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Catching up with composer Matt Novack, ’02

June 18th, 2013

Matt Novack is a composer for film, television, and the web whose credits include the films Wanderlust and Rose White and the TV series United States of Tara and Don’t Trust the B- in Apartment 23. His recent work includes scoring Childrens Hospital, a TV show that originated as a web series and was picked up by Adult Swim. The satirical show is set to air its fourth season this fall.

Matt Novack

Matt Novack

Comedian Rob Corddry, creator of the Webby Award–winning series, acknowledged how important the score is to the show’s mood and progression in a 2008 interview, saying, “We’ve got a great composer, Matt Novack. Those people completely astound me, especially Matt. I can say, ‘I want this scene to go this way,’ and two minutes later, it will. It’s insane.”

Read on to learn about Novack’s composing process, his upcoming projects, and his love of beer nuggets.

You’ve composed for several genres—how does genre affect your composing process, and is there a genre you prefer composing for?

Genre affects how I begin writing a piece. Each genre has its own unique requirement, so I start with that kernel or focus to build the rest of the piece. With an action cue, it’s usually rhythm or ostinato, but with drama it’s usually a chord progression or melodic hook. After that, my process stays the same no matter what genre it is.

As for a preferred genre, I would have to say action. I’m a drummer at heart, so there is something I really enjoy about writing driving, aggressive music.

How did your time at NIU prepare you for your career?

The music program at NIU is fantastic. I started studying Percussion Performance before switching to Music Composition. Until then, I had been writing little pieces here and there. The composition faculty at NIU really opened my eyes to different techniques and seeing the big picture in my pieces.

Even though I don’t play much percussion anymore, my time studying it at NIU was invaluable. Some film and TV composers take percussion for granted, so learning a wide variety of percussion instruments, sounds, colors, and techniques has really helped my music stand out.

You’re the composer for the upcoming film Rose White—what are the challenges of scoring a film vs. a TV show?

It’s essentially big picture vs. moments. In a film, every cue has to work together as part of a whole. How you play a scene (setting up characters, emotions, etc.) affects how later scenes and cues impact the audience. In TV, it’s more about the moments, especially in comedy. The priority is to sell that particular moment or joke. However, I think there has been a lot of blending between the two worlds recently. Television episodes are beginning to play a lot more like short or serial films.

Your wife, Mary Lochner, ’01, M.S.A. ’02, is also an NIU alum—how did you two meet, and what do you both miss the most about DeKalb and/or the NIU campus?

Mary and I met in high school, and we decided to attend NIU because of their great music and accounting programs.

It’s hard to pinpoint just one thing that we both miss as it’s really all the little things: studying in the commons, going to football games, marching band, jazz night at Pagliai’s, and (of course!) beer nuggets. We also miss the peacefulness of the NIU campus compared to where we live now in Los Angeles.

What projects are on the horizon for you?

I just finished the score for the fourth season of Childrens Hospital, which will start airing August 9th on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. I will be taking over scoring on another Adult Swim show, NTSF:SD:SUV::, which will be airing its second season this fall. Other than that, I wrote additional score for the ABC sitcom Don’t Trust the B- in Apartment 23, which was recently renewed. So look for those, and we’ve just started submitting Rose White to film festivals.

Listen to some of Matt’s work