Home Before Dark is an Apple TV+ original series based on the real-life events of journalist Hilde Lysiak. The show follows 9-year-old Hilde Lisko (Brooklynn Prince) as she investigates a cold case about a missing child whom was childhood friends with her father. Creators Dana Fox and Dara Resnik trusted composer Nathan Lanier to capture the essence of Hilde through the score to portray a tonal balance of childlike wonder, mystery, and drama integrated with dark themes.
Ultimately, the series had to emanate through Hilde’s perspective as she sees herself as professional investigative reporter, not as a child. Lanier explained, “When we have got kids going across on the screen, the music can have a great impact on how we take in what we’re seeing. If the music is too kiddy, playful, and frivolous; then the music telegraphs these are just kids. But at the same time, we didn’t want it to be all doom, gloom, and dark. The trick was trying to find that balance of representing her childlike wonder and youthfulness, but balancing that with her relentless pursuit of the truth and this maturity that she has beyond her years. In terms of the story, that’s where the initial inspiration started and I had to come up with the themes that would both represent the mystery and the wonder, but also the drama in the personal conflicts that are in the story.”
The composer created a multitude of themes for the series. The composer emphasized, “The opening titles are important because it could very quickly peg the show as one specific thing. I tried to capture a few different elements of the show with obviously the fun and the mystery, but also a sense of adventure. One of the ways that the opening title sequence is viewed as if Hilde had a breaking news music for her news channel. Hilde has her own playful theme. Matt’s theme is cold and icy from his past that he can’t let go of. The sheriff has a little motif. Birdman has a theme. Sam’s theme was like a distant haunting in the background.”
“It was fun to be able to create all these different themes and make them all still feel like they’re part of the same world. Everything is composed and arranged originally for each specific scene and custom written. In each episode, there were anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes of score. There is no one piece of music that gets edited or reused in other scenes. It was important that the score was tailored to every scene and the characters deserve that to really bring out the emotion and the storytelling. The music consequently is constantly getting darker as more of these truths that have been buried come to light. It was very important that the music take us on this journey,” the composer continued.
The composer utilized a diverse palette of instruments in the score. “When you use instruments that sounds somewhat familiar in terms of their purpose, it’s good to have a familiarity. But when we can’t recognize the instrument right away, that instantly gives us a sense of mystery in itself. There’s quite a bit of piano in the score. One of the most fun parts of creating the scores is we had a children’s choir. Sam’s theme had a violin solo. For the videotape sound of the score, I took the sound of a cello and the synth and processed them to make it sound like they had this tape delay, warble VHS quality sound to it with the strings underneath. I started experimenting with different instruments. One of the instruments I found that worked really well is called an Array Mbira. I used that along with some Tongue Drum. In the opening titles, wanted to open that journey up and have soaring strings, glistening harps, and horns,” Lanier expressed.
“Overall, balance was the trickiest part of the whole show, because there are so many elements in the show, which is one of the things that everybody can grab onto something. It’s hard to find that continuity and tying it all together in the music. I view composing very much like sculpting, it’s a process. We have an idea of what we want it to be, but chisel away at it until it finally reveals itself of what it wants to be and what it’s supposed to be.”
The music in Home Before Dark blended a myriad of themes to embody and balance a childlike wonder with suspenseful dark elements simultaneously to characterize Hilde’s perspective and the show to the absolute truth. Composer Nathan Lanier has composed and scored more than 62 projects.