Composer Jeff Cardoni Scores ‘White House Plumbers’


composer Jeff Cardoni found exactly the right sound for “White House Plumbers,A five-hour miniseries about the Watergate thieves that debuted on HBO on Monday: It revisits the 1970s musically and is both influential and very cool.

Cardoni, whose credits range from “CSI: Miami” to “The Kominsky Method,”White House PlumbersIt’s like a caper movie that uses both a small jazz combo and a larger, string orchestra, depending on the scene. He liked the approach of a ’70s David Shire music like “The Conversation” and (no surprise) “All the President’s Men”.

Woody Harrelson and Justin Theroux play E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, ex-CIA and FBI agents hired by President Nixon’s re-election committee to investigate the filth of their Democratic rivals, they got the job done so badly that they eventually overturned the election. the entire Nixon administration. Director David Mandel plays for both laughs and tragedy as his plans constantly go wrong.

“It was a puzzle,” Cardoni admits. “I have never worked on something that started one way and ended another way. I needed to find a crossing line. Break-in is in episode 3, but there’s too many blunders and too many black comedy. [prior to that]. Then it gets extremely serious, dramatic and heavy. I had to find a way in terms of instrumentation to take you from start to finish but it still feels like the same show.

“We don’t do things this weird or unique like this very often,” Cardoni adds. “It was fun working on something where the score didn’t have to settle into the background.”

Cardoni played piano, upright bass, guitar and drums, followed by a second keyboardist (for classic 70s sounds like Fender Rhodes, Hammond B3 and Wurlitzer organs and clavinet), a woodwind player doubling on flute and saxophone, and a third a trumpet and trombone musician. Surprisingly, they recorded remotely in separate studios, not in the same room.

He added 15 strings and two French horns for the first three parts, and expanded it to 52 strings and four horns for the final two parts to fit the “weight of the story.”

Cardoni worked closely with Mandel on music and found that smaller musical ideas were preferable. “Going along,” he says, “it became clear that there was no room for a long 8-bar or 16-bar melody. So I found these two-to-four-bar pieces. What became the main theme began as Hunt’s theme, and that’s Hunt and Liddy’s. I found it easier to tie it all together with these little pieces.”

In addition to the main theme, there were secondary motives for Liddy herself, Hunt’s wife Dorothy (Lena Headey), and Washington lobbyist Dita Beard (Kathleen Turner), who became a pivotal early figure in the Watergate scandal. The beard piece is then stolen back by the brass to represent “blind patriotism”.

After scenes of break-in and arrest, Cardoni used studio techniques to disrupt the music and “make it muffled as everything got heavier”. I was trying to show emotionally that they had thrown all their personal lives aside for the country.

The composer was no stranger to the people and places of the “White House Plumbers.” He lived in Washington, DC in the early 1990s and “passed by the Watergate Hotel every day.” He even listened to Liddy’s radio show. “I thought it was fun,” Cardoni says.

Listen to the score below.

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