Interview: Composers of Apple TV’s The Essex Serpent

Welcome to Right on Cue, the podcast where we interview film, TV, and video game composers about the origins and nuances of their latest works.

While Apple TV+ is home to some of TV’s biggest shows – your Teds Lassoyour Allowances — some of its best and most enticing shows and miniseries don’t get talked about as often. Among these hidden gems is The Essex Serpentthe six-part adaptation of Sarah Perry’s novel, starring Claire Danes and Tom Hiddleston.

Set in turn-of-the-century England, The Essex Serpent follows Cora Seaborne (Danish), a recently widowed Londoner, who sees her newfound freedom as the perfect excuse to pursue her love of science. This chase takes him to rural Essex, where a small town has been besieged by what has been reported to be a huge snake. Some, including the town pastor (played by Hiddleston), doubt her veracity, but the town itself is convinced, and Cora’s arrival only adds more fuel to the fire.

It’s a scintillating, romantic, and deeply textured series about the fine lines between science and mysticism, and why we might believe in one or the other. The show’s hazy atmosphere is aided by its seductive score, courtesy of Oscar-nominated composer Dustin O’Halloran and Icelandic composer Herdis Stefánsdóttir – a haunting blend of string combos and acoustics, mixed with textured sounds that evoke the rush of sea air and the twist of the rope. There are nuances in O’Halloran’s score for Ammonitewhich we’ve already told him about on the pod, mixed with a touch of the fantastical as the airy instrumentals give way to darker, moodier modes.

I sat down with Dustin and Herdis to talk about all of this and more.

You can find Dustin O’Halloran and Herdis Stefansdottir on their official websites.

The Essex Serpent is streaming in its entirety on Apple TV+. You can also listen to the score on your favorite music streaming service through Apple Music.

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