British Composer Natalie Holt Breaks Down ‘Loki’ Background Score
The Marvel series takes us back to the Fifties with its Sci-Fi-inspired sound
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a wishing well that keeps on giving. This time, it may just have come out with the best television series score the franchise has ever seen. Loki’s musical theme is just as twisted and dark as the show itself. British composer Natalie Holt has translated the larger-than-life theatrical feel of the series along with Loki’s grand troublemaker charisma into the score.
Imbibing her own ‘glorious purpose,’ Holt credits her colleagues and the script as her inspiration. She says, “[It] was the script and the character of Loki, Owen Wilson (who plays Mobius), and Kate [Herron] the director and just all the collaboration that happened… I was inspired by the way Tom [Hiddleston] played Loki with his classical flair and panache to come up with something bold.”
The unsettling sound of the theme masks a doomsday perception as we hear alien-like sci-fi sounds from the Fifties and faded analog textures mixed with classical and orchestral references. She believes that the narrative of Loki is “ an epic idea” and says, “I felt that the theme needed to be equally as epic. I wanted those big chords of the ‘TVA’ to just feel otherworldly and knock your socks off.”
The score’s over the top classical symphony is inspired by 19th-century German opera composer Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries.” She correlated the dramatic edge of the opera — which makes you feel like you are sitting in a Star Wars spaceship — to Loki’s adventure beyond Avengers: Endgame and into the time-defying world of the Time Variance Authority (TVA). Holt says, “I always wanted to keep it to be a blend of things. I didn’t just want anything to be ‘Oh, here’s a piece of orchestral music.’ I always wanted some other texture in there that was slightly unexpected.” Holt’s drive to mix different sounds and her specialty in strong music reflects her unique choices of instruments. She uses Norwegian and Scandanavian folk instruments like the Hardanger fiddle and the nyckelharpa to accentuate the orchestral theme and on-screen emotion, especially for scenes including Frigga [Rene Russo) and Sylvie (Sophia di Martino).
Still, her most interesting choice of instrument was the theremin. This manually-controlled electronic instrument which creates music using electro-magnetic fields sounds just as futuristic as the sounds it creates. However, it was first invented in the Twenties by Leon Theremin. Commenting on using the instrument, Holt says, “I got to work with Charlie Draper, who collects vintage theremins… We had a Big Briar 91A designed by Bob Moog and a 1929 RCA Theremin designed by Leon Theremin. There’s only 140 of these in the world… and only a tiny proportion of those that are actually working. We had this classic, vintage, the very first theremin that there ever was… That really made the score space-age-y.”
Despite the effortlessness of the soundtrack, everything was not so smooth sailing for Holt. According to her, the most challenging composition was “the connection between Loki and Sylvie, which we see in the beginning of episode four… What kind of connection is it? I went around the houses a lot with that scene trying to find the right emotion and mood that would sit in the background of helping them feel that connection to each other. That was probably the [case for] most [of the] versions of the theme I wrote.”
Owing to the pandemic, the whole score was created remotely. A single mother, Holt had to juggle between homeschooling her six-year-old and recording and mixing the score in her studio as other musicians contributed other sounds and instruments from different parts of the world. But the lockdowns also brought along something positive for her. “Piecing it all together was challenging, but… all those musicians that I mentioned would maybe not have been free and would have been on tour if it hadn’t been the pandemic. So there was that positive that everyone was at home with nothing much to do and willing to record for me.”
Holt is a violinist trained at the Royal Music Academy. She has also studied composition at the National Film and Television School. In the recent past, Holt has composed for many award-winning television series and movies, including HBO Max’s The Honourable Woman, BBC’s drama series Three Girls, and received an Emmy nomination for PBS’ Victoria.
Hear Holt on Loki’s finale episode out on July 14th on Disney+ Hotstar Premium and on Disney+ Hotstar VIP. and on Netflix’s upcoming film Fever Dream.
Listen to the main theme of ‘Loki.’