When comparing the three big Sherlock Holmes incarnations we have at present, most discussions start by focusing on the man in the lead role. Or the Watsons. Eventually, we get to the head guy behind the scenes, discuss the work of the writer, and even compare the minor characters. The place we don't go too often, perhaps because it's harder to find the words, is the music.
Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock, and Elementary all have very different musical views on the great detective that is just as interesting as the work of the writers, directors, and actors, as it's the one piece of each work that you can pull out to stand on its own. Listening to the music from each of the big three incarnations of Holmes evokes three very different characters.
Hans Zimmer's themes for Sherlock Holmes are very steampunk in their way. They have the driving feel of a locomotive engine, chugging forward, the sound of an industrial age at full production. Overlaid on this powerful workhorse of music is a lively rinky-tink musical hall bit that seems to give us Sherlock Holmes as a playful spirit in the age of industry, which is how Robert Downey Jr. tends to play Holmes.
The work of David Arnold and Michael Price for Sherlock is interesting in how it works a sort of Victorian sound into things to tie the modern Sherlock Holmes of that series to his Victorian roots as he goes through his paces. In the opening title music, drums start off like running steps before a leap into the grand and dramatic heart of the theme, which has a powerfully emotional feel to it, with a tinge of melancholy. Here is the Sherlock Holmes that will cause feelings, as a certain Tweet artist likes to say.
Sean Callery's theme for Elementary has a sort of obsessive-compulsive drive to it that almost makes you nervous just to listen to it. It foregoes any Victorian elements for a basic rising intensity that gets the listener all worked up and then just leaves, like dropping you off a musical cliff. The music makes a definite statement about the main character the show is trying to present, driven and abrupt.
Of the three, I definitely prefer the Sherlock theme for its heart and drama. What's interesting to note, however, is that when I tried to call each one into my head for review before I turned to CDs, iTunes, and YouTube, the Elementary theme came up first -- having an episode every Thursday night tends to drive that little "mousetrap" opening into your skull. Another point of interest: trying to find the Elementary theme on YouTube yielding several versions where someone put the Sherlock theme music behind the Elementary visuals . . . which made that mouse seem a little more poignant on his wheel somehow.
Music, however, is one of the most personal and varied tastes we humans have, so I'll leave you to decide upon your own preference of the three. It's a wonderful thing to have this much music to ponder and actually have choices, no matter which way your ear is drawn.