When Nicholas Britell began composing the music for HBO’s “Succession,” his first TV project, the main challenge was reorienting how a score would be structured over a 10-hour production rather than just 90-120 minutes. “I think the idea of how different musical themes are initially seeded in the beginning of the show, where they come back, how they evolve, it is a bit different on television than in film,” he says in our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video above). He adds that by looking to the bigger picture of the characters and storylines, he was able to write pieces of music rather than just coming up with a cue that’s used moment-to-moment.
“Succession” follows the Roy family whose patriarch, Logan (Brian Cox), owns a vast global media empire. Logan’s three adult children, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Siobhan (Sarah Snook), are constantly jockeying to be the next in line to take over. Britell has seen his profile skyrocket over the past several years. He’s been nominated for two Oscars for Best Original Score of “Moonlight” in 2016 and “If Beale Street Could Talk” last year. His work on the “Succession” score has already gained some major recognition, winning the Best Original TV Series Score at last year’s Hollywood Music in Media Awards.
One of the aspects that Britell had to deal with in composing for this show was the constant tonal shift between classic drama and dark absurdity. He achieved this by “always trying to make things disproportionate on purpose. An example would be making the drums a little too big so there’s both a seriousness with this dark classical universe, but there’s also an absurdity with the ways, proportions, tunings and interactions of these sounds.”
The idea of getting to compose a theme for a television show was very enticing for Britell because he’s always had an appreciation for the art form of putting together a TV theme. “I think one of the things that was so fulfilling for me about getting to work on this series was having grown up and being such a huge fan of TV music and themes, that to finally be able to actually write my own theme for a show was something that was very personally special,” he says. He added that some of his favorite themes over the years have included “MacGyver,” “Knight Rider” and “The Golden Girls.”
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