Making Of: TCM’s Joyful New Theme

Creating the new sound of Turner Classic Movies meant taking inspiration from film and dance across the decades. With a few words from our creative team, we wanted to share a bit about how TCM’s evolution influenced our approach to creating their new sonic identity, blending musical genres old and new, and the infectious energy of tap dance.

 

The Setup

Turner Classic Movies of today is a place where the old meets the new, classic meets modern. “Where then meets now.”

TCM’s 2020 partnership with streaming service HBOMax, their program of “Reframed Classics” and the further broadening of their film library to include contemporary filmmakers all informed the new TCM brand redesign. As a network where classic film serves as a catalyst for cultural conversation, TCM was looking to refresh their look, sound and feel to reinforce their position as a leader in film, from curation to context.

 

What inspired the creative concept?

The sonic identity needed to express through sound the expansiveness of the TCM library, blending musical styles, and taking the network’s loyal fans on a journey through the eras of film. Thus, the Made Music team found creative inspiration in decades past and present, including Golden Age musicals, modern pop music videos and TikTok song mashups.

“We saw that TCM was pushing toward in this new era this idea of film curation as a means of recontextualization,” MMS SVP, Executive Music Producer + Director of Artist Relations Amy Crawford shared. “Some of the greatest artists of our time are really curators and [on TikTok, there was] more of a collage approach to how people are expressing themselves.”

The influence of film and music on culture and creativity could be traced from Ginger Rogers & Fred Astaire twirling across the screen in movie musicals, to artists like Cardi B and Justin Timberlake and their embrace of Old Hollywood aesthetics, to the creators on TikTok who were choregraphing their own dance moves to ragtime tunes. Recontextualization spanning decades, all through song and dance. This blend of inspirations sparked our creative concept: Movement & Joy.

 

What was the process like?

Dance was key to our concept of Movement & Joy — its vibrance and capacity for artistic and sonic expression were particularly important to building out TCM’s new sound.

“There’s a lot of personality in tap dance, not only in the rhythm, but in the bodily performance as well,” MMS Senior Music Producer Mickey Alexander said. “It became the basis for the sonic logo.”

Focusing on the optimism and energy of dance, we found ourselves on a parallel path with creative agency Sibling Rivalry, who developed the colorful visual identity for the TCM refresh. The letter “C” is a playful focal point of their logo redesign, shapeshifting in fonts and styles, and in effect expressing the same active and buoyant energy that the new theme captures through music.

We brought in dancer and choreographer Caleb Teicher to perform an infectious tap sequence that would serve as the theme’s core rhythmic takeaway.

 

With the unmistakable sounds of tap dance laying the foundation for the track, we layered in a mishmash of musical styles to highlight TCM’s evolution, and the power of film across the decades. Chopped & screwed ragtime piano elements, hip-hop beats and modern drum textures blend the old with the new. The final piece was to add a touch of the cinematic with orchestral elements — the rapture of strings and the dramatic touch of brass — paying homage to the symphonic moments of the classic films that we know and love.

 

How did it come to life?

Turner Classic Movies launched their brand refresh in September 2021, revealing a vibrant visual identity and a sonic that seamlessly blends the classic with the modern. The sonic identity is flexible enough to be implemented across TCM’s many properties and touchpoints, which include on-air bumpers, podcasts and the Turner Classic Film Festival.

 

The final work is a fusion of musical styles both early and contemporary, from ragtime piano to pop influences of today. Living in a textural space musically, the new TCM theme serves as a “frame” for the movies featured on the network. It tells the story of the network’s evolution, and its relationship to curation and culture, through the joyful sounds of tap dance and a mashup of genres old and new.

 

Who worked on it?

Joel Beckerman – Founder + Executive Music Producer
Amy Crawford – Executive Music Producer
Mickey Alexander – Music Co-Producer
Evan Marien – Composer + Music Co-Producer
Bryan Natalio – Sound Design + Drum Programming
Caleb Teicher – Tap Dance
Jim Hynes – Orchestra Contractor
Dennis Wall – Audio/Mix Engineer
Zuzu Boisson – Project Manager

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