Grew up in Dallas, TX and started with playing guitar.
Studied jazz composition at the musically renown North Texas State
Attended the Musicians Institute of Technology, while working as a
studio musician and session player.
Studied with Dr. Albert Harris, former musical director for NBC and a
premier composition instructor and music lecturer.
Earned an Emmy nomination for an original song for Cop Rock (TV).
Quantum Leap (TV)
L.A. Law (TV)
NYPD Blue (TV)
Undercover Angel (James Earl Jones)
Blue Ridge Falls (Amy Irving, Chris
Luckytown Blues (James Caan, Kirsten Dunst).
Greg Edmonson is most
recently known for his sensational work on the 2002 FOX television
hit, Firefly. Often called a "sci-fi Western," Firefly tells of a
rag-tag crew of nine aboard a spaceship, who are trying to survive a
futuristic, totalitarian government on one hand and a lawless, savage
frontier on the other. Created by Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire
Slayer, Titan A.E., Toy Story), the show delivered Whedonesque humor
and cleverness at its best. Although the series was cancelled after
only 11 episodes, Firefly quickly drew a huge and devoted fanbase
still going strong one year after cancellation. The complete season of
Firefly was released on DVD in December 2003, largely because of fan
demands. For the first 2 months of its DVD release, it was
consistently ranked amongst the top 25 best sellers on Amazon.com and
averaged five stars amongst Amazon's 500 reviewers. Firefly is
currently in negotiations to be made into a feature film. Groundwork
has also been started for a soundtrack release of Edmonson's score.*
Joss Whedon created a very unorthodox, multicultural future where
civilization had a strong Chinese/Eastern influence, while the wild
unconquered frontier was heavily Western, in the traditional guns and
horses sense of the word. Edmonson delivered a brilliant marriage of
this Eastern and Western, and everything in between. There is a lot
bluegrass fiddle and country guitar, some traditional melting piano
and violin, some synthesized percussions, a smattering of other world
music, and exotic (often Chinese or mideastern) winds and strings.
This was the unique sound of Firefly, where Mid-eastern dance turns
around to meet Southern blues, which in turn flows naturally into
Celtic with Chinese instrumentation, for example. The bold blending of
musical cultures (and instruments) has never been accomplished so
ambitiously and successfully to date, and evinces the facility
Edmonson must have with the gamut of musical styles. Even though it is
nothing like anyone has ever heard before and could have easily
sounded contrived, the music feels natural and effortless. The ease of
the diverse musical backdrop is in large part why the audience was
able to instantly understand and transport into this extraordinary new
Firefly was a labor of love for Edmonson, and you can hear it. You can
hear the fun he's having in the Western guitar twangs and the
celebratory dances. You can hear tenderness in his presentation of a
favorite character. All Edmonson's cues have a bold spark that comes
from passionate enthusiasm. The theme of the score is emotional rather
than conventionally melodic. The result is an intimate connection,
which like the show itself, stands out, grabs your heart, and doesn't
let go. He gives us heartbreak, whether in piano or violin, that is
uncommonly executed. When you hear the opening scene in "Out of Gas,"
you think Murder in the First by Christopher Young--only less
developed because of time constraints of the small screen.
The proposed soundtrack for Firefly is still in development, and is
likely to change before it is finished. As it stands, it is 54 minutes
long, with 22 tracks ranging from 2 to 3.5 minutes each. Each track is
a suite comprised of two or three cues strung together from two or
three different episodes. As such, the cues themselves are quite short
and sometimes abrupt. More importantly, they leave the listener
wanting for more just as they got started. Though the brevity of these
cues is not the fault of the composer, it is my main complaint for the
soundtrack. The music is too mesmerizing to leave us hanging with 30
second cues. We can only hope that Edmonson will soon get an
opportunity to develop these themes in a feature film, preferably one
How did you get started on Firefly?
GE - It was a gig in town that
everyone wanted to do, because everyone wanted to work with Joss. He
is a highly respected guy. So basically everyone tossed their CD at
him, and for whatever reason, he picked mine. He called me and we took
a meeting, and that's how it happened. It almost never happens that
way. It's an anomaly. Normally there are political factors in play
that overwhelm the actual music involved. In this case, it did not.
And all the credit goes to Joss Whedon.
