and TV spot for the next nine years, including a popular series featuring spokesperson Kelly Ripa, and remained in use even after the account was taken over by North Carolina-based Jennings Healthcare Marketing (something that rarely happens when a new agency steps in). It was finally replaced when The Campaign Group hired me to compose a new theme for spots announcing Cooper's partnership with MD Anderson in 2013. But my "Marimba" theme was not quite ready for retirement; it remains in use as Cooper's on-hold music, as I am reminded whenever I call my doctor's office.
Chuck Butler is celebrating his 30th anniversary as Baker Sound's in-house composer. For more information about Baker's music division, visit our dedicated MONSTER TRACKS website.