The Music Behind Derailed

WPR's Karl Christenson Created Derailed's Original Music. Here's How.

Karl Christenson records original music
WPR’s Karl Christenson records original music for Derailed in his office. Adam Friedrich/WPR

I had previously worked on sound design and scoring for film and commercials, but I hadn’t ever scored a podcast. So going into it I knew it would be a challenge to create music that is interesting, but not so interesting that it eclipses or distracts from the storytelling and information the hosts are delivering.

Trains are fairly old things, but they’re also modern modes of transportation.

So, for the main “Derailed” theme I knew I wanted to mix organic instrumentation — like percussion and guitars — with a synthesized palate of sounds. And from the start I wanted to create a very specific audio cue — the percussive clicks — that could be used as a reminder of the idea of the train.

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I recorded some of the score at my home studio, and some at my office at WPR. There were many times when WPR technical director and producer Brad Kolberg would tell me he needed a certain piece of music, or a certain vibe for a section of an episode. So I was able to compose and audition tracks in the office, allowing us to tweak or edit on the fly to find the right fit for any given segment of the podcast.