Netflix’s six-part documentary series “Harry & Meghan” puts the Duke and Duchess of Sussex at the center of their story.
The limited series details the couple’s relationship, from their first impressions of each other to growing their family. However, throughout the six o’clock, the composer Gil Talmi revealed to Varietyhe composed over four hours (approximately 260 minutes) of music to embrace the royal and historical elements of the Duke’s past and current challenges.
“Naturally the subject matter of royalty and monarchy lends itself to the classical background, with plenty of neoclassical piano, strings and orchestra.” The composer detailed how he combined the Duke’s past and present through the incorporation of darker electronics and modular and analog synths, all in an effort “to help convey the challenges and undercurrents darker than [Harry and Meghan] were confronted.
Talmi’s research goes beyond the subjects themselves, the composer immersing himself in the musical history of regions and periods of history. “There’s a lot of research that goes into it for me from the perspective of being an authentic voice for an authentic story.”
Talmi continued, “For documentaries, we as composers are here, to tell the truth. SO [the research] start with [asking], ‘Sonically, what’s the truth?’ I want to make sure I’m not colonizing. That I know the instruments, the region, the instrumentation, and as much as possible I can hire musicians from that specific place to make it really, really authentic.
As Talmi was finishing up his research, he turned to series director Liz Garbus, editor-in-chief Erin Barnett, and executive producer Erica Sashin, to develop the series’ thematic clues. Instead of composing music for “characters”, Talmi clarified that he created themes that align with the show’s message, developing music that encompasses the show’s description of “compassion, fear and systemic and social issues”.
Talmi noted his five favorite cues that improved these themes were the title sequence, “We Know the Truth”, “The Golden Cage”, “Shifting the Balance”, and “An Untimely Death”. But Talmi said that throughout “We Know the Truth” he wanted to convey “the timelessness of the story, the intimacy, the emotion, the struggle and the bitter sweetness”, through the implementation of a neoclassical piano solo.
Throughout “An Untimely Death”, Talmi focused on adhering to standard documentary composition, creating “lots of space and pause”, through major and minor modalities. “A lot of times in a narrative film, the music pushes to unfold, and in documentary music, we wait,” Talmi explained.
“In this case [of ‘An Untimely Death’], and often what I find very effective in documentary films is actually that the music doesn’t hit. So if there’s a major event or blackout rather than hitting it with music actually allowing the music to come out. Talmi explained how he tries to compose the music around a specific visual cue, because “it creates this dance between the imagery and the music, which is very respectful and not pushy”.
All six episodes of “Harry & Meghan” are available to stream on Netflix.