“Succession” Composer Explains His Score

The composer responsible for the iconic score of HBO’s “Succession” has done an in-depth interview with Vanity Fair explaining his music and creative process. Check out the video and my thoughts below.

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Succession Opening Credits

If you haven’t seen HBO’s wildly successful “Succession,” you should check it out. Even if the show isn’t your favorite, at least watch the opening credits. Composer Nicholas Britell won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music.

Check out the phenomenal theme here:

In The Composer’s Own Words

Rarely do we get much insight into the creative forethought and inspiration behind film scores, much less TV scores. Luckily, Vanity Fair published an in-depth video interview with Britell. Watch below to hear his music explained in his own words.

Takeaways for Indie Composers

Succession may be a big HBO hit show, but the beauty of Britell’s explanation is there’s nothing he’s doing that can’t be applied to our own independent DIY film scores. One of the biggest takeaways is how he watches the dailies to gain inspiration for new music. His inspiration for the music theme and overall feel is completely story-driven:

“I’m always excited to see then new episodes because I try to stay as open as possible to following where I feel the show is taking me, and how I might then evolve the music along with it.”

Nicholas Britell

The theme is fairly simple, and the execution isn’t anything beyond the grasp of even the simplest home studio setup. Basic drum samples, piano emulator, and an orchestral strings plugin is all you need to replicate the texture and feel of the main title’s music.

Similar Scores

Okay, these may not be “scores” per se, but the main theme of “Succession” is reminiscent of other iconic pieces of film music. I am immediately reminded of this great scenet from “The Matrix“:

Scene from The Matrix featuring “Clubbed to Death”

The music here is “Clubbed to Death” by Rob Dougan, so it wasn’t written specifically for this scene, but was instead chosen by the music supervisor. Still, it has “Succession’s” hip hop drum beat over a simple, minor key, orchestral chord progression.

Another thematically similar score is the main title to “Mad Men“:

Main Title from “Mad Men” featuring “A Beautiful Mine” by RJD2

Again, this was a piece of music chosen for this show, not composed. IN this case, it is “A Beautiful Mine” by RJD2. However, the feel is eerily similar to Britell’s “Succession” theme in both mood and sound.

Whether these simliar pieces of music came up during the composing of “Succession’s” main title theme I don’t know. But as a DIY film composer, you can file them away together as inspiration for future projects. Who knows? One day you may win an Emmy for a main title theme too!

More Britell on Britell

If you enjoyed learning from Nicholas Britell, Vanity Fair has another fantastic interview where he talks about other award-winning scores he has written. Check it out here:

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