That speaks to your talent as well. You were singled out amongst all
GE - That's true. On the other hand, I
work in a town full of incredibly talented people. And I know how
television works. Finding a television producer, who is number one,
going to trust his instinct, and number two, not just going to do the
same thing that everyone else does, almost never happens. But Joss is
an unusual guy. He's a guy who has his own unique vision and is
willing to follow it. And when he said I don't want to do the same
thing everyone else does, he meant it. He stood by it. So it was
really an honor and a great joy to be involved with that show. So
that's how it got started.
I miss that show still. Of all the shows that I've worked on, this
show was a huge joy for me. I just can't even tell you what a joy it
Give us an example of something you miss.
GE - The postproduction schedule did
not leave enough time to do the music. The postproduction team
patterned its schedule after Buffy and Angel, which were shows they
had experience doing. Firefly required the recording of a number of
live instruments in addition to the synth tracks. So there wasn't
enough time in the schedule to allow for the recording process, which
was usually 2 days an episode. Consequently, I was working 16 hours a
day, every single day, 7 days a week. There were weeks where I had
other commitments as well, because I also work on a show called King
of the Hill--it went up from there, 20 hours a day sometimes. And
never once when I got up at two in the morning, even though I was
exhausted, never once did I feel anything but grateful that I was
working on Firefly. Never once was it, "Oh man, I 'm so tired I just
want to get this done. I wish this was over." It was like working on a
feature film every week, which just doesn't happen in television.
It wasn't just the cast, or the writing, acting or directing. It was
not any one element. It was all the elements together. It was such
clever show about deep, interesting things. In my opinion, it was too
good for television.
It sounds like you're in love with the show too, just like the rest of
GE - Oh, you have no idea! You have no
idea. I absolutely love this show. Everything lined up. A lot of
times, it takes a while, sometimes as much as a year, for the writers
and producers to find what works really well and what works less well.
In Firefly, the actors just knew who they were supposed to be right
from the pilot (credit Joss with that one). The fact that the two hour
pilot did not air first, allowing the audience to be introduced to the
nine main characters in the way that Joss intended is still deeply
troubling to me.
If I understand correctly from Joss, FOX has been helpful, even though
they buried the show. They just didn't have the vision to see it.
Either that or they looked at their audience and said, "This is not
our audience. We don't have an audience that is interested in adult
issues. What we're after is people who are 17 or 18 and we just need
to give them a comic book kind of thing and move on." And this show
was not like that. These were adult issues that Joss was dealing with.
Issues of morality, different ways of looking at morality. Somehow it
was all tied together in an entertaining show. When it was over, it
left me really depressed for this reason. In television, it will never
get any better.
They're talking about a movie.
GE - They are.
Will you be writing the music for it?
GE - Listen, I would love to be
invited to that party. That is a complete unknown at this point.
I know Joss Whedon wrote the theme song. Did you orchestrate that?
GE - I did the arrangement for it. I
produced the recording for it. There were some great guys on that
session. Joss' original vision was of a single guy just sitting on the
front porch just playing guitar and singing the song. But FOX always
thought of this as a more straight ahead action show. And so they
thought of some sort of a da-da-da-dum pumping title, more like a TV
main title for an action show. To reach a compromise, we tried to find
instrumentation and elements of rhythm that we could use to stay
consistent with Joss' vision and still make it sound like what is
commonly conceived of as a main title. I think we did a pretty good
job. We had a fiddle, two guitars, bass, and a guy playing percussion.
But what he was playing were pieces of metal, wood boxes, and ethnic
instruments, all played with brushes and sticks. So it still is
something that could have happened sitting on the front porch, just a
few more instruments rather than a single guy. I have no idea where
Joss found Sonny Rhodes, the fantastic blues singer who sang it. He
was a unique find, and there is nobody like him. Plus he was a
That was a difficult melody to carry off.
GE - It's a tricky one. He did great.
And I think Joss was happy with the way it turned out.
Did you write the "Hero of Canton" song?
GE - One of the producers, Ben Edlund,
on the show wrote it. We did the arrangement, which was pretty much
guitar and lots of vocals.
What kind of creative direction did Joss give for the music of
GE - Well Joss knew exactly what he
envisioned for the show, but he was open to listen to anything that
you might do, so finding what worked for everyone was a process. The
process was refined by the feedback that the network gave Joss, in
terms of they thought was working and what was not working. As you
would turn in music, Joss would say, "No, I am thinking a little bit
more of this or here's the part of the show that we really want to
play up." Joss and Tim Minear both had a very clear vision of what the
music should contribute to the show. They had lived with this show for
a very long time. Since they'd already shot the two hour pilot, and
then spent a long time temping it with music that they felt made the
show work, it gives you a little bit of a roadmap as to the direction
that they were heading. And you would take that roadmap and write.
