Clausen, Alf

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'The Simpsons' have survived the test of time in TV land for many reasons. A significant contributor to that success is the fun and imaginative music behind Homer and the gang. We took the show's music composer Alf Clausen ou

DM) I know you write the music, but do you also write the lyrics?

AC) The songs' lyrics are written by the writers of the scripts and are always incorporated into the scripts as story points. I receive script pages containing the song lyrics, and I then compose the music to the lyrics.

DM) Since you must work under tight deadlines, are there any songs that you wish you had recorded a different way but couldn't because of the time element?

AC) The time pressures have both positive and negative effects on the creative process. There certainly are moments when we all look back and wish we had had a few more days to do things differently, but for the most part, the pressures have a positive effect on the "creative juices." Having to create a substantial amount of material within a relatively short period of time often makes the creative impulses flow more freely. I often compose in styles that probably would not have occurred to me if I'd had a lot of leisure time to ponder the challenge. In light of that fact, I think the answer to your question is that I'm very satisfied with the way the songs have turned out.

DM) In keeping with "The Simpsons" tradition of having guest stars, who else would you like to come on the show and sing with the Simpsons?

AC) There's a long list, including Harry Connick Jr., Diana Krall, Buddy Greco, Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme, and a host of others. I'd love to see more exposure for the great true jazz singers of our day.

DM) How involved are you with guiding the actors through the singing? It must be an honor to work with all of these big names.

AC) For the most part, I'm not too involved in recording the actors, because I'm busy every week composing a new score and/or songs for upcoming episodes. The actors are guided through the singing of my songs by my music editors Chris Ledesma and Bob Beecher. They are both excellent musicians, and they get terrific performances out of the actors and guest performers. I did, however, record both Tito Puente and His Latin jazz Ensemble, and also U2. Both of those experiences were really enjoyable.

DM) What music did you grow up listening to?

AC) I grew up listening to a wide variety of music. I played the French horn in an excellent high school concert band and sang in an equally good school choir, so I was exposed to classic instrumental and vocal concert literature at an early age. In addition, I loved TV shows like "American Bandstand" and was a big fan of the early R&B artists like Fats Domino, Chubby Checker, Little Richard and Elvis (when he was still alive -really!). And, to top it off, I was fascinated by the film music of Henry Mancini. So, as you can see, my early musical background was quite diverse.

DM) What's your favorite episode?

AC) I have many. One of my favorites is "Cape Fear," with Kelsey Grammer as Sideshow Bob.

DM) Any great episodes I can look out for?

AC) From a music perspective, I've composed quite a few new songs, including one for Shawn Colvin, that will certainly get the attention of the fans in the upcoming episodes.

DM) You've released a few Simpsons CDs. What's the next project you're working on for release?

AC) I'm taking a breather from other projects for a moment. If "Go Simpsonic With The Simpsons" does well, I'm hoping to start work on a third volume of my Simpsons music before too long. I have many new songs coming up in future episodes, so there'll be quite a few new musical surprises for the fans.

DM) I remember that in the beginning of the series, it seemed that every year people quoted it as potentially "the last." When do you think the phenomenon might end?

AC) The ratings are good, we have fans the world over, and the series shows no sign of letting up. It's still uproariously funny after all these years. Who could ask for anything more? As of the moment, there's no end in sight.

 

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