Jeff Cardoni & Kevin Kiner CSI
Composers, CSI: Miami
The vibrant music viewers of CSI: Miami hear each week comes from the minds of composers Jeff Cardoni and Kevin Kiner, who had never even met before they were paired up to co-compose for the hit show. Cardoni, who had scored many films, including the last two entries in the American Pie franchise, and Kiner, who has scored all kinds of television, including the current animated show Star Wars: Clone Wars, both “auditioned” by scoring an episode. “The executive producers felt they liked certain elements of Jeff’s and mine, so they asked if we would be interested in co-writing,” Kiner explains.
Their collaboration on some 130 episodes over seven seasons has been a surprisingly smooth process. “The first couple of episodes, we really talked about what we wanted to do, unique sounds we might have,” says Cardoni. “We wanted the sound to be organic more than electronic, using real sounds, stringed instruments, percussion instruments that might be Miami-esque. We spent a lot of time, at least in the beginning, to make sure we did sound similar. But it’s weird—after a handful of episodes, it’s hard to tell who did what. Our styles have kind of melded into one.”
Both composers attend a weekly “spotting” session, where they watch the edited episode. Then, they divide up the music that needs to be written. “We’ll come up with a theme for that show—a melodic motif or a theme for one of the bad guys,” explains Kiner. “And sometimes that thing is just a sound, an element, because the score can be very textural and ambient…We’ll bounce things back and forth with each other.”
Co-Executive Producer Gina Lamar says the music is integral to the show. “The music Jeff and Kevin create covers the gamut,” she says. “We count on them for cues in scenes that require hip process, comedic beats, action and drive, a win or a loss by our CSIs, the entire emotional range. Everyone on the show, beginning with the writers through the intense production process and finally in post, push to bring something new and different on every episode, which is why Jeff and Kevin are such a great part of the team. They never stop evolving.”
Doing music for a living is indeed much more fun than what both studied to do in college. Cardoni, who grew up in Pennsylvania, graduated from Penn State. “I got a degree in engineering to make my father happy. I had played classical piano for ten years as a child and played drums in rock bands to support myself though school. As soon as I got out of college, I got the guts to pursue music,” he recalls.
Cardoni was touring with a band when he got a lucky break that eventually transitioned him to composing. The brother of the band’s bass player was a music supervisor on big films, including Austin Powers and Charlie’s Angels. Cardoni and the rest of the band’s members were able to get songs and other music in those huge blockbusters.
“He kind of opened my eyes to film scoring, became our manager, and we started placing songs in movies, which eventually led to the scoring process. I took a scoring class at UCLA and realized it was my true calling,” says the composer.
Kiner, hailing from Escondido, California, was pre-med at UCLA. Having studied guitar for many years while in junior high and high school, he started playing in clubs around town to get income while in college. Eventually, he wound up going on the road for a few years, becoming music director for several acts before transitioning to composing.
Working on CSI: Miami has been creatively fulfilling for both men. “The producers on the show are not interested in taking it easy. They’re constantly wanting to change and push it. It’s ‘How can we be different for this episode?’” says Cardoni.
Kiner concurs. “One thing Jeff and I are most proud of is that, week to week, every episode is quite different and eclectic with what we do on the show,” he says. “You have a lot of eye candy going on, and we try to put in a lot of ear candy.” With all the cool, current and interesting music they create, Cardoni and Kiner certainly succeed. ≤