Insights: Creating the music for Hinterland series III
Having composed the music for the first two series of Hinterland / Y Gwyll we knew that we needed to retain the signature soundworld of the series. The music itself has developed in tandem with the characters, narratives and landscapes of the crime drama, with musical themes relating to everything from ‘story of the week’ plot lines through to the emotional journeys experienced by the main characters. These musical themes therefore form an intrinsic part of the storytelling within the program and we were keen to continue this function while still developing the musical and sonic language.
From the beginning of series three we set out to source and create new and interesting sound materials for music creation. In the studio we have a 1968 Chicago made Hammond C3 organ with Lesley cabinet. These organs were originally designed to be an affordable alternative to the pipe organ, although it became much more than that, defining the sound of many musical genres particularly in the 1960’s and 1970’s. For Hinterland we explored the different facets of sound that can be produced by the organ. We played it conventionally and unconventionally. We created long evolving textures of dense chordal sound, articulated and accented with the scratching, scrapping noises of the instrument’s stoppers as they were wiggled and pulled out. We looked for high pitched, sound based material which could be sampled, reversed and stretched to create the high frequency, phycological soundworlds heard throughout Hinterland. These sonic ideas and motifs were then recorded and edited together to form a collection of sound elements. These elements could then be easily sourced during the compositional process for each episode, adding to the already developed collection of sounds which had been sourced during the previous two series.
We also recorded a large temple bowl during the sound searching process. The bowl, which happens to live in the studio, was recorded and used creatively in the score in a number of ways. To get a variety of timbres and textures from the bowl we played it with mallets, hands and bowed the edge of it with an old cello bow. After collecting all of these interesting sounds we were able to implement them creatively into the score in various ways. The long scraping textures were used for moments of darker phycology within the series, creating eerie and evocative textural movements to support other thematic ideas. The bowl recordings were also used as convolution reverbs. This mean that we could essentially run other sounds and instruments, such as the piano, through the sound of the bowl providing the piano with a fractured and distressed timbral quality.
One of the series three episodes required the recreation of the traditional Welsh choral music ‘Canu Pwnc’ which needed to be used both diegetically and non-diegetically (both within the environmental soundworld of the scene and the musical score). Canu Pwnc involves the chanting of religious text in the Welsh language but is no longer practised. To recreate the effect of Canu Pwnc we brought together a group of Welsh speaking singers from within and outside of John Hardy Music to form a small choir. Several takes of a Canu Pwnc style performance were recorded using the 3rd Gospel of Luke for text material, which where then layered over each other to create the impression of a congregation. These choral recordings were then used in a couple of different ways. Firstly, they were incorporated into building textures of composed music during scenes of suspense or tension, bringing the geographical and historical context of the episode into the musical vocabulary. The recordings were also used in a diegetic sense in the episode, where a needle is placed on a record player.
The lyrical and driving themes which are most commonly linked to the main protagonist Mathias remain very much at the forefront of the music. In this series developments with Mathias’ love interest see the need for developments in this musical language, particularly in the piano and string orchestra writing. Themes such as ‘The World Keeps Turning’ and ‘The Pheonix’ play particularly crucial roles in describing Mathias’ emotional journey, with sub themes relating to leading characters such as Mared also being developed through the series. The tradition of using real instruments continues in the music for this series, with live violin, cello, piano, double bass, clarinet, voice and hammond organ all being worked into the score. Much focus has been spent on creating software instruments using live instrumental samples recorded in the studio. This has meant that, through sampling, sounds recorded in the studio can be used in the score in a flexible and bespoke way.
The score for this series really represents a true collaborative effort. Themes, soundworlds and ideas which were originally developed for the first series have returned, with references to the hymn ‘Bloudau’r Iesu’ once again being woven into the shifting textures of the score. While these older themes and ideas are recapitulated, mirroring the narrative of the film, new themes and sounds have been discovered and incorporated into the overall mood and aesthetic of the soundtrack.