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Law & Order: Organized Crime’s composer on crafting its unique music

Elliot Stabler
Christopher Meloni as Elliot Stabler on Law & Order: Organized Crime. Pic credit: NBC

The woman behind Law & Order: Organized Crime’s unique music is speaking about its creation.

Ruth Barrett, who handles the soundtrack for the hit NBC series, discussed what went into creating its specific soundtrack. 

This is timed to the release of the Season 1 soundtrack in stores and various online platforms. 

Barrett notes how Law & Order: Organized Crime needed a specific theme to set it apart from the other shows and crafted the themes from Stabler himself to various friends and enemies.

She also shared how tricky managing some music was and gave a hint as to what kind of tunes fans can expect for upcoming episodes.

Barrett’s words are a good insight into how the music aids Law & Order: Organized Crime in its success with viewers. 

Law & Order’s music history

While having an iconic theme, Law & Order has been known for a simple and moody soundtrack. Many scenes are done with no music at all, but fans are used to a darker tone coming whenever a grisly clue is discovered.

For Law & Order: Organized Crime, the producers wanted something different to show how Elliot Stabler’s work in this task force was more daring than other series.

They turned to Ruth Barrett, a U.K.-based musician known for music for shows like Sanditon, Bloodlands and Victoria, the latter of which earned her an Emmy nomination.

Speaking to Give Me My Remote, Barrett admitted to not knowing much about Law & Order before she got the job. Thus, she was unaware of how the return of Stabler to the franchise would be a big deal for fans. 

Barrett said she wanted to capture the feel for Stabler and make his return in a new job familiar to fans but also give him a new energy. 

“I knew I wanted to capture both the heroism of him and his wild side, because I could already see that as soon as he came onto the screen [in the series premiere]. Not having even seen much of him before, I was like, yeah, he’s totally electrifying to watch and just has such a massive screen presence that’s a real gift. [Meloni’s] performance says it all, really.”

Barrett was also unaware of the long history of Stabler and Olivia Benson and why her soundtrack for the scene in Season 1 of Stabler giving her a letter would connect with fans. 

“I didn’t realize how iconic that first scene with the letter [would be] and why that drove everyone crazy. [Laughs.] I just knew that I had to create a feeling between these people of history, and what ifs, that feeling of heartache between two good friends of what would have happened if we had been together. Which you can just see, because the chemistry on-screen [between Meloni and Mariska Hargitay] is just so apparent. So that music came almost instinctively and fairly easily.”

For Barrett, a key challenge was working on the soundtrack during the pandemic lockdowns in London and crafting some unique themes.

Crafting the unique music for Law & Order: Organized Crime

The interview comes with the release of the Season 1 soundtrack on various music platforms.

It wasn’t just Stabler that Barrett worked some special themes for. She also crafted the dual music for Stabler’s clashes with Richard Wheatley (Dylan McDermott).

“So already I had [the thought], ‘Okay, so Stabler is the angel, then Wheatley is the devil. And I’m going to create these two sound worlds.’ And Stabler is quite religious as well, so his theme is going to be kind of uplifting, powerful, and heroic. And Wheatley’s going to be taking you down into the snake pit.”

Likewise, for the storyline where Stabler infiltrated an Albanian mob, Barrett had to put together some music from that culture to sell the scenes better.

Barrett acknowledges she hasn’t had much contact with the cast as she complimented producer Arthur Forney with helping her understand the show to craft the soundtrack better. 

When asked what her favorite piece of music was, Barrett’s answer was easy. 

“I suppose it probably would be the Kathy [song, “She’s Gone (Kathy’s Theme)”], just because I really love the vocal in it. It was one of the first pieces I wrote for the show, and I just really loved the simple emotional hit of it. That’s probably my favorite.”

Barrett is happy about the reaction fans have to the music, which inspires her more. 

“[W]hat’s so great is that the audience has really responded to that music. So that also spurs me on, you know?”

As Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 3 continues, fans can expect to hear more of Barrett’s great tunes enhancing the already great drama.

Law & Order: Organized Crime Season 3 airs Thursdays at 10/9c on NBC.

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