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Performance Prof takes on unique music role on new HBO Max series

Debashis Sinha impactfully integrates symphonic musical moments in ‘Station Eleven’
By: Kaela Malozewski
November 30, 2021

Performance Professor, Debashis Sinha (opens in new window) , makes music come to life as the music coordinator on Station Eleven (external link, opens in new window) , a new science fiction miniseries on HBO Max. Based on Emily St John Mandel's post-apocalyptic novel (external link, opens in new window)  by the same name, the 10-episode series depicts a world ravaged by a pandemic and offers a haunting parallel to the current COVID-19 health crisis.

Creating convincing musical scenes for television

Station Eleven follows the lives of a group of strangers both before and in the nineteen years following the pandemic. One of the characters, a young theatre actress , joins The Traveling Symphony, a ragtag group of musicians and actors who are kept together by a shared love of music and theatre.

Black and white portrait of Debashis Sinha. Sinha wears a black button down shirt with the top button undone. He wears thick rimmed black glasses and looks down towards the ground with his eyes closed

Performance Professor, Debashis Sinha

There was a real willingness to find out what would make things work the best. Both logistically and story wise

Debashis Sinha

As music coordinator, Sinha put together all the on-camera music moments which were mimed with the exception of one live performance, and coordinated The Traveling Symphony wherein he was also the percussionist, harpsichord and banjo player. 

“I had to think through how things would work with filming by visualizing what musicians needed to make things convincing,” he shares. 

Leveraging industry connection to make a creative impact

A strong industry connection helped Sinha land this role. When Station Eleven was conceptualized, one of the project’s directors and main producer, Jeremy Podeswa (external link, opens in new window)  (Game of Thrones), called Sinha for advice and ideas on how he might go about getting together a symphony and what would be involved in coordinating all the necessary elements and information to make it work on camera. After the series’ composer, Dan Romer (external link, opens in new window)  had a chance to listen to Sinha’s work, he was hired to make it happen.

Sinha describes the project as colossal. “Any one day on set involved at least 100 crew alongside all the actors,” he says. 

“The Traveling Symphony itself was an integral part of the story, and the directorial team, producers and myself talked a lot about the characters and the makeup of the symphony, both storytelling wise and in response to the sketches the composer was generating for the project. Directing the non-musician actors in playing was a key part of my role - either coaching them myself, or arranging professional coaches,” he says.

Sinha ran music meetings on Zoom with directorial and production departments looking over episodes before filming to pinpoint the different music moments and how the directors and showrunner, Patrick Somerville (external link, opens in new window) , saw them taking place. 

Image shows a group of people in the forest with trailers and vans packed with personal belongings. One woman rides a white horse towards the camera while everyone else looks away from the camera.

Scene from Station Eleven. Image courtesy of Twitter @Station11onmax (external link) 

Image shows a man at home sitting on a chair wearing a blue tracksuit with white strips on the side. He holds a notebook in his hands and looks towards a window with concern. A small child walks behind him in red overalls.

Scene from Station Eleven. Image courtesy of Twitter @Station11onmax  (external link) 

As a musician himself, Sinha says his wide variety of sound experience, from recording to performing and filming TV shoots, was a huge help in this role. Sinha shares that he kept forgetting that as experienced as everyone was, music and how music gets performed was a big mystery to most. 

“There was a real willingness to find out what would make things work the best,” he says. “Both logistically and story wise.”

Authenticity in life and work

Sinha relied on keeping a level head and trusting his experience as he took on the role of music coordinator during the project. 

“Being clear, honest, forthright and transparent” says Sinha, “was really the key. It helped that everyone was on board with making it work - I had very little pushback and often my ideas were taken on with great enthusiasm.” 

He credits his success in the role to the collaborative dynamic of the team and offers advice for emerging creatives on the importance of being kind. 

“At the end of the day, it’s the conversations you have, the authenticity you bring to your life and work, and the way you enact it,” he says. “Treating others as human beings with a wealth of knowledge that brings the project forward is a key to working in any environment.”

Station Eleven begins streaming December 16th, 2021 on HBO Max. 

Learn more about Sinha’s work here (external link, opens in new window) 

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