This weekend is an exciting one for me as the TV version of His Dark Materials begins. I do have a slight advantage over my American colleagues as they need to subscribe to HBO to get access to the show, instead, I get it on BBC over here in the UK, which means free other than your TV Licence, (which means it’s not really free at all I guess?)
I am a huge fan of the books, I think these books probably had as much of an impact on my life as Star Wars did from the movie world. Star Wars influenced my childhood and my love of stories, but HDM influenced my morals and compassion for my fellow humans as an adult. My only anxiety is whether this TV show does a far better job than The Golden Compass did of making this into a movie. However, one of the things I am glad of, is that Season 2 has already been given the green light, and therefore I will finally get to see book 2, subtitled The Subtle Knife adapted finally, and that is far and away my favorite book of the trilogy.
I am also a big movie and TV show score nerd, a great score can make or break a movie for me, and I know that’s not how everyone sees scores, but that’s just me. His Dark Materials will be scored by Lorne Balfe, who most recently scored Mission: Impossible – Fallout, our own Nick Doll’s favorite film of all time. So was Balfe new to HDM, or was he already a fan of the books? He spoke with ComicBook.com recently and here is what he had to say about that.
“No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. It was deeply in my life. It’s kind of one of those jobs that when you hear about it, I had to be involved, and whether I bribed somebody to get me the job or turned up at their office, I knew I had to do it. It was with Mission Impossible. I was a massive fan and with Mission, it had been in my life for 20 years. I’d been basically subconsciously writing Fallout out in my head. Just that famous Lalo Schifrin theme, I had been trying to write it for 20-odd years. With Dark Materials, I think… When was the first one? It was in the ’90s. ’95, gosh, how old was I then? I’m 42 now… Oh well, I’ll figure that one out and text you. However old I was, it was a long time ago.
But yes, it was the same heritage and folklore of the likes of Harry Potter and Star Wars to me. Basically, I found out about it and I just knew I had to be part of the team. It’s always very intimidating, especially with literature, because the thing is that everybody has created their own soundtracks in their head when reading these books, and you don’t want to mess it up.”
I cannot say whether I will love Balfe’s score or not, but I damn appreciate the passion the man seems to have to get this right. So what kind of influences did Balfe have when created the score for His Dark Materials Season 1?
“I always treat these books as steampunk. I was very aware of the different worlds and the fact that you weren’t too sure of what the technology was, and if it’s present or past. Musically, I knew right from day one I wanted it to be a mixture of organicness and electronic-ness, and have it so that the organicness was being manipulated, so sonically you don’t know what you’re hearing and you’re not too sure if this is real or if it’s not.
I also kind of wanted to always make sure that with Lyra –I’d never worked on a show where it has such a strong young female lead, and I just wanted to make sure that I wrote it so it wasn’t patronizing to her age. She is the future and she’s just strong. I think that I wanted to make sure that she dramatically was as strong and powerful as if it was Princess Leia, for example.
And also what I wanted to do was very clearly set out each character’s themes. Before we even started, I really spent a long time just creating everybody’s dramatical world. With Mrs. Coulter, it’s powerful but also slightly sexy. I’m not too sure if I can say the word “sexy” for Mrs. Coulter, but the thing is that her character, the way Ruth [Wilson] plays her especially, it’s very imposing.
There are so many sides to it. I just wanted to start off composing and just making sure all of our characters have very clear dramatical worlds, and also their own instrumentation. I think that color-wise, I wanted to make sure that they have their own performances. In the same way, I started thinking about who was going to perform the music. And ironically with Mrs. Coulter, I got Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the drummer, to come and play on it. Because it was like “This is serious now, and this is powerful.” For some reason, I just kept thinking of Chad.
On other themes, with the Egyptian theme, I was lucky to get [violinist] Lindsey Stirling involved to come and play. Everybody’s theme, I wanted to get musicians that I could work with, that would also be that character sound.
I’m just remembering now, the same with [cellist] Tina Guo’s playing on the soundtrack. She’s the main cellist for Wonder Woman. I’m probably forgetting names. I should have practiced. KT Tunstall, the singer, is on the score. Sarah Willis is a French horn player with the Berlin Philharmonic. I was calling her a month ago in Cuba, in Havana, because she’s on tour. And then Rich Harvey, one of the top recordists… Recorder players? Is that a recordist? I’m not too sure. So yeah, I wanted to get that high cast of musicians as well as the show, the cast, their actors.”
Again, I love the passion Balfe shows here for the work and the characters. I just hope I am sitting her praising this score by the time Season 1 finishes up. I can’t stress how much I love these characters, and I am currently reading The Secret Commonwealth, author Phillip Pullman’s second book in the Book of Dust trilogy, a trilogy that fits in and around his previous His Dark Materials trilogy and for the most parts stars the Lyra character once again.
RELATED: His Dark Materials Early Reviews Celebrate ‘Intelligent’ Adaptation Of Philip Pullman’s Fantasy Trilogy
Are you going to be checking out the first episode of His Dark Materials like me this weekend or not, and what do you think of Balfe’s previous work, is he the right composer to score this show? Use your alethiometer and divine inspiration to write some comments in the usual spot below.
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