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Obscure Tune Rides Again at the Olympics

Television* Theme from a short-lived western finds new life as a rousing sports fanfare, as have several other works by Randy Edelman.

February 25, 2002|JON BURLINGAME | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If one of the recurring musical themes in NBC's coverage of the Winter Olympics seemed familiar to viewers, perhaps that's because it's been around for a while.

We're not talking about "Bugler's Dream," the 1958 Leo Arnaud piece that has become the traditional Olympic fanfare, or the John Williams themes that have become a staple of Olympic coverage (particularly the 1984 fanfare, used extensively by NBC, along with his new "Call of the Champions," written for the Salt Lake City Games).

The heroic music that NBC used to promo upcoming competitions every night was originally the theme for a short-lived comedy-western TV series called "The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr." Bruce Campbell starred in the show, which ran for a single season on Fox starting in the fall of 1993.

According to composer Randy Edelman, who wrote the theme, NBC several years ago began using excerpts from his film scores in its sports coverage--notably his Americana-flavored "Gettysburg" theme for its Breeders Cup event. They specifically commissioned a theme from him for NFL games, and at one point he sent along some samples of other music that he had written. The "Brisco County" theme was one of those tunes.

"It wasn't from a movie, and it wasn't really something that anybody knew," Edelman said. "It was original, and it seemed to have the right spirit. It's got a very flowing melody, it's triumphant, and it has a certain warmth. And it has at the end of it, what all television things like this have, a 'button,' an ending flourish that works really well if they need to chop it down into a 15-second thing."

The "Brisco" theme turned up in NBC's coverage of the Atlanta Games in 1996 (along with "Gettysburg," which served as the closing theme). So much of Edelman's music was regularly featured that he received credit as a producer and wound up winning a sports Emmy. The "Brisco" theme also became NBC's baseball signature for "a couple of years," said Dan Suratt, NBC's director of business development.

Mark Levy, NBC's senior creative producer for the Olympics, said that Edelman "falls into that category of composers, like John Williams, James Horner and Alan Silvestri, whose movies resemble the Olympics in proportion and emotion. We reach out to those types of artists [for our music]."

Edelman's film scores have become popular even when the movies in question weren't. He was a Golden Globe nominee for his music for "The Last of the Mohicans," and his themes for "Come See the Paradise" and "Dragonheart" have frequently been used in trailers and TV spots for other films. The "Gettysburg" theme is now a fixture at Independence Day celebrations.

Canadian skater Elvis Stojko uses Edelman's music for "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story" in his routines. And ABC, CBS, ESPN, TBS, TNT and Fox have all used Edelman compositions for sporting events ranging from college basketball to golf, tennis and track.

Edelman was reached in London, en route home from the Prague locations of his next film, "XXX," actor Vin Diesel's follow-up to "The Fast and the Furious." Asked if multiple 15- and 30-second prime-time uses of a TV theme are lucrative, Edelman laughed and said, "It's nice, but it's not something that you're going to live for the rest of your life on."

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