Reminder: Scoring Peak TV: Music and Sound in Television’s New ‘Golden Age’

deadline for submissions: 
November 1, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Steve (Janet K.) Halfyard/ Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
contact email: 

Reminder: Call for papers - deadline November 1st

Scoring Peak TV: Music and Sound in Television’s New ‘Golden Age’


We invite abstracts proposing contributions to a project led by Dr Steve Halfyard (RCS) and Prof. Nicholas Reyland (RNCM). The project will involve two phases of work: a conference/workshop (to be held in 2022, location and medium tbc.) and an essay collection co-edited by Halfyard and Reyland (to be submitted end 2023).

Although a precise definition of ‘quality TV’ has proven elusive, Robert J. Thompson once suggested, in a 2007 essay marking a decade since the publication of his Television’s Second Golden Age: From Hill Street Blues to ER (1996), ‘we knew it when we saw it’. But do we know it when we hear it?

This project aims to do that hearing and audioviewing, and to analyse, map, contextualize, and critique the evolution of scoring and sound design practice during what is variously referred to as ‘quality’, ‘high-end’, ‘TVIII’, ‘peak TV’, or ‘the new golden age’ of televisual narrative. Examples relevant to the project extend from early and somewhat isolated instances such as Hill Street Blues (1981-87), The Singing Detective (1986), thirtysomething (1987-91), Dekalog (1989) and Twin Peaks (1990-91), via significant productions including The X-Files (1993-2002), Ally McBeal (1997-2002), Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003), and The West Wing (1999-2006) to series which, in one way or another, contested and extended the conventions or boundaries of TV storytelling in the wake of The Sopranos (1999-2007) – an increasingly rapid deluge, only slowed by the recent pandemic’s break in production schedules, including 24AngelAtlantaBattlestar GalacticaBreaking BadBlack MirrorChernobylDexterDoctor WhoDownton AbbeyFargoFleabagGame of ThronesGirlsHannibalHouse of CardsKilling EveLutherMad MenMr RobotOrange is the New BlackSix Feet UnderThe AmericansThe Handmaid’s TaleThe KillingThe L WordThe MandalorianThe WireThis is England, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, UtopiaWestworld – and many more shows, including non-fiction and other content adopting (or resisting) peak TV’s paradigmatic status. Creatives producing music and sound for such shows have been adapting, evolving, rejecting, transcending, satirizing, and in many other ways moving beyond the conventions of blocks, library music and limited original content that once demarcated TV music and sound from film and other audiovisual media. Television’s sonic storytelling has been transforming.

We invite 300-word abstracts on any relevant topic pertaining to that transformation, from scholars and practitioners working in any relevant area of musicology, TV/film/media studies, and beyond. We are most interested in proposals engaging with case studies _and_ wider issues pertinent to the project – proposals which seek to map the territory as much defining milestones in isolation. We also envisage that contributors will help explore the following broad and interlinked areas of study:


  • Creatives (composers, music supervisors, sound designers, mélomaniacal showrunners, etc.)
  • Approaches and Practices (thematic scoring; uses of pre-existent music; new compositional paradigms blending sound and music, or recomposing and blending existing and new material; music as sound design/sound design as music; experimentation and/or conservatism; sonic constructions of ‘quality’; musical and sonic parallels to other key features of ‘peak TV’; representations; etc.)
  • Segments and Structures (teasers, titles, bumpers; season and series arcs; DVD or online extras; ‘musical episodes’; etc.)
  • Production, Distribution, and Consumption (aesthetic and other distinctive practices of different production companies, channels, services, box-sets, streams, tubes, etc.; socio-cultural, economic, and political contexts; middlebrow and/or avant-garde positioning/dichotomies; movement and tension between old/new/alternative paradigms: transcultural productions; remakes and international remakes; fan creations, analyses and service; etc.).


However, these areas will evolve, and we will be pleased to receive proposals introducing alternative concepts and broader topics from anyone with relevant ideas.

Your 300-word abstract should be accompanied by a 150-word bio documenting relevant expertise and publications. Both should be emailed to and

Deadline: 1 November 2021