On the planet Ferrix, a harsh galactic outpost populated by metalworkers and mechanics, the local band plays music by Nicholas Britell.
In the season one finale of Andor, musicians gather on Rix Road and march towards the city center, where Maarva – Cassian Andor’s adoptive mother – delivers her own eulogy in the form of a massive hologram. Britell, who received an Emmy nomination for the episode, wrote the band’s multi-part funeral music before writing anything else – the track had to be performed live on set.
“The props department created these instruments,” says Britell. “These are actually musicians hired to perform on camera. So these are real instruments that have been somehow upgraded or changed in appearance, but functionally they are still flutes, brass and drums.”
The piece begins as a slow lament and then builds into a sort of battle attack – the episode culminating in a call to war for the latent rebels in Ferrix. Andor creator Tony Gilroy commissioned Britell to write something that reflects the history of a people, and the composer gave much thought to what kind of folk funeral music this builder culture would produce. He also invented the sounds made by the giant Beskar anvil – struck by a “time grappler” in a tall clock tower – that Britell made by striking the pipes in Gilroy’s Manhattan basement.
“Rix Road” is the culmination of multiple storylines that erupt into conflict and swell with determination and hope. Britell took elements from this tragedy and incorporated them into his score for the entire series.
“Of course it’s a sad moment,” he says, “but hopefully there’s a sense of fulfillment of an idea.”
The music to “Andor” is as diverse as the many planets the story visits. Ferrix is earthy and tangible — “the idea is that there’s a truth on Ferrix about what’s going on in the galaxy,” says Britell — whereas on Morlana One, where we first meet Andor, there’s a sense of beginning and mystery reigns. Born in 1980, Britell felt that analog synthesizers were appropriate there, the symbolic equivalent of a “retro past”.
Its wobbly, out-of-tune synth sound is gradually joined by a full orchestra, and at certain key moments in the series there’s a majestic flourish in traditional “Star Wars” style. But the dominant thread in the score is evolutioncharacterized by Britell’s Emmy-nominated main theme.
He wanted a tune that “is unsure of itself at first, but then starts to discover itself and then just as quickly disappears.” Cassian doesn’t know who he is. He’s actually trying to figure out who he is, about his past, about his future. He’s trying to figure out all of these things at the same time, and to me it felt like there was a sense of discovery.”
The theme literally develops in different variations during the title sequence of each episode – one with cold synths, one with cellos, another with bells and textured pianos. Each planet had its own “musical ideology,” says Britell, and the changing title theme was a fitting metaphor.
Back in our galaxy, Britell celebrated another type of funeral. The death of Logan Roy came as a huge shock in the third episode of the final season of “Succession,” and Britell had to help with this emotional conflict.
Much of his music for the acclaimed HBO series was written from a more tongue-in-cheek angle—hip-hop swagger and neoclassical posturing—but when the four Roy siblings learn their father is dead, Britell’s music takes a whole new direction level and reaches the climax, the disbelief at their sudden grief stops them.
“That call when they found out what’s going on — that incredibly emotional and traumatic call — none of the music I’ve ever done for ‘Succession’, either structurally or emotionally, Nothing “It would work for that,” he says.
He composed an anxious cloud of music that creeps in as Kendall and Roman Roy, reduced to chattering children, try to craft last words for their unconscious father. A mourning organ sounds amid scurrying string effects and atmospheric electronics. Hidden in that haze is the hit theme, “Succession.”
“If you break down what I’m doing there, it’s actually the chords that you hear in the theme,” he says, “but they’re played completely differently and they contain all these bumps and wrong notes in a broken way.”
The episode ends on a lonely airplane tarmac, with a solo piano playing another Britell theme and then a more impassioned elegy for organ and orchestra. As typically funny and snarky as it was, “there was a very, very deep sadness for me this season,” says Britell. “I was really moved to tears at times,” he adds, “so I think I wanted to express that musically.”