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Chernobyl composer Hildur Guðnadóttir interview

Guy Rowland

Senior Member
I'm glad to hear it, Rope. But your manner on the thread so far gave little indication of this, indeed suggesting that just because it was a major historical event that gave it superiority as drama, as if the craft were superfluous.

And I do think you did Hildur a serious mis-service with your snarky Spinal Tap reference, which is what irritated me in the first place. Although you can't apparently hear the score, most of us can, loud and clear. Funnily enough, a director friend brought it up today, saying he thought the score was exceptional. He didn't know how it was created (as I didn't until this morning), he was just responding to the finished product in how it supported the drama. In the end, that's what counts of course.

Could she have done as good a job with Omnisphere? She could probably have turned in a perfectly serviceable score in truth. But what sets Chernobyl apart from "serviceable" is that it feels as if every department did not settle for serviceable. The sound palette is unique, and while of course its a stretch to say that it couldn't have been unique recorded in a different way, to me it is entirely of a piece with what we are seeing, and it might be a little fanciful to say that is total co-incidence.

Final point as I've ground my axe for quite long enough I'm sure we all agree - Hildur comes across as entirely the opposite from the pompous un-self-aware Nigel Tufnel. Indeed she laughs at the notion that this level of immersion is normal or desirable.
 

Consona

Senior Member
The show is great.

The music fits the mood perfectly. Could there be some paranoid Herrmann Twilight Zone masterfully done orchestral music?.. Maaaybeee... But... this way, it feels really coherent and suitable so, even though I'm fed up with like every thing nowadays being sound-designy rather than Bernard-Herrmanny, I don't have any problem with the score. Quite the contrary, it's done well.

The moment I have a problem with this approach is when you have a huge fantasy battle in Game of Thrones and all you hear is one ever-repeating low synth pattern and some muted pads here and there for half an hour.

Like a month ago I was watching Refn's Neon Demon, Martinez' score was electronic, yet really really nice. And he's working with Refn on a TV series, can't wait. I'm glad not all electronic stuff we hear is this trendy minimalism, hope some more structured and interesting things will return to the scores. The Chernobyl soundtrack is fitting, as is something like The Orville music taking us back to the Goldsmith/Horner days!!! So glad someone can still compose music like that!
 

givemenoughrope

Senior Member
I'm glad to hear it, Rope. But your manner on the thread so far gave little indication of this,
The thread is about an interview regarding the score, not the show.

indeed suggesting that just because it was a major historical event that gave it superiority as drama, as if the craft were superfluous.
It being major historical event DOES give it a major leg up as a drama. The craft is completely separate from this. (What is it about modern discourse (read:arguing on the internet) that prevents multiple things from being true at the same time?)

And I do think you did Hildur a serious mis-service with your snarky Spinal Tap reference, which is what irritated me in the first place.
You placed the snark there. You found something you really enjoy and someone making light of the way a string of words comes off offended you. Why? I see people make jokes about the Rite of Spring all the time.

Although you can't apparently hear the score, most of us can, loud and clear.
Oh, I can hear it. I guess I meant I keep waiting for there to be more, I dunno, notes? Or for something to repeat?

Funnily enough, a director friend brought it up today, saying he thought the score was exceptional.
Well that settles that then. Right, they are probably responding to the approach. Fine, whatever. I would agree.

He didn't know how it was created (as I didn't until this morning), he was just responding to the finished product in how it supported the drama. In the end, that's what counts of course.

Could she have done as good a job with Omnisphere? She could probably have turned in a perfectly serviceable score in truth. But what sets Chernobyl apart from "serviceable" is that it feels as if every department did not settle for serviceable. The sound palette is unique, and while of course its a stretch to say that it couldn't have been unique recorded in a different way, to me it is entirely of a piece with what we are seeing, and it might be a little fanciful to say that is total co-incidence.
No argument there. Record the room you film in and things will probably match up in some way. Boot up Omnisphere and it'll sound like you did.

Final point as I've ground my axe for quite long enough I'm sure we all agree - Hildur comes across as entirely the opposite from the pompous un-self-aware Nigel Tufnel. Indeed she laughs at the notion that this level of immersion is normal or desirable.
Again, no argument really. But the interviewer asks more than once 'what does that mean?' and she just repeats the same thing. It just strikes me as composer puff piece-y talk which is full of made-up, fanciful talk to dazzle people who think music is nothing but unapproachable magic from Hogwarts. Again, it's as if multiple things can't be true at the same time in 2019. And I forgot that most, if not all, interviews are really just commercials. Fine.
 

