Volker Bertelmann interview: ‘Your Honor’ composer
Showtime’s legal thriller “Your Honor” opens with intense extended sequence that culminates in a horrifying car crash. It is not only one of the most visually arresting sequences on any series this season, but it was also aurally confronting, due in large part to Oscar-nominated composer Volker Bertelmann‘s hauntingly melancholy score.
For Bertelmann (otherwise known as Hauschka), “it was not ‘thriller’ music all the way through,” he explains. His priority was for the music to focus on the characters’ “inner tension,” which he says inspired many of the tracks he wrote for the show that endeavor to elicit feelings of dread and tension with the audience. Watch our exclusive video interview above.
“Your Honor” is Showtime’s 10-episode limited series that is based on the Israeli series “Kvodo.” It stars two-time Tony winner and multiple Emmy winner Bryan Cranston (“Network,” “All the Way” and “Breaking Bad”) as widowed New Orleans judge Michael Desiato, who unexpectedly compromises his ethics to protect his son Adam (Hunter Doohan) after he’s involved in a hit-and-run accident that kills the son of local mafia boss Jimmy Baxter (Michael Stuhlbarg).
Fearful of the deceased’s parents Jimmy and Gina Baxter (Hope Davis), Michael becomes increasingly desperate to dispose of the evidence, which leads to even more tragic consequences. Boasting a creative team that includes writer Peter Moffat (“The Night Of”) and director Edward Berger (“Patrick Melrose”), the series explores the lengths a father will go to to protect his son and the lengths the system will allow him to do so.
The ambitious opening 15-20 minutes of the series features an intense car crash that sets the scene for the whole show. When a panicked Adam suffers an asthma attack while driving, he is unable to find his inhaler while gasping for air. He reaches down in desperation to find it, but he suddenly hits a nearby motorcyclist, who we later discover is Jimmy’s beloved teenage son Rocco Baxter (Benjamin Wadsworth). With Rocco almost dead on the curbside, a battered and bruised Adam tries to revive him, even calling 9-1-1, but his panic leads him to flee the scene and leave poor Rocco to die, choking on his own blood.
The composer’s nuanced music that underscores that sequence features sounds that echo the breathlessness and desperation felt by Adam in that awful moment. Bertelmann’s innovative composition gives the scene a palpable gravity and sense of dread, as the audience witnesses the harrowing events unfolding onscreen. “My feeling was that I needed some sound in the music that continued this kind of breathless sound, so I used a lot of toneless cello bowing and breathing into a bass clarinet,” he explains. “I used all of these sounds and mixed them into waves of sounds,” he says, in order to provide that element of suffocation in the cues written for that scene.