Reversing Time: Through Music
The smooth sounds of dense chatter and orchestral tuning starts off Chistopher Nolan’s thriller, Tenet. This calm and oblivious moment suddenly changes as the doors of the concert hall swing open and dozens of people flow in. The protagonist of the movie is guided by the deep thumping of Ludwig Goransson’s score below the hollering sirens soaring throughout the halls. The arpeggiated synths and off beat percussion gets louder and more intense as he gets closer to his target. Suddenly, electric guitars enter, blaring the catchy and inspirational theme and giving a sense of hope and passion to the audience. He acquires his package and leaves as the music crescendos and dies out.
Ludwig Goransson is the mastermind behind this clever and intense movie score. The Sweedish genius grew up playing a variety of genres as a kid and even was in a band as a guitarist in his 20’s. He came to LA and took courses at USC where he met directors and gained the skills to pursue film scoring. Since then, he’s scored movies such as Black Panther, Creed, and even the Star Wars series Mandolorian. His style isn’t very traditional though. He’s creative, innovative, and ambitious to get the sounds he wants.
This movie, Tenet, is about saving an attack on the future by going back and forth in time and saving the world. It focuses a lot on reverse time and actually the whole movie has time going forward and backward - at the same time. To capture this idea, Ludwig uses things like inverting the melody, using retrograde patterns, and even reversing the sound. He plays melodies and chord progressions backwards and forwards throughout the movie and blends together sounds so methodically. Take a violin note. He records this note and edits it so we hear the note backwards. Then, he takes the original note and layers them on top of eachother, creating this texture that really is hard to piece together what each individual sound is. He also utilizes this originative idea where he uses an object of the movie and incorporates that into the score. For instance, during a scene that involved a firetruck, he took the sounds of some sirens and developed/edited them into a haunting bass sound for an entire section of music. This inventive thinking adds an element to the music that makes it incredible.
He also worked with Travis Scott on a key, climactic part of the movie. Ludwig created this intense, powerful bass synth with percussion booming around it and layered Scott’s wandering vocals over it, creating a texture that is so fitting to the scene. They released a full version of the song on all platforms, it’s called “The Plan” (make sure to listen to the clean version though).
Overall, Ludwig’s visionary mind and ambition to make those ideas come to life has spurred the creation of a score that I consider one of my favorites. It brings so much passion and life to the movie and lifts Nolan’s fantastic story to another level.