True Detective: Night Country – How Vince Pope scored the chilling crime drama

Ahead of the upcoming series finale of True Detective: Night Country, we caught up with British composer Vince Pope who scored the eerie crime drama.

true detective night country jodie foster vince pope

Gripping neo-noir mysteries. Fleshed-out, haunted central characters played by actors with major profiles. Thematically dark and despairing. All of the aforementioned has typified HBO’s anthology series True Detective since 2014, reaching a new high water mark for television crime dramas. Well, at least the very first series did. 

Since then, the unmatchable levels of expectation attached to each new offering have hung around the series’ neck like an albatross. Viewers deemed the second series starring Colin Farrell and Rachel McAdams to be a flat-out failure, and whilst Mahershala Ali’s turn in series three was an improvement, it left the future of True Detective flailing. 

True Detective: Night Country has reinstalled faith, however. Set in a small Alaskan town during a period of uninterrupted darkness, Jodie Foster and Kali Reis’ hardened detectives navigate an unnerving mystery in an equally chilling environment where the lines between supernatural and disorientation have blurred. 

Like the series that preceded Night Country, music is key to True Detective’s atmosphere. Ahead of the series’ upcoming finale, we quickly caught up with British composer Vince Pope, who scored the eerie crime drama:

There was a clear change of direction with True Detective: Night Country – creator Nicco Pizzolatto is no longer involved, with Issa López taking over as showrunner, writer, and director, and T Bone Burnett having scored all of the previous three series. Did you feel any weight or pressure from being handed over the baton, so to speak, or was it an opportunity to create something unexpected?

Well, I think because the seasons are all standalone, that certainly made it easier to start from a clean sheet and not be weighed down by what had happened in previous seasons. That, and because Issa’s vision for this season was very particular in terms of the setting and atmosphere, something we really hadn’t seen in True Detective before. It meant I could do something new and unique.

True Detective is one of HBO’s most revered crime series, especially the first. What kind of relationship did you have with TD before you began working on it?

Like many fans, I watched the first series and enjoyed it immensely. I was extremely invested in the storytelling and the atmosphere it created. I thought it was groundbreaking – the balance between Woody Harrelson and Matthew MacConaughey’s characters [Rustin “Rust” Cohle and Martin “Marty” Hartmade] for compelling television.

How did you get involved in the series to begin with, and did you feel the level of expectation – and, in turn, criticism – associated with working on True Detective?

Issa rang me up before she started shooting in Iceland and asked if I would like to be involved. It wasn’t a difficult decision. 

In terms of expectation, I don’t get too involved mentally with what is going on around what I am working on. I guess creatively. It wouldn’t be too helpful to be thinking about all the other stuff that surrounds such a loved show. Comparison will be inevitable, but I can only do what I can do to create something that people might appreciate. It helps that I really love what I do and that I view each new project with total absorption and excitement from the get-go. 

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Jodie Foster stars as detective Liz Danvers
kali-reis evangeline navarro
Kali Reis assumes the role of Detective Evangeline Navarro

There’s a potent feminine energy in True Detective: Night Country, whether it’s the complex central characters played by Jodie Foster and Kali Reis, or the strong, mystic female Iñupiat community. How did you reflect that in the music? 

The music for Night Country had to reflect many facets of the show. The feminine energy for the show came from a strong use of the human voice. I think it can be one of the most versatile of all “instruments”. It can convey pretty much every emotion, and I had a lot of fun working with the amazing Tanya Tagaq, an Inuit throat singer from Canada, to create the mood and place everything within the unique setting of this series.

The chilling location has a huge part to play in shaping the series’ feel. How did you go about intensifying the geographical setting?

The setting kind of lends itself to big, expansive soundscapes, so I tried as much as possible to work into the score this sense of vastness. Instruments that would reflect what we imagine might be the audio in such places. 

I worked with the Fujara, which is a large wind instrument of the tabor pipe class originating from central Slovakia. It has a vast, low spiritual kind of resonance, which is hard to place sonically. The fact that it is a resonating wind that produces the sound kind of made sense to me in bringing mystery and space. I find the unpredictable and unusual can make for a more interesting score. 

True Detective: Night Country episode 6 (the season finale) premieres on Sky Atlantic at 2:05am on Monday 19th February 2024, occurring simultaneously with the US broadcast on HBO.

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