‘The Great’ composer Nathan Barr had to write a 9-second memorable main title theme [Exclusive Video Interview]

When Emmy Award-winning composer Nathan Barr returned to write the music for Season 2 of “The Great,” creator Tony McNamara and executive producer Marian Mcgowan said they had wanted to add a main title track to his plate. It was a great opportunity for the prolific composer, but there was just one problem.

“I was like, ‘Fantastic, what are we looking at? Sixty seconds, 90 seconds?’” Barr tells Gold Derby in our exclusive video interview. “They’re like, ‘We’re looking at nine seconds.’ Like nine seconds! That’s definitely the shortest main title I’ve written – and I’ve written some short ones before. But it’s a challenge, right?”

Barr was up for the task and seized on the themes of the subversive Hulu historical comedy. “I wrote something pretty crazy busy and insane. Which was, I think, exactly right for the show, given the crazy energy of the characters this season. But it was pretty funny to only get nine seconds to do so.”

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Barr has been a top composer for years, working across film and television in a variety of genres. He’s a four-time Emmy Award nominee and won for his main title theme to Ryan Murphy’s “Hollywood” at the 2020 Emmy Awards. For “The Great,” which stars Elle Fanning as Catherine the Great and Nicholas Hoult as Emperor Peter III, the key for Barr was balancing on the “knife’s edge” of the show’s tone. Barr says he initially didn’t want to “get too hokey too quickly or too heavy-handed,” with the music. 

“I rarely read the scripts because I like to experience the show as a fan,” Barr says of “The Great.” It’s something he’s done throughout his career. “I get to enjoy the actual show as an audience member. Bringing that enthusiasm and excitement to the scoring process is really helpful for me,” he explains.

That means any ideas for Season 3 of the Hulu comedy remain dormant at the moment. “Tony’s writing right now. He may be through most of it, and they’re going to start shooting soon. But I have no thoughts at this point about it,” he says. Even if he did, with the way “The Great” is produced, tracks Barr writes don’t necessarily end up making it onto the show anyway. 

“Just because I’ve written it and they’ve signed off on it doesn’t mean it’s gonna go on the show. They very much watch it with fresh ears and fresh eyes from a story perspective on the dub stage,” he says. “So regularly, I’ll write stuff which, rightfully so, they decided, ‘Oh, we don’t we need this here.’ There’s a real fluidity in the dialogue between us and the process of getting the music into the show. That’s challenging and exciting.”

All episodes of “The Great” are streaming on Hulu.

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