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5 things we learned about the Tenet soundtrack, from composer Ludwig Göransson

Composer Ludwig Göransson reveals all about how he composed Tenet.

5 things we learned about the Tenet soundtrack, from composer Ludwig Göransson
Marc Chacksfield
01 October 2020

Ludwig Göransson is the hottest composer around right now. He recently won an Emmy for his work on The Mandalorian soundtrack but this is just one of many accolades Göransson has achieved, including a Grammy for Childish Gambino’s This Is America.

His career has been intrinsically linked with director Ryan Coogler. Attending University of Southern California with Coogler, they worked on student movies together then hit Hollywood with Fruitvale Station, Creed and, most recently, Black Panther.

But it’s his latest soundtrack that is currently filling cinemas the world over - with Tenet being one of the few blockbusters to be released on the big screen in what is still a locked-down world.

Tenet is director Christopher Nolan’s latest movie and it’s his twistiest yet. It’s a movie that demands to be watched twice and, as we found out speaking to Göransson, the soundtrack is just as intricate as the movie’s plot.

Here’s 5 things we learned about Tenet, according to its composer Ludwig Göransson…

1. Getting into the head of The Protagonist was key5 things we learned about the Tenet soundtrack, from composer Ludwig Göransson

"When I started working with Chris [Nolan], we started from scratch, creating our own unique sound world. We had a long meeting about the feeling of being inverted and how this is portrayed in the music. Once I started to see the footage that he had shot, I started to get inside of the mind and head of the Protagonist [played by John David Washington]. You are experiencing everything through his eyes and it was important that the music did the same thing.

"Chris was fascinated with the production and how to push the visual with sounds. As an audience member today, you are used to hearing a certain blend of electronics and organic sound. You are expecting to hear a certain sound. Something we achieved in Tenet is the feeling of being in a completely different world."

2. Göransson did a complete reversal for the Tenet soundtrack

5 things we learned about the Tenet soundtrack, from composer Ludwig Göransson

“It wasn’t about playing phrases forwards and backwards, but breaking down the DNA of the music. I was having the orchestra perform the protagonist theme but using vibrato so when it was reversed it was effective.

"So we have an 'inverted' orchestra playing the main theme - you see it so clearly in the movie, when before the Protagonist steps in the puddle there's water on his shoe - and I wanted the sound to be the same. I had them play the protagonist theme and then noted the melody backwards and had them perform it that way, then I recorded it and I recorded it again.”

3. Being on set helped him understand what the music needed to do

5 things we learned about the Tenet soundtrack, from composer Ludwig Göransson

"In total, it was about a year and half of experimentation. We started music with Chris before he even started shooting. He then invited me to the set and I met the stunt coordinators, the set designers, the costume designers.

"I talked to John David Washington about how he did his reverse fighting scenes and he told me that he had to 'reverse learn' the fight both ways and work with a choreographer to make the reverse movements more interesting. This gave me insight and helped me on my journey with the soundtrack."

4. Göransson wanted to work with Travis Scott as he has a voice from the future

"We were almost done and we were mixing the movie, and into the final stages, and I had a conversation with Chris about the main credits. I was trying to come up with something that resembled the feeling I got when the movie is over, the feeling of my jaw being on the floor.

"I kept thinking, ‘you need a new voice - you need something you haven’t heard, that makes you think you are still on the rollercoaster’. I said to Chris, ‘what if we put Travis Scott on there because he has such a voice from the future?’.

"[Scott] was one of the first to see the finished film. He was excited and understood the concept and what Chris wanted, and what Chris was looking for. I sent him one of the beats from the fire truck scene and he worked on that.

“It fit perfectly, his voice was so perfect. We actually took a little snippet and his voice singing two notes and put this in the main theme, too.”

5. Bach was a big influence when making the soundtrack

5 things we learned about the Tenet soundtrack, from composer Ludwig Göransson

“I was listening to vastly different types of music when working on Tenet. Because of the inversion theme, I studied a lot of Bach as he was one of the composers to work with inversion.

"Currently, though, I really like Little Snake, a Canadian DJ. He has some of the most interesting music. He does this blend, where the music and the sounds are completely different from Bach but the combination with new and old is really interesting for me. That is what makes the music so unique.”

Tenet is in cinemas now, courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures. You can listen to the Tenet soundtrack on Spotify.