Behind the music of Orphan Black - My Exclusive Trevor Yuile interview


If you haven't yet seen the TV series Orphan Black, you're missing out. Since the show's debut season ended in 2013, there's been a groundswell of interest and buzz about this intriguing new program - most of it via word of mouth from newly converted fans. My girlfriend and I recently marathoned the first season on Amazon Prime and I found myself instantly hooked. Season 2 debuts this coming week on Saturday April 19th on BBC America in the states and on Space in Canada - I will definitely be tuning in!

While much of the attention surrounding the show is rightly on its lead performer, Tatiana Maslany, and her remarkable ability to portray several unique and integral characters on the show, the show also has some wonderfully interesting music and I wanted to shine a spotlight on that. 

The show's primary composer is Trevor Yuile.                    

With the exception of the opening title theme, which was written by Two Fingers, most of the other music you hear on the show, aside from licensed songs, was created by Trevor. His music shows a wonderful blend of skills and vision for both music composition and audio production/engineering.

Trevor was kind enough to take some time to speak with me by phone while in the midst of finishing the music for season 2. I've included audio files of the interview at the end of this page, but for those who don't have time to listen, here are some of the highlights of what we talked about concerning Orphan Black's music:

Creative atmosphere of Orphan Black
One of reasons that the music works so distinctly well is that Trevor has license to take chances with the music. He recalls initially "playing it safe" with the music he first presented to the show's producers, only to be told by them to let it all out:

It's a composer's dream to to have the producers of the show go, "You know what, this is great, but don't be afraid to go for it"...they basically gave me carte blanche and said "don't be afraid to really push the envelope on this and be bold and brazen with the sounds"

Character-driven music

One of the challenges of scoring Orphan Black is creating musical themes that reflect the unique personalities and identities of the clones portrayed by Maslany. Perhaps the most widely discussed of the character music themes is the music for Helena:

Helena theme: 

Helena is a disturbed/disturbing character that has been manipulated by religious fanatics to assassinate her fellow clones. Trevor employed a more atonal and sonic type of approach for Helena which is highlighted by a shrill shrieking type of sound. Trevor expounds more on the Helena theme here: 

As memorable and interesting as the music is for Helena, she is not Trevor's favorite character to write for. Who is his favorite?

Allison, I love. She's my favorite character. I love scoring for Allison because it's this twisted, bizarre Desperate Housewives approach, but...she's got a little bit of darkness to her, she's never quite's a nice duality from a scoring standpoint where you have these tones which are kind of comical, but underneath it...there's a dark side of her that eventually reveals itself throughout the first season.

On Orphan Black's success and acclaim 
While Trevor is a seasoned composer with lots of TV shows, films and commercials under his belt, I asked if the success of Orphan Black was something unique for him:

I've never had any kind of feedback like this...after the finale had aired, I'd never had a reaction to, you know, that final piece of music and the Helena theme, people had asked for that. And I was getting emails constantly...I had never had anything like that happen before, it was fantastic! And the people were just wonderful and just very flattering and very kind...This is what I've dreamed of as a career, when somebody finally stands up and goes, "the music was cool." 

Additional audio clips
If you want to hear more of Trevor's thoughts on the music of Orphan Black, I've broken up the interview into audio files below - enjoy!

Trevor's career path prior to Orphan Black:  

Getting involved with Orphan Black: 

The collaborative process of a typical episode: 

On writing for the show's different characters: 

Helena's theme: 

Tech talk (gear, DAW, samples, sound etc)  

Full interview 


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