from the Amazon.com Web page for the recording being discussed
Chernobyl, the dramatization of the disastrous breakdown of a nuclear power plant in April of 1986, was one of my most intense viewing experiences of HBO programming. HBO produced the five-part miniseries in association with Sky UK; and, while the production featured “name” actors, such as Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård and Emily Watson, the structure of the series was all about the narrative. There was no end of technical detail involved in both accounting for how the breakdown occurred and what needed to be done in its wake, but those details unfolded with uncanny clarity as part of the narrative flow.
As a result, when I recently received a Deutsche Grammophon recording of the music composed for this miniseries, I was more than a little startled. The fact is that I had absolutely no recollection of there being any music in the soundtrack. The content was so overwhelming and delivered with such clarity that my very capacity for perception was unable to register anything else.
Nevertheless, the production did have a score; and the score had a composer. She is the Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, one of the composers affiliated with the Icelandic ensemble Nordic Affect. Some readers may recall that I have written about Nordic Affect in the past, and some of those readers may even remember the lack of enthusiasm in what I was writing.
To her credit, Guðnadóttir has unfolded a well-conceived blend of instrumental music, vocal music, concrete sounds, and electronic sources. All of this fit well into the Chernobyl soundtrack. It certainly never detracted from the narrative; and I am willing to grant that it may have even enhanced the role of narration, using sound to establish an emotional disposition when words might not have been adequate or appropriate. Nevertheless, this is music that is bound tightly to the visual and spoken media of the miniseries; and there was little about the music detached from its original source to remind me of the impact of that source.