‘Lovecraft Country’ composer Laura Karpman on creating ‘gothic R&B’ with ‘an orchestra that literally rocks’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

“I think the first thing that [showrunner Misha Green] said to us was that she wanted gothic R&B, and I don’t think there had been a genre exactly like gothic R&B,” remembers “Lovecraft Country” composer Laura Karpman about the unique sound she and her co-composer Raphael Saadiq were tasked to create for the unique HBO drama. Watch our exclusive video interview with Karpman above.

“Lovecraft Country” is set in 1950s Chicago, where a Black family must contend against Jim Crow-era racism while also trying to unravel a supernatural mystery. But the 10-episode first season spans a lot more than that. “Every single episode has its own kind of unique cinematic feel,” Karpman explains. That includes a haunted house episode, a “Raiders of the Lost Ark”-style adventure episode, and a sci-fi time travel episode. “They all have their own profiles. Although, of course, there are themes and ideas that carry through from episode to episode.”

The story goes to some grand, operatic places, and so does the music, giving Karpman the chance to work on a grander scale than she’s usually accustomed to. “I haven’t had the opportunities of really creating those sounds with live orchestra as often as I wish I had,” she says. “It’s totally wonderful to be able to work with live musicians and work at that scale. It’s hard when you’re trying to create that without live musicians.”

Having an orchestra at your disposal also helps you generate the musical “drive” and “excitement” you need for an action-packed thriller where “you’ve got chases and you’ve got monsters and you’ve got all kinds of bad people after all kinds of good people. You’re leaning into the orchestral world of percussion and moving sounds. You’re dealing with an orchestra that literally rocks.”

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