As Tandy slips between alternate realities in this most recent episode of Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger, there is a common theme throughout: the haunting strains of a single song, reimagined multiple ways.
Tunefind takes you behind the scenes on this ambitious undertaking. But be warned: if you haven’t seen the latest episode, there are spoilers ahead!
Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger, Freeform’s breakout hit of last summer, was also a big hit with music fans. The show claimed the #6 spot on Tunefind’s list of the most popular new shows for music discovery of 2018.
“We love playing with music to catalyze the drama on Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger and this season we leaned into it even more with our record store,” shared showrunner Joe Pokaski. “For this episode (‘B-Sides’), we fell in love with the idea of the same song bleeding through each of these realities that Tandy was being placed into. Like a song stuck in her unconscious.”
“Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger thrives on experimentation, so sometimes we like to sprinkle many different re-interpretations of a song throughout a single episode, threading together storylines in sometimes obvious – but often understated – ways,” said music supervisor Jonathan Christiansen.
Composer Mark Isham helped kick off this experiment early on with the instrumental version in the scene below, giving viewers a glimpse into an alternate reality where Tandy’s father and Ty’s brother don’t die the night of the oil rig explosion.
That familiar melody is the hymn ‘In The Sweet By And By.’ Originally written in the 19th century, the song has been reimagined and recorded by a long list of diverse artists, including Louis Armstrong, Loretta Lynn, Nat King Cole, Dolly Parton, Pete Seeger, and countless choirs.
Pokaski recalled, “We looked at a handful of songs, but when Jonathan found ‘In the Sweet By And By’ it checked all the boxes for us. It was a spiritual story of seeing your loved one on the other side, which is what Tandy and Tyrone do in every act of this episode.”
“What really drew us to this particular song was its gorgeous melodies and hopeful theme of joyful reunion in the after-life,” shared Christiansen. “It’s a song I’d want played at my own funeral.”
With that thematic tie-in with the afterlife, it’s no surprise that the song is traditionally played during ‘jazz funerals’ in New Orleans. The infamous ‘second line’ of musicians, performing to celebrate a loved one’s passing, is a classic cultural reference point. On a show where the city’s rich cultural heritage is an important touchstone, this nod is an intentional choice.
“Our show works hard to stay true to the great city of New Orleans at every turn, so once I read this episode’s script I spent a lot of time researching authentic, traditional songs that would have deep meaning to our characters who were born and raised there,” recalled Christiansen.
In its various forms throughout this episode, ‘In The Sweet By And By’ is heard a total of 17 different times. Many iterations are subtle – humming or piano score – but several are quite prominent and play over key montages, like the scene above scored by Isham.
“It’s safe to say that hearing even your favorite song 17 times in an hour would be wearisome, so it was important we create and license numerous, distinctive versions that serve varying purpose, as well as feel authentic to each individual character and setting,” said Christiansen.
“I loved working with this song!” shared Isham. “It has such a perfect symmetry and simplicity. It expresses so much, even instrumentally and does it in such an effortless and uncomplicated way. I did three VERY different versions and each one taught me something new and profound about the song.”
Later in the episode, Tandy is in another alternate reality where she and Tyrone meet while he’s boosting a car, painting a picture of their lives having followed completely different trajectories. This, naturally, requires a completely different version of the song.
“Jonathan and I worked with Josiah Bell, a ridiculously talented musician (and a friend) who helped craft the R&B version we hear in the stolen car,” shared Pokaski.
In addition to the versions by Isham and Bell, Eve Nelson produced the piano duet that Gloria Reuben (Adina) and Marqus Clae (Billy) sing early in the episode, plus several buskers perform in both English and French in the street scenes.
“This is an ambitious idea with a lot of moving parts, and we wouldn’t have tried it if we didn’t have the best music team in town,” said Pokaski. “On top of Jonathan doing his thing, which included finding and locking down several licensed versions of the song (including one from Johnny Cash), Dawn Soler and Stephan Pine helped guide us artistically and on the business side.”
“Once all the pieces were in place, Stephanie Lowry and our sound mixing team placed them in the right places so they helped the story but did not overwhelm it,” said Pokaski. “And to end it all off with the man in black himself felt like the best punch to throw in the last round.”
That, of course, is a reference to the iconic Johnny Cash version of ‘In the Sweet By And By’ used to close out the episode.
Fans of Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger still have four more episodes to look forward to this season, plus two soundtrack albums. The first album, being released this Friday, May 3rd, will feature Mark Isham’s score from the series. The other album will come out May 24th and will include songs featured throughout the season.
The single ‘Numb’ by series star Aubrey Joseph (Tyrone) and Dan Hening, from this season’s ‘White Lies’ episode, was previously released.
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