Mark Isham (‘The Nevers’ composer) on inserting ‘glimpses of things that are fantastical’ into his classical score [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

“It’s such a wide spectrum of emotion that goes through the story,” explains composer Mark Isham of “The Nevers.” Indeed, the HBO drama crosses the boundaries of many genres to tell a science fiction laced epic within its Victorian era setting. The acclaimed composer wanted to hint at elements of sorrow, danger, and magic in his score, to reflect a show that carries a “general sense of mysteriousness.” Watch the exclusive video interview above.

Viewers don’t have to wait long before becoming immersed in Isham’s sonic landscape. The pilot episode begins with an extended wordless montage where the major characters of “The Nevers” are introduced. “It took me a little while just to get over the sheer terror of a challenge like that,” Isham admits. Luckily that fear gave way to a realization: “this is a composer’s dream,” he says. “I don’t have any competition, music is the only sonic element.”

SEE Laura Donnelly interview: ‘The Nevers’

The score here articulates the sense of wonderment lurking under the surface of an otherwise traditional period piece. Lush strings harmonize and pluck along as one would expect, but then as Isham describes it, “you get these glimpses of things that are fantastical.” An appropriate twist for a show that features various superpowers and the angelic-like creature called the Galanthi, who bestowed them. The score mimics the presence of unexplained phenomena in a traditional world. “Hiding around the edges are these strange sonic things that can come out and grab you,” explains the composer.

Isham is an Oscar nominee for “A River Runs Through It.” He won an Emmy in 1997 for the main title theme to “EZ Streets.” He has five additional Emmy nominations for “Chicago Hope” (twice), “Nothing Sacred,” “Once Upon a Time,” and “Little Fires Everywhere.” Isham is also a seven-time Grammy nominee, winning once for Best New Age Performance in 1991.

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