Orange Is the New Black

Composed By: Gwendolyn Sanford, Brandon Jay and Scott Doherty

Distributed by: Varese Sarabande Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                Based on a memoir by Piper Kerman, Orange Is the New Black is a popular Netflix original series starring Taylor Schilling as Piper.  Ten years ago, Piper Kerman moved to New York City, never expecting that in a decade her quiet life in an upper middleclass neighborhood would be disrupted by a fifteen month prison sentence for aiding and abetting a drug trafficker.   That drug trafficker is not only her ex-girlfriend (Laura Prepon), but she also happens to be locked up in the same prison, making for quite the interesting encounter.

                The musical score of the television series, now in its third season, was created by the composing team of Gwendolyn Sanford, Brandon Jay and Scott Doherty.  A born performer, Gwendolyn Sanford loved the spotlight as a kid, performing at home, in school plays and eventually in professional theater.  Discovering a passion for songwriting after learning how to play the guitar, she has recorded a number of albums.  Her scoring career began in 2000 and since then, she has worked on the scores of a number of film and television projects, including Chuck and Buck, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion and Weeds.  Brandon Jay's love for music began at a very young age with his love for percussion and unusual instruments.  Performing in a number of bands over the years, Brandon's piano playing led to his career in scoring.  He has worked with Gwendolyn Sanford on her children's music albums as well as the television series Weeds.  Scott Doherty is a multi-instrumentalist who has worked as a songwriter, vocalist, performer and session player for a number of bands.  Composing credits include Weeds, Mr. Eastwood & Company, The Real World and Married to Jonas.

                The Orange Is the New Black Soundtrack is quite the interesting listen, featuring quite a few easily recognizable instruments like acoustic and electric guitars, piano, synths and percussion.  Vocal and ambient sounds make their way into the score as well, but there are some other instruments and sounds that you might not recognize as quickly, like hand clapping, metallic strikes, wood striking wood, etc.  According to Brandon Jay, "Mostly it’s us taking turns on piano, bass, guitar and drums and adding whatever odd synths or custom samples that lend themselves to the moment.  We’ve had a couple guest musicians. Michael Starr played fiddle and mandolin on Pennsatucky’s theme and Steve Graeber played some sax for us. Our most out of the ordinary contributor was our dog Duncan who hangs out in the studio with us.  Gwendolyn was doing some high-pitched vocals and he decided to howl along.  We put it through a megaphone and it created an eeriness that really helped the scene."

                The score often has that happy-go-lucky style, but there are darker tracks featuring rough electric guitar riffs and low registry sounds, possibly defining a specific character or a certain dramatic turn in the storyline.  Many of the tracks provide themes for the various inmates Piper runs into during her stay at the penitentiary.  Without having ever seen the show, I can honestly say that the soundtrack sent me by Krakower Poling PR does provide quite the interesting listen.  Combined with the visuals of the show, I have no doubt that the scoring team of Sanford, Jay and Doherty successfully capture the characters and storyline themes.  Orange Is the New Black fans are probably going to want to check this soundtrack out.


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