The dark, dystopian world of Gilead in The Handmaid’s Tale is evoked with minimalist colour palettes and musical textures. The onscreen action, brought to life by the likes of the brilliant Elisabeth Moss, is supported with sparse orchestration which helps build tension.
Who wrote the soundtrack to The Handmaid’s Tale?
American composer Adam Taylor is behind the dark, minimalist orchestral music used in The Handmaid’s Tale. It was Taylor who also created the show’s theme tune. He has a decidedly minimalist composing style, which can be ramped up or down in intensity to match the on-screen drama.
He creates tension using dissonance, pulsing bass lines and gradually increasing dynamics. There are also glissandos (slides) used in the strings, which are heightened by the use of synthesizers to contribute to the ‘otherworldly’ but also highly modern aesthetic of the TV show. There’s one glissando which returns as a motif throughout the score, which seems to replicate the sounds of a drone, mirroring the fact that the protagonist Offred is constantly under surveillance and being chased.
As is the case with many contemporary TV soundtracks, Taylor blends acoustic and electronic instruments to create dense textures. You’ll be able to hear synthesizers and electric guitars throughout the score.
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‘I knew I wanted to remain analogue’, Taylor says, of the synthesizer sounds he developed for the show. He says he uses a lot of reverb to help create the timbre, which is sometimes lost in old synths.
‘I knew I had to have these kind of alien-sounding elements,’ he says. He bought a type of modern theremin to create these ‘alien’ sounds. He places an importance on blending these electronic textures with orchestras.
Taylor also describes how he refused to accept notes on the show, and would simply write music based on his instinctive reaction to the first cut of the filming.
Find out more about the soundtracks to other TV programmes and films here.
Who is Adam Taylor and what other films and TV shows has he composed music for?
Adam Taylor is a California-based composer who penned his first full film score for the 2015 drama Meadowland. His musical life began as a guitarist, a skill he returns to when he’s creating soundworlds for his scores.
He has also composed the main theme and soundtrack for Netflix’s series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, released in 2018.
The Handmaid’s Tale remains his best-known project to date.
Where can you stream the soundtrack to The Handmaid’s Tale?
Can you buy the soundtrack to The Handmaid’s Tale?
You can buy Adam Taylor’s score for The Handmaid’s Tale from Amazon.
Is The Handmaid’s Tale based on a book?
The Hulu TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale is based on Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name.
She recently released The Testaments, a sequel to her original novel, in which she makes reference to several of the new characters and plotlines developed in the Hulu TV show.
You can buy Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale now from the following outlets: