How Nordic folk instruments spiced up Loki’s approach

Amid all his witty fuss and narcissistic machinations, Marvel’s Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston, helped his self-titled Disney+ series become Marvel Studios’ most-watched freshman TV lineup. British composer Natalie Holt created the musical universe of “Loki”, vibrating it into a world of Nordic folk instruments (Hardanger fiddle and nyckelharpa), mid-century Moog synthesizer, a 32-person Hungarian choir and the theremin otherworldly giving the God of Mischief the perfect sound to wrap up his time adventure. A violinist, Holt recently finished composing Disney+’s ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ and is working on Season 2 of ‘Loki’, which is currently filming in London.

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

It was Loki’s. They interviewed a lot of composers. I had seen some of the Thor movies and knew Loki, the character, as he was portrayed, so I had access to what the performance was going to be like, which doesn’t always happen. I thought it should have blossomed and been dramatic, and I had discussed the tonal palette with the director [Kate Herron] at the meeting and about using the theremin, which she already loved. I found this Loki theme right away, and everyone said it was really related to them. For me, it was Loki.

You’re just the second female composer in Marvel’s plethora of films. Do you know what took them so long to keep up?

I guess it’s all about choosing the right person for the job and it took them a while to blossom. I’m just glad they did. (Laughs)

Apart from the director, who else have been your main collaborators?

I think the music department – ​​editorial – is very collaborative, and all departments really are. Marvel has a weekly catch-up system where everyone reviews what you’re up to each week, and that’s really helpful because it keeps you up to date with everyone. I showcased my developments and changes every week, and it keeps things encapsulated and moving forward with everyone on board. I thought they had some really smart systems in place.

You composed the Loki themes during the COVID lockdown, yes? Were you able to go on set?

I think they did a few weeks of filming and then COVID hit. Because of that, I had a bit of initial footage to play with. At that point, Kate said, “I think we should hire a composer,” and so we had all this extra time to play and develop the music. By the time everyone returned to tour again post-lockdown, Tom Hiddleston was apparently coming out on set to Loki themes – they had all the music.

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

He did. He asked for my number and he called, and he was very complimentary and just said he loved it and was very happy with how it turned out, which is a very nice answer from someone you know is a soundtrack connoisseur. He’s also the one who knows the most about Loki, himself, so that was adorable.

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 very close friend. It’s really charming. It feels like one of those special jobs that you feel lucky to have worked on all around.

Have you been intimidated by Marvel fans? They are known to be somewhat opinionated.

When I’m working on a project, I don’t see who else is going to see it or hear it. I’ve just finished [“Obi-Wan Kenobi”] and I had to do it for me and the director and not put extra pressure on the fans, because then I would never write anything interesting. I would just try to figure out what the fans like.

Were you surprised at how strong and positive all the comments were?

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

Do you remember when you first saw the whole series with everything together and done?

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

I read this episode 6, “For All Time. Forever.”, was your favorite to score. Why?

I had such a shortcut with all themes at that time; sometimes it takes you a while to find your feet with a project. Episode 6 happened very quickly and felt like it was written in a weird way. I felt so sad that I had to stop. So I’m just happy to be able to work on season 2.

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