Interview: Jeff Cardoni

CSI: Miami is the only member of the CSI franchise that has two composers working on the musical score, though that hasn’t always been the case. After Graeme Revell left his duties as composer back in season one, producers brought in Jeff Cardoni and Kevin Kiner to fill the void for season two. More than eight years later the two remain on the show and continue to concoct themes that add to the tense and emotional stories. Speaking with CSI Files’ Shane Saunders, Cardoni explains the process of working with a partner, how he juggles multiple gigs, and whether the series will ever release another soundtrack.

CSI Files: What’s been most gratifying about having a stable job for the past nine seasons?

Jeff Cardoni: The most gratifying? Probably the people involved. We’ve been together for a long time so it’s a really fun experience to get to work with all these people, it becomes something of a family. It’s really fun to work on something this visible where throughout the world a lot of people can see your work. That is very gratifying.

CSI Files: You work with a partner, Kevin Kiner, on the show. I’ve spoken to composers before and I usually get one of two responses: It’s easier working on their own, or it’s a Godsend that they have help. What is it like for you?

Cardoni: It’s turned out to be an amazingly simple process. I had never done it before. I was a little skeptical at first, but it’s really worked out in ways that I never would have imagined. We don’t actually work together, we work separately. I guess the biggest thing is that at the end of the day it probably helps the quality of the show. You get to focus a little more on each scene and each piece of music that you don’t if you’re faced with a huge time crunch.

CSI Files: One of my personal favorites is the emotional score from “Rock and a Hard Place,” which is titled “Alexx’s Farewell.” When composing music that signals a cast member’s departure, do you put any of your own personal feelings into the song?

Cardoni: I get e-mails about that all the time from all over the world, it’s really crazy. That was a really interesting one because sometimes when we get the show, when we spot the show for the next episode, we usually have a pretty good idea of what’s going on; we know who the players are and who the characters are. But this one they waited until very close to the end, it was like a Tuesday night before we were supposed to meet and one of the producers called and said, “We have this scene and we can’t figure out what to do, so basically if you could look…” And at like 11:30 at night I got that scene, which was like a four minute scene with the main characters, so it was quite frightening. [laughs] It turned out to be one of those happy accidents where there was no temp music. There was nothing. It was just a totally silent piece of film. I just had to do something from the heart, which worked out. It was fun.

I was sad, that was an incredibly well done scene. I get emotional just watching it by itself. The tough thing is you didn’t know if she would come back again or if she would be involved or if she would be totally gone. So you kind of want to pay respect to her, but without making it seem like it was the end of the show. That’s a tricky one, but I think it turned out pretty good. I was totally sad to see her go; she’s probably one of my favorites so it was tough. And one of the few who you got to play the emotion out.

CSI Files: Miami has only one soundtrack available, with none of the original scores on it. Do you know if CBS has the intention of releasing any of the music from the show?

Cardoni: There’s not a day that goes by where we don’t get an e-mail about this. I would love to do it. We’ve talked a few times and to be honest I don’t know—the hardest thing now would be getting it down to one CD. It’s something we’ve talked about with the music supervisor a little bit and at some point I hope before this thing ends we get some type of release of some of the best music. I get stuff all the time and we can’t give it out, it’s frustrating.

CSI Files: Looking at your current list of projects it seems you’re keeping very busy! How complicated is your daily work schedule?

Cardoni: It’s a juggling act, always. I started out primarily doing films; CSI came out of kind of nowhere as far as big time TV. It’s been great.  The schedule is always a juggle, anytime it seems a train wreck is coming something will push a couple days and then it kind of works out. I think I’m the only person in town who doesn’t have an assistant. Everything I do I do myself, which I kind of proud myself on. On Miami we don’t reuse scores at all—I would say 99.5% of all the keys that we have to do for an episode, I do. I think on some other shows they tend to recycle things or reuse.

It’s still fun, it’s still exciting, it’s still challenging. I think it’s constantly changed. If we go back to season two or three I think it’s radically different now, which is good. I don’t think anyone on the show has ever gotten completely bored, just gotten the formula down. I really do think we—if you look at the show as the seasons go by, it evolved. There were some seasons that were definitely more story driven and some continuing storylines that didn’t exist earlier on, and then we’ve had some seasons that were just all about action. I think last season was some of the best writing and stories that we’ve had in a while. It’s definitely still growing—hopefully.

CSI Files: Have the producers talked with you yet about what direction they’d like to take the music in season ten?

Cardoni: No, I have no idea what’s happening this season. I don’t know anything about the storylines. I know we left off with a pretty big cliff-hanger and I’m just as anxious as anyone to see how it’s going to start off. It should be interesting.

We usually don’t get back into it until probably mid-August. I believe they’ve probably started shooting either this last week or next week. The first episode tends to take longer than any other episode and it goes through many changes. We usually don’t get the scripts, so I don’t see it until we get in there for the first time.

CSI Files: Do you have a favorite character to write music for?

Cardoni: I think Horatio [David Caruso] is a classic TV hero. He’s definitely larger than life and some people like him and some people don’t. I think he’s established a character that will be remembered years from now. He’s definitely not subtle, he’s definitely memorable. I think that’s why it translates well. He’s larger than life, he’s a hero.


Shane Saunders is a freelance writer and reviewer. His work can be seen on EDGE Network and

Shane Saunders
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