Loki is the latest show on Disney+ that continues the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), pushing the multi-reality storytelling platform into bigger and more bizarre places. Natalie Holt created the soundscapes for the time-traveling narrative about a would-be God.
Loki, the God of Mischief, first appeared in Norse mythology a few thousand years ago. But actor Tom Hiddleston first brought the character to the MCU back in 2009 in the first Thor movie. Since then, the sometimes villain, sometimes ally has appeared in many films. For Disney+, the curious case of his situation at the end of Endgame posed an exciting hurdle for the show’s creators. It seems they’ve done a good job according to the glowing public reception.
“My mum was a music teacher and a cellist. My grandmother was a violinist,” Natalie’s musical origin story begins. “I still play her violin.”
Film music stood out to Natalie from an early age. “I think watching ET and Star Wars when I was five and noticing the music in films.” But, she admits, that like many people, “It didn’t click in my head that being a film composer was a job.”
“So, I was training to be a classical violinist,” she says until she got to visit Abbey Road. “I watched Trevor Jones working on a session for League of Extraordinary Gentlemen … with a full orchestra. I thought, ‘That’s what I want to do.'”
Natalie spoke to a lecturer from a film course who “… suggested doing a Master’s at the National Film and Television School. That was specifically for composing for the screen. I collaborated with directors for animations, dramas, and documentaries; editors, and sound. So you get to see how that whole process works in a very hands-on way.”
Since watching that session at Abbey Road, Nathalie’s added 42 composing credits to her IMDB. Loki became number 43. “Loki was a general call-out which came through my agent. It was like ‘Marvel project, untitled, requiring spacey, epic score.’ So, I sent in a reel that I thought would work for that.”
“I was super-excited,” Natalie says as the process continued. She received scripts for the first two episodes. “I got down to a bake-off with other composers. We all had to score a scene for episode one, which was when Loki comes down the lift with Mobius and goes into the time theater and sees his life played back to him. That was the kind of pitch sequence.”
All manner of unique sounds fills the Loki score thanks to its time-bending escapades and a unique instrument called a theremin. “The clock ticking stuff came when I started working on the themes later on. What was in the pitch was the theremin because Kate Herron had mentioned that it was something that she loved. She’d play this piece by Clara Rockmore, a theremin player from the 50s; it’s her version of “The Swan” played on a theremin. Kate used that in her pitch document when she was pitching to become the director. So that sound of the theremin was something Kate wanted in the score.”
The theremin’s not a common instrument, and there aren’t a whole lot of people who have one, let alone can adequately play the magical music machine. “I got sent this thing from an amazing guy Charlie Draper who’s a theremin enthusiast. He’s got a 1929 RCA designed by Theremin himself. So, we’ve got the genuine article and a Moog theremin as well. Charlie’s a Marvel fan too, so he’d be recording things on three different instruments to give me options. It was great to have him.”
“Loki’s theme was in the original pitch too,” Natalie notes. “I knocked that out on the piano after I read the script. So, that’s always been in there and it’s pretty cool that it’s been on the journey from the very beginning.”
Volume 1 and Volume 2 of the Loki score are available now!
Natalie was a Marvel fan before the gig and declares, “The Thor films and Guardians are my favorite end of the Marvel Universe. I enjoy the spacey stuff. Ragnarok is a top favorite movie. Loki is a great character, and I love the way Tom plays it as well, the menace and flare that he gives it.”
“Because of COVID,” she explains, “there was a lag in the middle. We had to shut down. Kate wanted to have a composer on board for when she went back. She wanted the music to inform how she was shooting things.”
The shutdown in production provided extra time for the score not typically common for TV. “So, I had a month to do a suite of all the different themes. It was like 12-minutes long with the Loki theme, the Mobius theme, Sylvie, and the Kang/TVA theme. Once I got into scoring picture, when I had a scene between Loki and Mobius, I could say, ‘Okay, I know which themes I’m going to base this on. It was fun to have those themes and develop them in the crazy way that the story develops that lets you do like a Samba version of the Loki theme.”
“Working with Marvel was amazing,” Natalie joyfully says, “They were such supportive and encouraging collaborators. Kate Herron was a dream. She’s so musically literate and had such a strong sense of where things were going.”
Who are some of Natalie’s influences? “Oh my goodness, so many different influences. I love going back and listening to Beethoven and reading scores. In this particular project, I came up with the low-end, the kind of hummable part of the Loki theme, but I knew I wanted something over-the-top that had that call-back to symphonic repertoire and grandeur. I was trying out little ornaments from Mozart, and I came across some Wagner and ended up with a little homage to Ride of the Valkyries. It feels like the perfect fit.”
“In episode five,” Natalie continues, “when I saw classic Loki with Richard E. Grant, I thought, ‘Oh, we can dig a bit deeper into Ride of the Valkyries.”
Natalie’s simple tip for finding inspiration: “Classical repertoire; when you go back to the greats and see the way they colored what they used, you can never fail to be inspired.”
Working on a Disney/Marvel show is no doubt one thing checked off the bucket list. So what’s a dream project yet to come? “Oh, I think it’s gotta be a Loki alligator spinoff series,” she laughs, and I almost spit out my drink. “I love doing things that stretch me a bit and are different from the last thing. It’s nice to have variation. I’ve been reading some scripts that are sort of more real, dark, dystopian things, so we’ll see what happens next.”
Loki’s six-episode season is complete and available on Disney+. So, what’s coming next for Natalie? “I’ve got a film coming on Netflix in November. It’s a feature film directed by Claudia Llosa that’s set in Argentina. It’s a timely piece about a strange illness, a mother-daughter connection, and a spiritual journey. Very different from Loki.”
Did you travel time and space with Loki on Disney+?
Thanks to Natalie Holt and Rhapsody PR
for making this interview possible.
Read more interviews from Ruben R. Diaz!