How composer Nicholas Britell created the sound of 'Succession' Sunday's finale marks the end of Succession and its iconic opening theme. Composer Nicholas Britell reflects on shaping the show's signature sound over four seasons — and what he might do next.

How composer Nicholas Britell created the sound of 'Succession'

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The HBO series "Succession" ends this weekend. And just as with every other episode, the finale begins with the theme music.



Nicholas Britell composed this music, and he says he wanted it to sound a little off to illustrate the dynamics of a family that runs a media company.

NICHOLAS BRITELL: When things sound right for the Roy family, it's wrong. It doesn't work because the Roy family is so dysfunctional. The music has to have this kind of brokenness to it.


MARTIN: The instruments playing the theme are deliberately out of tune.

BRITELL: The music itself, the way that it's played - there's an off-kilter nature to it.

INSKEEP: "Succession" is Britell's first job in television. He says it's a lot more work than the film scores he's composed in the past because he has to write for the entire arc of the series.

MARTIN: And he approached that challenge with one question in mind.

BRITELL: What if every season was a little bit like a movement of a classical symphony?

MARTIN: Season 1, he says, was like the allegro movement.

BRITELL: You're setting out a certain set of ideas and perhaps a slightly quicker tempo.

MARTIN: Season 2 is written as an adagio.

BRITELL: Which is sort of a slower, more introspective kind of a movement. A third movement of classical symphony might be a scherzo movement. Maybe there's something very light about Season 3.

MARTIN: And the final season?

BRITELL: Each season has its own emotional hue. I was approaching Season 4 with kind of a multiplicity of approaches.

INSKEEP: Britell was aware of some big plot points and a big spoiler for the final season involving the family patriarch.

BRITELL: I knew that Logan was going to die in Episode 3.


MATTHEW MACFADYEN: (As Tom Wambsgans) So Frank thinks you should speak to your dad, and I can hold the phone.

BRITELL: That whole sequence actually required music or a sound that I had never used in the show before because Logan had never died before.


MACFADYEN: (As Tom Wambsgans) OK, I'm putting you by his ear now.

BRITELL: We had to feel like you were actually one of them, feeling your father dying on the phone, and you can't be there, you know? Like, what does that actually feel like?


BRITELL: It's a very raw sound, kind of almost breaking tremolo sound on strings. It's like you're almost in this painful haze that is engulfing you in that moment.


MARTIN: For the final episode - no spoiler alert needed - Britell told us it's very special and massive in scope.

BRITELL: That's all I'll say. Yeah. I don't want to give anything away, but it's been an amazing experience to work on "Succession," and I'm truly grateful for having been a part of it.

INSKEEP: The finale of "Succession" airs on Sunday night.

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