They would respond to it, and then you would address whatever changes
they needed. Once we got going on episode one, and figured out what
was working, you could kind of look back and say, "Well, this seems to
be the direction that the show is going," and just extrapolate from
that to the episode at hand.
There was a lot of guitar and bluegrass in Firefly. Could you tell us
more about that?
GE - I played some of the stuff. For
the most part the guitar was played by a wonderful studio player named
Craig Stull. The fiddle was played by a studio genius named Charlie
Bischarat. Some of it was western themes, some of it was real modern.
Charlie could switch from fiddle to beautiful violin and heart
wrenching solos in the blink of an eye. One of the wonderful things
about this show was that it gave you all sorts of opportunities. It
wasn't just the same thing over and over again. So we just had the
most wonderful time, even with the pressure we were under. All the
guys would come over and as we were recording the parts, we would
watch the picture and they would add something wonderful that I might
never have thought of. It was always an inspiration and we always had
a good time. It just doesn't get any better than that.
Since the studio struggled with
the western aspect of the show, those guitar elements got a little bit
shorter as the show went on. We would use guitar more like a signature
rather than in long extended pieces. For example, when we had a
release of the tension, when somehow everything was ok at the end of
the show, the guitar kind of occupied that place. It became a
signature for the crew and the fact that somehow they had survived
another day. Sometimes the guitar outlined a point of humor. The
fiddle was the same thing. We would use the fiddle for those things.
I noticed that you would use different instruments for signatures for
different characters. For example, I hear the horn every time the
Alliance comes on screen.
GE - Yeah, that's true. Horn was a
very difficult instrument on this show. Joss apparently loved and
respected Star Trek, but didn't want to revisit what they had already
done. On every other outer space show, the horn is a big deal. That is
why, if you'll notice, anytime we had a shot of the Serenity in space,
it is always guitar and/or fiddle, never horn. This was the antithesis
of Star Trek. Does the horn work? Absolutely. But Joss wasn't remaking
The Alliance was different. The
horn would speak to the powers that be: big, powerful and dwarfing our
rag-tag crew in comparison. So we would use the horn for the Alliance.
I also wanted to ask you about the Reavers' theme. The rhythmic
clanging with no melody.
GE - It was just meant to be
disturbing. I thought it was. I thought the Reavers were disturbing. I
thought Joss did such a good job. I remember in the pilot, Simon was
asking Zoe about the Reavers, and she said, "First they'll rape us to
death, then they'll eat our flesh and then sew our skins into their
clothing. And if we're very very lucky, they'll do it in that order."
Is that more frightening than anything else you could see? Let your
imagination go to work. One of Joss' great geniuses is he knows how to
use people's imaginations. It is something far more scary, to me at
least, than anything a special effects guy could create and I like
I noticed there is some similarity between the Alliance signature and
the Reavers' theme, with the rhythmic clanging. Was that intended?
GE - No, I think I am probably just a
big fan of rhythmic clanging. (laughs).
I noticed the clanging happens a lot when they are in dangerous
situations, and of course they are in danger whenever the Alliance is
around, as well as Reavers.
GE - Part of it is that we used such
unusual instruments on the show. We used didgeridoo, we used pipa
[Chinese string instrument]. We even had artists who made instruments
that never existed before. Then they would come over and play these
instruments--it was just really weird and fun. At some point you begin
to find a sound goes with the Firefly universe. And even though you
can extrapolate and experiment with that sound, it was also fun to
just keep it consistent on some level so that it sounded like the
show. We never went to a place where you're started hearing techno
dance music, because it just wasn't that world. Also, there was a more
organic sound to this show, just from the fact that you have live
instruments being played.
Was the clanging live as well?
GE - Some of it was. There is always
live stuff mixed in with it.
Oh really? I thought it was synthesized for sure.
GE - We always had live percussion on
every episode, because it gave humanity to the whole thing.
A lot of shows have these leitmotifs with the same musical phrase
playing over and over again. I don't hear that in Firefly.
GE - Didn't do it. Didn't need it.
There were no thematic devices that were used consistently for
characters, although there was instrumentation. For instance River,
who was a brilliant character, could have gone in so many directions.
She, a lot of times, got played with an ethereal sound, but it was
never a specific theme. We just got to readdress it every time and
said, "Well you know this is her sound and let's go with that."
I noticed that you used those instrumentation signatures rather than
GE - It just seemed more appropriate.
Violin for Inara.
GE - We did use violin a lot for her.
God, I'm going to get sad all over again. The very last piece of music
I wrote for this show was when Inara tells Mal she's leaving in the
Heart of Gold. And that scene was heart wrenching to me, knowing that
there would not be another.
I wanted to ask you about the Eastern music. Even though the show
described primarily a Chinese influence, you have a lot of other types
of music including Middle Eastern. How did you choose what kind of
influence to portray?
GE - People categorized this as a
western, and that is a drastic oversimplification to me. It wasn't
just bar room brawls and Ms. Kitty. It wasn't Gunsmoke in space.
Although that is a fun description, and there is a little tiny thread
of truth to that. But only the tiniest thread. I saw Firefly as a band
of disparate characters, thrown together by circumstance, trying to
survive in a post-apocalyptic world. In this world, “high tech”
existed for those that could afford it. Everyone else did the best
that they could with whatever tools they could come by. To me, at
least, it is in this way similar to a western--and in fact a page
right out of our own history.
Since it was post apocalyptic, all the cultures were thrown together.
I never saw it specifically as a Chinese influence, although of course
they spoke Chinese, which was clever. I saw it as all these cultures
tossed into a giant melting pot, and stirred around. You can come out
with anything. There was never a conscious decision to do anything
other than that, but look at how many wonderful directions that can
take you. This was a show that could and should have run for years and
it could have done so without repeating itself!
What kind of cultures did you choose to represent?
GE - Anything that came to mind. There
was mid-eastern stuff, eastern rhythms and elements. We used Chinese
instruments on every single score. There's a wonderful store in San
Francisco called “Lark of the Morning.” They sell every conceivable
instrument that exists on the planet. Before we started the show, we
just ordered thousands of dollars worth of those instruments. We got
them all down here. We would look at an instrument and say, "Can we
use this on this cue?" We would use these instruments in this fun way
to add all these influences to the score. I did learn one thing about
ethnic instruments. It's that the visualization of someone playing the
instrument helps to sell it. An instrument with strings on it, whether
it's from Africa or the East or the West, when you hear it, it just
sounds like a string vibrating. When you see it, you get the added
exotic appeal of a bizarre instrument. So it didn't always work as we
intended. But the instrumentation was always there. The full score was
kind of a mixture of interesting ethnic ideas.
Did you use any source music? On Persephone in the pilot Serenity, I
heard this Chinese music that sounded so authentic I thought, "They
must have taken that from a CD somewhere." Or was that an original
GE - I wrote it.
Oh my goodness. What about the classical piece at the party in
GE - No, that was actually classical
music. Those were the pieces they shot to. This episode was shot even
before I came onboard the show. I took the melody lines, and we
recorded oriental flutes playing the melody line, and then mixed that
in. So that it wasn't a straight classical piece. It still had
oriental influences, if you're talking about the ballroom dance.
What about the Irish music that River was dancing to when she got
kidnapped? Was that original?
GE - You know what? I believe that was
a piece they had the rights to. We recorded it. Same thing, we added
oriental elements and other stuff. Joss never wanted anything to be
just the way you would normally have heard it. He wanted us to have
elements that said, "This was our multicultural mix."
What about the bluegrass at the dance in Our Mrs. Reynolds, where
Saffron gives Mal the wreath?
GE - Definitely wrote that.
The music sounds so authentic it is hard to know which is source music
and which is original.
GE - I think those were the only
source pieces, but you'd have to ask me piece by piece.
Is there a CD in the works for a Firefly score album?
GE - I believe that is up to FOX. They
have expressed some interest. I put something together for them. I
sent it to them. They sent contracts over, and I signed them. I hope
that that happens. It looks pretty good.
Will there be any source music on the CD?
GE - Probably not. I may be wrong
about that, but that seems less likely.
Does the theme song have an extended version?
GE - Not at this point. One of the
things that was mentioned in the preliminary discussions is that maybe
there could be an extended version of the theme song. Number one, I
don't know how Joss would feel about that. Number two, I don't know if
they pursued that idea. If such a thing were to be done, it would be
done by a remix guy, but it would require Joss' blessing and be under
his guidance. So that's an unknown to me. I haven't heard anything
about it to know one way or the other.
