The classic Survivor theme is immediately recognizable and evocative of tribal island action, but with the latest iteration of the reality series heading to the realm of the Great Wall, composer Russ Landau brings in elements of classical Chinese music into his latest score for the show. Documentary footage accompanies a behind-the-scenes look at his research, which consists mainly of scouting through the mainland and studying both locations and instruments.
The Emmy-nominated Landau is no stranger to musical scoring, having worked on a number of other series such as SeaQuest DSV and previous versions of Survivor. He also worked on the sound for the movies Telling You with Jennifer Love Hewitt and Nowhere Land. For his work on the upcoming Survivor: China, he interacts with local culture in a Discovery Channel-style documentary, collecting samples of their music for integration into his planned score. The tapings are coupled with blog posts and entries on his latest forays into China’s traditional music scene, and is scheduled to culminate with concerts in Beijing.
However, the attempt to integrate the diverse and wide styles of Chinese music and its myriad traditions is unlikely to be an easy task. Landau’s focus will be set on instrumental arrangements as typical background music, though China’s music is hardly limited to simply that. The nation also has veritably ancient traditions such as opera, patriotic and historical anthems, imperial court music known as yayue, and the modern styles of Cantopop and rock.
Landau’s score is likely to be an aural display of Eastern-sounding mood pieces and themes, without really being able to touch on every single aspect of China’s diverse musical history. Nevertheless, as a series being produced for a Western audience, it will most likely have just the right amount of evocative, emotional-sounding and grandiose Eastern influences that one might find in a Hollywood film or videogame.