Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir has been nominated for a 2019 Emmy Award for her original music for the TV series Chernobyl. Hildur’s atmospheric soundscape, sculpted from live recordings made inside the nuclear power plant where the show was filmed, has been praised for how its weaves seamlessly into the action of the series.
HBO production Chernobyl is a historical drama miniseries which centres around the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of April 1986. To write the score, Hildur visited the shooting location, a nuclear power plant in Lithuania, and made live recordings of its atmospheric sounds. “I wanted to explore what a nuclear disaster sounds like – to go into the plant, put on the gear, walk through the huge spaces, smell how it smells,” she told Iceland Review in a recent interview. Alongside sound engineer Chris Watson and score producer Sam Slater, Hildur observed and recorded the plant’s hums, echoes, and thuds, produced by everything from dosimeters to doors.
It’s these recordings that were moulded into the score for Chernobyl in the place of traditional instruments. “Often film music is boosting the emotion on the screen,” Hildur explains. “But because the events at Chernobyl were so devastating in themselves, I found it was really important that I wasn’t exaggerating anything with thriller music or dramatic strings, I wanted to approach the music very honestly.”
Hildur is featured in the August-September issue of Iceland Review magazine, where she talks about her work on Chernobyl as well as upcoming Hollywood film Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix. Subscribe to Iceland Review here.