CHERNOBYL (Music from the Original TV-Series)
By the time you read this, this post probably comes ‘too late in the day’, as they say. The HBO television series Chernobyl has become widely acclaimed and has received the highest rating on IMDB ever. And rightly so: it’s impossible to watch and nót be gripped by fear and oppression from the devastating effects of a nuclear reactor meltdown. Especially when you’re old enough to remember the actual disaster happening in April 1986. Personally, I still remember talking to people who did not dare to leave their house for the immense fear of nuclear fallout. (This was in Holland, mind you!)
There were some discussions about the historic details of the series (especially from the Russian perspective), which is why the creators also released an extensive companion podcast in which they discuss what was historically correct and what liberties they took for the sake of telling the story in a television series.
If you haven’t seen the series by now, you have no excuse. Go see it.
But for now, let’s talk about the soundtrack. As if to underline that this is no Hollywood-like over-dramatic interpretation, Craig Mazin, the creator/director of the series decided nót to use a large-scale symphonic score but chose Hildur Gudnadóttir to create the soundtrack. Hildur’s solo work is impressive enough, but apart from that she paved her way into the soundtrack business by not only working together with Johann Johannsson on various occasions (Mary Magdalene, Trapped, End of Summer, Sicario and The Revenant), while also delivering some impressive scores herself.
The work on soundtracks has obviously kept her busy: her latest solo work, Saman, is from 2014.
The Chernobyl soundtrack is different from her solo work. The cello is not the main instrument here – in fact, it does not feature the instrument at all: all sounds used were recorded in actual nuclear power plants, with the help of Chris Watson – ex-Cabaret Voltaire member but currently one of the most respected field recording engineers in the world.
Every single sound from the score is made from the recordings made in a decommissioned power plant in Lithuania, where most of the series was filmed. Watson and Gudnadóttir did not ‘play’ the plant, banging on pipes or playing instruments inside it. “No, I was observing the power plant. I didn’t really want to play it as such, but I wanted to go there and experience what it’s like to be in a power plant.”
The result is a score that creeps under your skin in the same way the series does. It is not necessarily an easy listen, except perhaps for the choral parts in Vichnaya Pamyat or Lidur. It is uncomfortable, as it should be of course: this is no fairy tale being told here. But with all its threatening darkness, this is one of the most authentic soundscapes you will find. Aural art that speaks for itself, even when you have not seen the series. But if you haven’t seen it, make sure you do.
“How did you get involved with this project?”Hildur Gudnadóttir
“hmm…They just asked me..?!”)
If you want to hear more details about creating the soundtrack, check this interview with Hildur Gudnadóttir radiating her enthusiasm for this project and recording inside the power plant.
For unknown reasons (to me), the physical release of the soundtrack is released much later than the digital version. The Chernobyl soundtrack has been available on digital platforms for a few months, but the physical (vinyl) release many have been waiting for is finally available since September, 6.
HILDUR GUDNADÓTTIR – TURBINE HALL