Will they just make copies of the CD you sent them?
GE - I have no idea. I sent them
something, and I will do whatever they need to make it happen. But
we'll just have to see.
Is that music rearranged in suites, or is it the actual cues
GE - There were some cues, but they
were all put together so that everything would be a certain length.
Originally they thought everything should be 2.5 to 3 minutes long. It
didn't work out on this show that way. So I would put pieces together
to make two minutes, or make other cues less long. It's a little bit
tricky because you can't combine too many pieces without shifting
emotional moods. I sent them something with the idea that we could use
it as a starting place for a discussion. We'll just have to see what
their response is.
I like to revisualize the scenes
when I hear the music or visualize some part of the show I
particularly like. So some cues just needed to be by themselves, so I
left them that way. There was a long cue at the end of The Message. It
was a very sad cue for me. It was the scene where Tracy dies, but I
didn't write that music for him. I wrote it for Firefly. I wrote it to
say goodbye to Firefly.
It was powerful.
GE - That was my emotional response to
saying goodbye to all these wonderful characters I'd lived with. I
felt like they were friends of mine. I did. I lived with these people
for a long long time, as did the editors. You're watching them how
ever many hours a day you're working, watching them over and over
again as you work on the task at hand. I felt like they were my
friends, and the loss was personal. Some of those cues, you just have
to leave by themselves because to add a different emotional beat would
disturb them. You don't want to foul that up by tacking on a little
As the western element became less emphasized, those guitar pieces
grew shorter. On the other hand, those were signature pieces of the
show so you couldn't ignore them. But they weren't long enough in and
of themselves to be statements, so you kind of have to do the best you
can. I leave it to FOX, who knows better than I how to do these
things, to let me know how to proceed. Those were at least my initial
thoughts. Sometimes I would mix two maybe three pieces together. Some
things could be suites. Like Inara's room always had a certain sound,
always an Asian influence or it always had a violin. It wasn't played
in a western style; it played in more of a classical way. That could
be a suite, because there was a unifying theme running throughout.
Other things you kind of mixed intentionally so there would be a shift
from point A to point B. There were so many drama cues in this show
because of the heavy dramatic action
Did you arrange these cues by episode?
GE - I mixed and matched. I did it
more from a musical perspective than episodic perspective. Sometimes I
did. I think there was a Heart of Gold montage that I put together. I
sent FOX more music than they could use, with the idea that they could
pick and choose. You want cues to be interesting to listen to. I know
that they would be interested in the fact that there is an interest
I don't know if you read fan sites at all, but people are making their
own CDs. So there is a market for this. People are sitting by the DVD
player finding 15 seconds here and 20 seconds there with no dialogue,
and making their own CD.
That's amazing to me.
I got some wonderful letters
after the DVDs came out, and I sent them over to FOX. The music
department at FOX is the best in the business. Carol Farhat and
Jacquie Perryman are wonderful and fighters for the show. When we
recorded the main title, Carol was there all day long. She is very,
very busy, and for her to spend all day there was a big deal.
You gotta give this to Joss and Tim. The postproduction team on this
show was the best I'd ever worked with. Lisa Lassek, Sonny Hodge and
JP were the three editors, and they were all great. A lot of times for
people in television a job is a job. Never was that the case on this
show. All these people cared about this show. It was way more than
just a job. They cared on a very deep level. When it was canceled,
people were devastated. Not just because they lost the job. There was
an emotional impact to it. People really cared. Kelly Wheeler who
worked with Tim Minear told me that months afterwards, somebody from
FOX came over and said, "You guys aren't over this yet?" And they
weren't over it. I'm still not over it. The show had a lasting impact
in a way that other shows don't normally have. Other shows get
canceled and you go, "Oh well, that was fun. I got paid. Thank you
very much." Not the case with this one.
You've done a wonderful job at describing this very unique world that
Joss Whedon created. As far as I'm concerned you're part of the set
design team, creating this world that you not only see, but feel
because of the music. So thank you very much.
GE - Thank you for helping keep it all
Author's note: I
would like to thank Fireflyfans.net browncoats for their support and
contributions to this interview. I am currently working on getting
permission to post sound clips from the score. Please check back for
Fans who can't wait for the soundtrack can write FOX at email@example.com
to let them know they want to see the score released as soon as