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Throwback Thursday: Murder At Harvard

In honor of Halloween, we thought we'd kick off a series of #tbt blog posts with Murder At Harvard.

This Kusiak Music-scored PBS documentary aired in 2003. Our longtime collaborator Eric Stange -- who made the film with Melissa Banta and historian Simon Schama -- wrote an article about the making of the documentary.

The scene of the crime: Harvard Medical Building in the 1800s

The scene of the crime: Harvard Medical Building in the 1800s

From Harvard Gazette:

With many unanswered questions and enduring mysteries, the 1849 murder of George Parkman is rich fodder for the imagination.

Parkman, a Boston Brahmin trained as a doctor but practicing as a landlord and moneylender, disappeared on Nov. 23, 1849. His body (or parts of it) was discovered a week later in the basement of the laboratory of John Webster, a chemist at Harvard Medical College who was indebted to Parkman.

At a trial that drew tens of thousands of spectators, Webster was convicted, largely on circumstantial evidence, and sentenced to hang in March of 1850.

Ephraim Littlefield, the janitor at the Medical College who discovered Parkman’s body by tunneling into Webster’s locked vault, presented the prosecution’s most compelling evidence. Yet some believed that Littlefield himself was guilty of killing Parkman and framing Webster, whom he resented, for the crime.


Behind the scenes

I was fortunate to be able to hire some local musicians to perform on the score; flute, oboe, bassoon, violin and cello. The addition of these "real" instruments added depth and emotion to the basic tracks that I sequenced with sampled instruments in Digital Performer.

Since it was filmed here in the Boston area, I was able to attend a few shoots and got a behind the scenes preview of what the movie was about and the look of it. That, along with many discussions with the filmmaker, Eric Stange, helped me formulate a musical style that I thought would work for the film. Peter Rhodes, the editor, also used my music from my library to "temp" certain scenes which was helpful in getting a sense of what they were looking for and what was working.

Watch the full show:

Murder At Harvard from Eric Stange on Vimeo.

A historical who-dunnit set in 1849 Boston, directed and co-written by Eric Stange.