NoamL

Winter <3
Could have used more music than sound design.
I read a review somewhere that really summed up this show: "In a typical horror movie the characters see the threat and get scared because it's going to kill them. In this TV show the characters see the threat and realize they're already dead."

There is some nice "Scandi noir" scoring in this show with acoustic instruments but it's for the emotional scenes with the survivors and relatives. The horror aspect of the scoring is almost like sounds emerging from the environment... which is exactly what the threat is.

My only concern with this show, as someone who's very pro-nuclear, is that this miniseries encourages people to exaggerate the threat. I've seen a lot of online comments about how every character on the show is dead, etc. When in reality the guy who held the door open & immediately started bleeding actually lived despite being horribly burned from radioactive dust. Dyatlov (the main "villain" of the show I guess) received an LD50 dose and survived. The show doesn't do a very good job of explaining fission products and the different types of radiation, which can have as different penetrative effects as a paintball vs a bullet.

While many/most of the characters on the show did die of acute radiation syndrome which is one of THE most horrible ways to die ever, the show doesn't contextualize the deaths very well either. There will be hundreds of thousands of excess deaths worldwide this year alone, from respiratory diseases caused by burning coal for electricity. When you look at "deaths per lightbulb," the US nuclear industry is safer than US solar and US wind because of fewer (zero) installation/maintenance casualties. All three are far and away better than oil or natural gas, both of which are much better than coal. Yet it seems like the US modern left doesn't acknowledge these nuances. The division they see is between "fossil fuels" and "green energy." This division erases the difference between coal and LNG, and it also leaves nuclear out in the cold as being neither "fossil fuel" nor supposedly qualifying as "green."
 

Dewdman42

Senior Member
For sure they over dramatized numerous times the magnitude of the disaster, for better or worse. FWIW, I am not in favor of nuclear power and haven't been since decades. The consequences of accidents are far too catastrophic for the short term benefit of lighting our TV's. You can debate all day long about whether coal and C02 is destroying our planet, there are people on both sides of that argument and fair enough, but you cannot argue that an earthquake or tsunami or some other user-error causing a nuclear reactor to leak its guts into world will absolutely with a certainty do damage which will not repair itself for centuries or more. No thanks.. I welcome this overly dramatized dooms day mini series because I see Nuclear power as severely stupid and arrogant for mankind to pursue.
 
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Guy Rowland

Senior Member
Rope - absolutely my last comment as personal back and forths are very dull, but I'd have cut you a lot more slack on nuance and multiple things being true had you not dismissed the entire thing initially with the Tap gag. Putting this very bluntly, given her achievement in what is currently the best rated TV show of all time, it felt like a really shitty thing to do.

NoamL - yes, I was a bit concerned about this, but I guess (at least thus far) wider contextualisation hasn't really been possible. It's totally focused on the incident and aftermath. Maybe there's just a little scope for this in Ep 5?

Tangential thought - I remember after Fukushima the German government rolled back its nuclear power plans massively. This seemed the most anti-science reaction possible... Fukushima happened because of a TSUNAMI. Is this an issue in Germany?!!!
 

Dewdman42

Senior Member
It doesn't matter that it was a TSUNAMI. Unforseen things can happen. Do you really want to scar the face of the earth with thousands of years of nuclear fallout because some accident happens that nobody thought would happen? The consequences are far too great.
 

NoamL

Winter <3
You could use the same argument to ban airplanes. All it takes is one pilot with undiagnosed mental illness -

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EgyptAir_Flight_990

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SilkAir_Flight_185

and you have a certainty that 180 or 220 people will die. Wouldn't it be safer if everyone drove cars? The answer in deaths-per-mile turns out to be no. Disasters come packaged with an exaggerating glamour. Nobody's going to make an episode of Mayday about 220 car crashes.
 

Dewdman42

Senior Member
no. An airplane crash will not scar the face of the earth for thousands of years. I'm not even talking about the tragedy of hundreds or thousands of people dying a grissly death as was the case in Chernobyl, but there is no mans land now where humans can't live to this day...and they had to seal up the site in a large concrete coffin to hold in the poison for who knows how long. We are messing with a force of the universe that we probably only understand a fraction of, and certainly the consequences of radioactive material getting out due to unforeseen circumstances is always there...with very long term destruction.

I will be in favor of nuclear power only when they can do it from outer space.
 

