How Nordic folk instruments put the pep in Loki’s step

Amid all his witty agitation and narcissistic machinations, Marvel’s Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston, helped his Disney+ series of the same name become Marvel Studios’ most-watched newcomer television series. British composer Natalie Holt created the musical universe of “Loki” and set it in a world of Nordic folk instruments (hardanger fiddle and nyckelharpa), a mid-century Moog synthesizer, a 32-person Hungarian choir and the otherworldly theremin vibrate giving the god of mischief the perfect sounds to envelop his time adventure. Holt, a violinist, recently completed the music for Disney+’s Obi-Wan Kenobi and is working on the second season of Loki, which is currently filming in London.

Which theme did you create first, Loki’s or Time Variance Authority’s? What did you propose in your meeting to get the job?

It was Lokis. They interviewed many composers. I had seen some of the Thor movies and knew Loki the character as portrayed, so I had some access to what she would look like, which isn’t always the case. I thought it should be upbeat and dramatic and I had spoken to the director about the tonal palette [Kate Herron] in the meeting and about using the theremin, which she had already loved. I immediately came up with this Loki theme and everyone said it really suited them. For me it was Loki.

You are only the second female composer in Marvel’s plethora of films. Do you know why it took them so long to get on the beat?

I think it’s about picking the right person for the job and it took her a while to open up. I’m just glad they have it. (laughs)

Besides the director, who were your most important collaborators?

I think the music department – the editorial team – works very collaboratively, and all departments really are. Marvel has a system of weekly catch ups where everyone checks what you’re doing each week and it’s really helpful because it keeps you up to date with everyone. I’ve featured my developments and changes every week, and it keeps things encapsulated and moving everyone on board forward. I thought they had some really intelligent systems in place.

You composed the Loki themes during the COVID lockdown yes? could you go to the set

I think they filmed for a few weeks and then COVID came along. Because of this, I had a first piece of footage to play around with. At that point, Kate said, “I think we should bring a composer on board,” and so we had all this extra time to play around and develop the music. As everyone headed back to film again after lockdown, Tom Hiddleston apparently went for the Loki issues on set – they had all the music.

Speaking of Tom, I learned from an interview with composer and fellow Emmy nominee Nicholas Britell that he’s been obsessed with film soundtracks and scores since he was a teenager. Did he talk to you about the “Loki” score?

He has. He asked for my number and he rang the bell and he was very polite and just said he loved it and was very pleased how it came out which is a pretty nice response from someone who you know is a soundtrack guy connoisseur is. He’s also the one who knows the most about Loki himself, so that was nice.

Were you more intimidated or excited when you got this job?

I think Kate Herron just called me – it’s weird because I’ve worked on a lot of projects where you have a working relationship and then it ends. But Kate Herron has become a really close friend. It’s really beautiful. It feels like one of those special jobs that you’re lucky to have worked anywhere.

Were you intimidated by Marvel fans at all? They are known to be a bit headstrong.

When I’m working on a project, I can’t imagine who else will see or hear it. I’m done [“Obi-Wan Kenobi”] and i had to do it for me and the director and not put extra pressure on me from the fans because then i would never write anything interesting. I would just try to find out what the fans like.

Were you surprised at how loud and positive the feedback was?

Yes, I really was. I wanted it to be really catchy and distinctive, and I knew it wasn’t really like a regular Marvel score. I keep saying this, but it’s true: I feel so fortunate to have worked on this series and to have this platform to show what I can do.

Do you remember when you first watched the whole series with everything together and ready?

Unfortunately we didn’t all get together and premiere but I watched it all at home with my daughter and then the final episode Kate Herron was back in London and she invited a bunch of us, me, an editor and Charlie Draper, the theremin player; We went to her house and watched the last episode together. With a “Loki” themed cocktail. Charlie created these drinks for the party.

I read this episode 6: Forever. Always.” was her favorite. Why?

I had such a shorthand with all the subjects at that point; Sometimes it takes a while to get used to a project. Episode 6 came together very quickly and it felt like it was kind of writing itself in a weird way. I was so sad that I had to stop. I’m just glad that I can work on season 2. How Nordic folk instruments put the pep in Loki’s step

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