The Haunting Horrors of CHERNOBYL
June 4, 2019
Hildur Guðnadóttir Crafts CHERNOBYL Horror Score with Sounds from a Real Nuclear Plant: Interview Excerpt
HBO’s miniseries CHERNOBYL, which reached its cinematic conclusion yesterday, may be based on a true story but it’s a horror tale nonetheless: a disaster story that could have been even worse in bringing our planet to the brink of destruction (The Chernobyl accident is considered the most disastrous nuclear power plant accident in history, both in terms of cost and casualties. It is one of only two nuclear energy accidents classified as a level 7 event—the maximum classification—on the International Nuclear Event Scale, the other being the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan1).
A co-production between HBO and Sky UK, this five-part historical television miniseries was created and written by Craig Mazin (largely based on survivor interviews in Belarusian Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich’s book, Voices from Chernobyl, and directed by Johan Renck. It depicts the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of April 1986 and the unprecedented cleanup efforts that followed, revealing how and why it happened, and telling the stories of those people, who help and died in tackling the disaster, and the Russian cover up. The series features an ensemble cast consisting of primarily European performers, led by Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, Emily Watson, and Paul Ritter. The series premiered in the United States on May 6, 2019, and in the United Kingdom on May 7, 2019.
The power plant scenes were filmed in Visaginas, Lithuania, at the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, a decommissioned nuclear power station who’s visual resemblance to Chernobyl resulted in its often being referred to as “Chernobyl’s sister.”
Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir (SICARIO 2: DAY OF THE SOLDATO, MARY MAGDALENE, JOURNEY’S END, THE JOKER [forthcoming]), above, was asked to score the film, and took an unusual approach . She and her music team recorded sounds at the Ignalina power plant in Lithuana, and those sounds, digitally sampled and treated tonally as her musical palette, became the basis for her resultant score.
In an excerpt of a recent edition of On Score: The Podcast, posted to youtube, Guðnadóttir describes how the Chernobyl score was developed.
Watch On Score’s interview excerpt on youtube.