Like it or not, few can deny the fact that the Hannibal legend is lasting. Ever since Thomas Harris’s inimitable psychopath entered the public consciousness, things have never been the same. Following the slew of successful cinematic adaptations of the literary series, the Hannibal world was adapted once more for the small screen last year. Starring Mads Mikkelson in the eponymous role, Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal has caused an undeniable ripple in the television world. Ruffling more than a few feathers, the TV series is dark, stylish and, of course, filled to the brim with blood and gore. Of course, a multimedia legend needs a fitting soundtrack and it should come as no surprise that composer genius and long-time Sofia Coppola collaborator, Brian Reitzell was tasked with the Hannibal legend.
Following his recent solo work ‘Auto Music’, Reitzell is clearly hitting his musical stride, his blend of eerily electronics and pulsing rhythms so fitting for the current cultural climate. Reitzell has no qualms about featuring unusual instruments in his work, either and it is perhaps because of this that his unsettling music works so well within the Hannibal setting. One of the most memorable and sinister sounds from the first season’s score comes from the Bullroarer, an aboriginal instrument which Reitzell used to create a spinning, surround-sound. In fact, Reitzell’s music is so effective that even the composer himself admitted that he found it more frightening than the action onscreen.
Split into two volumes, Reitzell’s score spans the entirety of the first television season, with each episode granted its own musical track. Creating longer individual pieces rather than brief, repetitive themes, Reitzell treats each cue as a prelude to the episode narrative, a musically condensed overview. Whilst the entirety of the soundtrack works very well as an extended piece, it is in the first volume that Reitzell really shines. Focusing on a dischordant string of tuned percussion heard from ‘Amuse Bouche’, the sound is queasy, unsettled and truly creepy. No cue is musically repetitive. ‘Potage’, for example, features a number of musical themes, linked together by the electronic drone which underscores the track. Although the melodies are musically conflicting, they fit within the score. Representing the deceptive nature of the TV series, Reitzell shows many sides to his music, nonetheless managing to pull them together into a coherent whole.
Balancing individual melodies with insidious drone lines, the first volume of the score nicely represents each episode of the series and the subtle way in which they all can be connected. Often developing individual themes for each episode cue, Reitzell proves that cogent and intelligent scoring does not have to be boring.
It is within the second volume that a number of things start to go wrong. Focusing on the pulsing bass line, Reitzell often overlooks the possibility of melodic development and as a result, the cues can start to sound a little underworked. Whilst cue ‘Roti’ is broodingly effective as a deep electronic piece, it lacks some of the musical colour of earlier works and after a time, starts to sound a little repetitive. In contrast to this, ‘Trou Normand’ uses a heart-beat sound over and over again, which, whilst initially interesting, soon loses its effect. It is not until the end of the second volume that Reitzell picks up his stride once again. With cue ‘Savoreux’, he experiments with a number of non-musical sounds with lasting results. Rife with waves of electronic buzzing and clunking creaks, the track builds and develops with just enough speed to leave you with a very real sense of dread.
Reitzell is a musical legend. His work is consistently thoughtful, focused and lasting. Working within the parameters of his own musical style, he is able to adapt what he knows just enough to make each new work truly interesting. With Hannibal, Reitzell is truly successful. Despite a few musical set-backs in the second volume, the soundtrack is a musical delight. Pushing aside heavy melodic developments in favour of sporadic and experimental sonic flourishes, Reitzell creates a score which effectively balances the dark world of Bryan Fuller’s creation. After his offbeat, unpredictable score for the first season of Hannibal, it is with great excitement that we should anticipate his second.