Guy Rowland

Senior Member
I knew I should have steered clear of tangents, so final small font comment from me on this new derailment. Fukushima's disaster only happened because of a tsunami. As far as anyone knows, it is a safe system outside that specific extreme circumstance. No German reactors are at threat from a tsunami, nor earthquake.

I think I better exit this thread before I kick anything else off. In on-topic summary:

1. Chernobyl TV series is outstanding.
2. Its score is outstanding.
3. See (1) and (2).
 

NoamL

Winter <3
The argument that's most convincing to me is the bicycle. The bicycle was invented in the West yet there will be 20 million bikes sold in the US next year and 60 million in China. Whatever future the West creates, the rest of the world will adopt. That puts an incumbent responsibility on us. I'm not denying the rest of the world agency or saying they are doomed to follow our technological development exactly. There's lots of places in the world where people have smartphones that have never owned a landline for instance. And China is doing its own nuclear research now. But, as the rest of the world rises to the same standard of living, if the only way to get there is coal then they'll do it and no amount of Kyotos and Copenhagens will stop them. Whereas if the US and/or China innovates to 5th gen nuclear (not to say that 4th gen isn't good enough already) then the rest of the world will have clean, safe energy to adopt and it will also be massive boon to whichever economy develops and patents the tech.

edit: that's the last derailment from me too ;)
 

NoamL

Winter <3
@Guy Rowland I think the series creator mentioned that the final episode will actually show the doomed "safety test" and how it led to the accident. It airs tonight.
 

givemenoughrope

Senior Member
Rope - absolutely my last comment as personal back and forths are very dull, but I'd have cut you a lot more slack on nuance and multiple things being true had you not dismissed the entire thing initially with the Tap gag. Putting this very bluntly, given her achievement in what is currently the best rated TV show of all time, it felt like a really shitty thing to do.
Yea, no. Not liking things or aspects of things is a thing (thing) that people do. It's not shitty. And ok, what achievement exactly? (Not that scoring a tv series isn't hard work and a major achievement. It absolutely is.) The series and all of the writing, production, sound design etc work for me despite the lack of music. But I think that most Scandi/drone scores are limp blob of sound and the height of scoring pretentiousness in many cases. To me this is just one more important story and well-crafted drama that is done a disservice. It's crazy how no one is allowed anything but the 'correct' opinion these days without being questioned ethically.
 
OP
timprebble

timprebble

Sound designer, Composer, Sound library developer
most Scandi/drone scores are limp blob of sound and the height of scoring pretentiousness in many cases..
OK we all get your take on how things should be.
So can you please finish sharing your judgements and gross generalisations now thanks.
Its ok you dont like things, perhaps just move on & focus on what you do like.
 

givemenoughrope

Senior Member
OK we all get your take on how things should be.
So can you please finish sharing your judgements and gross generalisations now thanks.
Its ok you dont like things, perhaps just move on & focus on what you do like.
I like you, Tim. And Chernobyl...the tv series, not the famous disaster in the 80's. And strawberries. And scores that move the narrative and give even something small to take away. Thanks for your time.
 

handz

Senior Member
There is any music? All I can remember is sound design (used all the time even in the situations where it is quite out of place IMO )
 

handz

Senior Member
I think your user name comes into play here...

Chernobyl is now the best rated TV series of all time. That’s one thing, what is more surprising is that this is despite being extremely challenging material that is often very difficult to watch. This wasn’t an easy sell, nor a crowd-pleasing proposition. Collectively, the production achieved something really remarkable.
This is just proof of how weird time this is. It is a good series, but so good, before ppl even saw it whole? Sheep mentality is strong here. After the first episode it already had insane ratings, sorry, but even with its qualities, it is not as good to be judged like this right away.
 
OP
timprebble

timprebble

Sound designer, Composer, Sound library developer
A film that I think is an interesting reference for minimalist score is No Country For Old Men.
I read some people think that it has no score, but it actually has about 20 minutes of score - it is just mixed very quietly. (I wanted to know so I exported the soundtrack from the DVD and crawled through it. At times where I thought there was maybe a quiet drone there was actually an orchestral cue, but playing very quietly.) I personally thought that film worked incredibly well with a minimalist score approach, but it was interesting to discover that there may well have been a full score available in the mix because it means the end result is not arrived at by some whim or high concept.

That may have been the case with Chernobyl, we will never know.
But what we do know is that it is the director who makes the call on how much score is commissioned for a show, and then it is collaboration in the final mix that determines how much of that score we the audience end up hearing.
 
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