Dominik Scherrer Scores THE CITY & THE CITY for BBC Two
March 30, 2018
Stream preview of Dominik Scherrer’s OST to postmodern fantasy-crime mystery THE CITY & THE CITY (premiere 6 April on BBC Two)
On April 6th the new dystopian ‘weird fiction’-series THE CITY & THE CITY will air on BBC Two. The soundtrack for the series was written by award-winning composer Dominik Scherrer, who scored some of the finest television dramas made in recent years such as THE MISSING, RIPPER STREET, MARPLE, and PRIMEVAL. This new four-part series airs only two weeks after the worldwide release of the supernatural thriller series Requiem on Netflix, another series for which Scherrer composed the original score.
For the upcoming BBC Two series, Dominik Scherrer provided the music for the screen adaption of the internationally acclaimed novel The City and the City by The New York Times bestselling author China Miéville. The fascinating sci-fi book, has not ceased to intrigue large audiences since its publication in 2009 and has been labeled ‘unfilmable’.
The postmodern mystery story is set somewhere in ‘Europe of the near-future’. When the body of a foreign student is found in the streets of the fictional European city of ‘Beszel, inspector Tyador Borlú (David Morrissey) is not particularly alarmed. However, that completely changes when he discovers the murdered girl came from UI Quoma, a neighboring city that shares a dangerous and volatile relationship with Beszel. Step by step it becomes clear that this case will challenge everything inspector Borlú holds dear.
With a story set in two radically different cities, inhabiting the same geographical space, but each with their own characteristic look and feel, writing the soundtrack for the series was a challenge to say the least. “The City and the City takes place in the not-too-distant future, and contrasts two cities, which inhabit the same location, in their culture, feel, language and wealth,” Scherrer explained. “The two cities in which the story is set, Beszel and UI Quoma, coexist in the same geographical space but are separate because people are taught from birth to unsee the other city. The music had to highlight the contrast as well as unite the storyline spanning across the two cities.”
Listen to Dominik Scherrer’s “Temple of Light” from THE CITY & THE CITY soundtrack:
In order to accomplish that, Scherrer provided the two cities with their own characteristic sounds. “Besźel had a lo-fi, small-scale Central-European, but oddly futuristic sound, whereas Ul Qoma had a retro sci-fi analogue synthesizer with symphony orchestra style.” The music is meant to embody the overwhelming experience of seeing Ul Qoma for the first time and the sense of awe that experience evokes.
Listen to Dominik Scherrer’s “Beszel Waltz” from from THE CITY & THE CITY soundtrack:
Those two cities with their own particular sounds, then had to be merged into one seamless soundtrack. “The character’s journeys would span across the city borders,” said Scherrer. “It was useful to play variations of the same themes with those two radically different line-ups and orchestrations in styles, so the story would be carried forward, but the concept of the cities’ identities could be retained.”
And as if the contrast between two cities wasn’t enough of a challenge, “The story then expands into the notion of an ancient civilization, ‘Orciny,’ which I scored with a women’s choir and the idiosyncratic viola and voice solist Charlotte Hug,” Scherrer continued. “The dreamy tones of the choir and the viola embody the vision of an imaginary third city representing a longing to a long gone society. “I think we came up with some truly crazy sounds.”
Listen here to ‘Yolanda’ by Dominik Scherrer from THE CITY & THE CITY soundtrack:
Apart from translating the different spaces into music, Scherrer also went the extra mile to match the sounds he provided to the general look and feel of the series. “Director Tom Shankland used a lot of physical in-camera-effects instead of digital effects which gave the production a distinctly tangible, analogue texture. In turn I recorded and processed some of the instruments with ancient equipment to give it a more textured flavor. In this sense the music points to a 1950s, 1960s pas as well as a future in the mid-21st Century.”
Director Tom Shankland (LES MISÉRABLES, HOUSE OF CARDS, THE MISSING) states: “Dominik Scherrer has once again blown my mind with his brilliance. THE CITY & THE CITY is our fifth collaboration. I love how Dominik effectively created three scores for the series – immersing my senses in the romantic melancholy of Borlu’s Beszel – the more electronic brutalism of Ul Qoma and the mysticism of Orciny. THE CITY & THE CITY was never going to be a conventional thriller – I always wanted it to be an immersive experience of a fractured and unique place with layers of secrets. I cannot imagine the story working without Dominik’s score. From the first epic chords of the opening to the scratchy soulfulness of what (script writer) Tony Grisoni calls Borlu’s ‘broken mechanical piano’ cue. Dominik’s music lets me soar over this strange divided city and then takes me right inside Borlu’s bruised soul. Me and Dominik have evolved a very organic approach to the score and shooting. Dominik will start composing as soon as we have the scripts and can discuss what the themes and emotions mean to us. This means that by the time I start filming, I already have a strong feeling for the emotional atmosphere of the world I am trying to create. I listen to the cues all the time while filming so the music influences the shots and editing as much as the visuals influence the score. I love this way of working and am thrilled with what Dominik has done to define the tone and feeling of THE CITY & THE CITY.
The THE CITY & THE CITY OST album (18 tracks) with original score by Dominik Scherrer will be released on 6 April via Dubois Records.
Watch the series’ trailer: