Nathan Barr interview: ‘A Very British Scandal’ composer

“It’s about two characters who are reaching for something,” reveals composer Nathan Barr about the limited series “A Very British Scandal.” The three-episode drama recounts the marriage and bitter divorce between Ian and Margaret Campbell, the Duke and Duchess of Argyll, played by Paul Bettany and Claire Foy. Barr’s score has been nominated for an Emmy, his fifth career nomination. He previously won for composing the main title music of the Netflix limited series “Hollywood.” Check out our exclusive video interview with Barr above.

The composer’s inspiration came from his belief that both Ian and Margaret were looking for things that were completely separate from any kind of love. For Ian, it was the desire for Margaret’s money, while Margaret was attracted to the idea of being the wife of a duke. Barr says that those elements informed the melodies he crafted. “The score was really about plugging into the emotional journey behind that reaching,” he says. “I just found a simple melody right up front, and it has these notes at the end of the phrase that feel like they’re reaching. That plugged in really nicely to what they’re both doing under the surface.”

Barr describes how the sound of the violin exemplifies the characters, comparing the couple to snakes. “There’s a lot of backstabbing and slithering around in the dark,” he argues. “Something about that sliding violin literally translated into playing that part of the story.”

Barr credits series director Anne Sewitsky with shaping the sound of the music, which incorporates both classical and contemporary instrumentation. “My first pass at the music was not rooted in anything other than a sort of straight classical approach, which I think was the more obvious approach,” explains Barr. After Sewitsky suggested a more contemporary sound in the music, Barr made some adjustments. “I started exploring using some synths and some other custom stuff that I have here at my studio,” he says. “Suddenly the score took a very different turn.”

Barr also credits the success of the score to the performances of Bettany and Foy. “The performances are so incredible,” he says. “I was sorry to see them not nominated. But I think it’s always helpful when the performances are as strong as these performances were.”

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UPLOADED Jul 26, 2022 2:30 pm