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Published on June 27th, 2018 | by Darren Paltrowitz


David Schwartz On Writing Music For “Arrested Development” & What Else Is Coming Up For Him

A “semi-original” series that origially aired three seasons on FOX, Arrested Development is one of the shows that helped popularize Netflix as a producer of original content. One of the things that makes Arrested Development stand out from other comedies is its multi-genred score. For all five seasons of Arrested Development, the series’ music has been overseen by award-winning composer David Schwartz, who first earned acclaim for his work on the CBS hit Northern Exposure.

Season 5 of Arrested Development launched after Memorial Day Weekend 2018, with eight more episodes set to premiere later this year. I asked about that and more to David Schwartz in our Q&A, of which the highlights are posted below. More on the popular composer — who has also contributed music to the Netflix series Lady Dynamite, HBO favorite Deadwood, and the NBC shows The Good Place and Better Late Than Ever — can be found online at www.davidschwartzmusic.com.

How long did you spend composing for this season of Arrested Development?

David Schwartz: We were doing two or three episodes at a time, so pretty much the great majority of my waking hours. About three months for the first eight episodes of season five. We’re about to start the second half of the season. Every season is always compressed and intense, and I love every minute of it!

When writing for the show, are you giving the video of the show and told to add music? Given free reign to score based on what you think will fit?

David Schwartz: Yes, we start scoring each episode late in the post-production process. Sometimes, the episodes are not locked, but they’re pretty close. Free reign, not exactly. But I have a tremendous amount of creative freedom with Arrested. I get together with Mitchell Hurwitz, the creator of the show, and the music editor, and we discuss each scene and what it needs, musically. As soon as I get back from that meeting, I start writing.

Was the creative process any different for this season than prior ones?

David Schwartz: Although the creative process is similar, I always try to up the musical value with each season. We have the luxury of a great deal of time between seasons, four years in this case, so when I return to composing for AD it always feels fresh, and I have new ideas.

What is your main instrument for composing? I ask because the music of Arrested Development not only involves different genres, but it also has different instruments taking on the lead melodies.

David Schwartz: Most of the time I’m writing at a keyboard, though I’ve been known to write on a guitar, bass, or ukulele. There are times when I’ll write with one instrument in mind, say piano, and it ends up being a muted trumpet or a slide guitar.

I know you had worked with Gabriel Mann on prior seasons, before he became a top composer in his own right. Had you had any mentors in your earlier days as a composer?

David Schwartz: I wish I had had the opportunity to study/mentor under another composer. I had to figure out how to do everything myself while doing Northern Exposure, my first scoring experience. I must say, there is something great about discovering everything that way. I’m sure it would have been great to work under someone else, but I don’t think the results would have been the same.

Arrested Development isn’t the only show of Mitch’s you have written music for. Did you and him know each other before working on Arrested Development?

David Schwartz: We met the first time when he was a show-runner. It was the last season of The John Larroquette Show. I’ve been lucky to work with Mitch on so many of his projects. I can’t say enough great things about him, how about this: he’s the smartest, the nicest, and the funniest person I know. It’s always inspiring to have a creative relationship with someone like Mitchell Hurwitz.

Were you in bands growing up? Or did you really just want to be a composer all along?

David Schwartz: I was always in bands, I never really considered being a composer. I played in a wide variety of bands, orchestra, jazz, country, rock, you name it. I did a small movie by my friend DJ Webster that never came out. One of about 25 people who saw that film was Cheryl Bloch, who went on to co-produce Northern Exposure. She liked the score to Skeeter’s Wings — DJ’s film — and asked me if I would try to write a theme for Northern Exposure. They ended up choosing that theme and hired me as the show’s composer. Although I was flying by the seat of my pants, I fell in love with composing and that has been my path since then.

Are you able to work on multiple scoring gigs at the same time?

David Schwartz: Yes. These days I think a composer has to be able to work on multiple projects at the same time.

With half of Arrested Development‘s season now out in the world, what are you currently working on?

David Schwartz: Season five is actually 16 episodes split into two releases of eight, so I’ll be going back to AD in a week or so. I just finished a great movie starring Billy Crystal and Ben Schwartz. I’ll also be starting season three of The Good Place, which is also a very special project for me. I’ve really been very fortunate to get to work on a variety of very special TV shows and films this year.

When not busy with music, how do you like to spend your free time?

David Schwartz: Spending time with my family. I do a lot of photography. I especially like to take photos of musicians and instruments. I’m also a tennis enthusiast, and love to bike ride.

What was the last concert you attended for fun?

David Schwartz: I try to see live music as much as I can. There is an abundance of great music to see in the clubs in L.A. I recently saw the L.A. Philharmonic with Esa-Pekka performing Beethoven, and the conductor’s piece Wing On Wing. It was a spectacular program. I got to go backstage with one of the orchestra’s bassists, Peter Rofe. All in all it was a very special experience.

Finally, David, any last words for the kids?

David Schwartz: No touching!

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About the Author

Darren Paltrowitz is a New York resident with over 20 years of entertainment industry experience. He began working around the music business as a teenager, interning for the manager of his then-favorite band Superdrag. Since then, he has worked with a wide array of artists including OK Go, They Might Be Giants, Mike Viola, Tracy Bonham, Loudness, Rachael Yamagata, and Amanda Palmer. Darren's writing has appeared in dozens of outlets including the New York Daily News, Inquisitr, The Daily Meal, The Hype Magazine, All Music Guide, Guitar World, TheStreet.com, Businessweek, Chicago Tribune, L.A. Times, and the Jewish Journal. Beyond being "Editor At Large" for The Hype Magazine, Darren is also the host of weekly "Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz" series, which airs on dozens on television and digital networks. He has also co-authored 2 published books, 2018's "Pocket Change: Your Happy Money" (Book Web Publishing) and 2019's "Good Advice From Professional Wrestling" (6623 Press), and co-hosts the world's only known podcast about David Lee Roth, "The DLR Cast."

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