Marvel’s Rich Musical Universe: “Loki”, “Moon Knight”, “What If?” results

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe has expanded into television, its musical reach has also grown, embracing diversity in both its composers and the music they make.

English composer Natalie Holt (pictured above) brought unexpected sounds to “Loki”; Cairo-based Hesham Nazih added specific Egyptian sounds to “Moon Knight”; and American composer Laura Karpman used a traditional orchestra and choir for the cartoon “What If…?”.

“Loki’s kind of a likable villain,” says Holt, “a great Machiavellian Shakespearean character, so I wanted to give his subject matter a certain seriousness, classic weight.”

But in last summer’s six-part series, the Norse god of mischief (Tom Hiddleston) also plays with time, which suggested more unusual sounds: the wail of a theremin and its equally sinister French cousin, the Ondes Martenot.

“I was listening [Lithuanian theremin virtuoso] Clara Rockmore and [BBC Radiophonic Workshop pioneer] Delia Derbyshire,” explains Holt. “The sound of the theremin stayed with me and I always wanted to use it somewhere. I was just experimenting and the character really seemed to fit the score.”

She added an electronically manipulated tick-tock sound for the Time Variance Authority and a pair of Norwegian folk instruments (hardanger fiddle, nyckelharpa) for the mysterious Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) and her connection to Loki’s mother Frigga. “I loved that these two powerful forces came together and they mixed and gave [the series] the orchestral weight of Wagner but with that unusually twisted edge.”

Moon Knight involved vengeful Egyptian gods and their modern-day avatars, and Egyptian director Mohamed Diab needed music that was “classical, Egyptian, but still appealing to a normal audience,” says composer Nazih. “You can feel the spirit and mood of Egypt in the lines of the orchestra.”

With Khansou, the Egyptian moon god, playing a prominent role in the storyline, it was an amazing coincidence that Nazih found himself at the Temple of Khansou in Luxor just days before his first meeting with Diab. “They opened a space not normally open to visitors, a space specially created for meditation and prayer. I got up, looked up at the sky and it was a full moon,” he recalled, believing this boded well for the project to come.

The evocative atmosphere and frequent battles called for a large orchestra and choir (62 musicians, 36 singers), all recorded in Vienna and augmented with soloists on Egyptian folk instruments – including arghul and mizmar, both woodwind, and the string rebaba – in Cairo . “They don’t feel like intruders on the texture of a classical orchestra,” says Nazih, “but they have outstanding presence and sonority.”

“I had a theme for Moon Knight (Oscar Isaac) and one for Harrow (Ethan Hawke); These themes chase each other and sometimes collide,” he adds.

Karpman faced perhaps the greatest creative challenge of all with What If…?, the nine-part animated series that envisioned alternate realities for several Marvel heroes, including Captain America, Black Panther, Iron Man, Thor and the Avengers.

The composer quoted the characters’ film themes in many instances, but “filtered” through her own harmonic language, “somewhere between modernism and contemporary film music,” she says. “Those things exist in the MCU, but we’re finding a different angle, a different way of telling the story.”

For Emmy, Marvel begins with Episode 4, in which Doctor Strange, in his pre-mystical surgical career, tries to reverse the moment his girlfriend Christine Palmer survives the car accident that killed her and disabled him. “This particular episode is the most personal and poignant,” she says. “He uses his powers to undo the mistakes, so it’s a tragic love story. My job was to try to capture what it means to love and never find that love.”

The Warden, narrator for each episode, is portrayed in the series’ main title, which includes the sounds of broken glass (for the jagged imagery of the many characters) and a chorus singing backwards phrases such as “What if,” “Marvel” and “Stan Lee”, co-creator of so many comic book characters. Marvel’s Rich Musical Universe: “Loki”, “Moon Knight”, “What If?” results

Charles Jones

Charles Jones is a 24ssports U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Charles Jones joined 24ssports in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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