Christophe Beck is something of a Disney stalwart. With scores for The Muppets, both Frozen films, and Ant-Man and its sequel under his belt, Beck was fully prepared for the task of scoring WandaVision. His dueling scores for both the sitcom universe and the real world outside it are a huge part of what makes the show work. So we were incredibly happy to sit down and chat with the composer about music, aural easter eggs, and his fave moment of the series so far.
Nerdist: How much fun is it to score a show like WandaVision?
Christophe Beck: It’s totally fun going through the decades. The sitcom conceit that the whole show is built around is challenging and fun. I had to do a little bit of research and I brought on a little bit of help too. As a composer, at least for me and a lot of my colleagues as well, that when we work on Marvel movies and shows, they’re very labor intensive. Their post production process is pretty intense. So I usually have a small crew of additional composers helping me out.
I brought on a guy named Alex Kovacs especially for the old timey sitcom stuff. He grew up studying jazz and spent time working for a real sort of veteran orchestrator/arranger named Bill Ross, so he’s steeped in all these old styles and it’s very, very easy for him. So together we were able to put it together and it really is fun. Especially, for me personally, when we start getting into the ’80s and ’90s; that’s the era that I grew up in.
What kind of research did you do when it came to emulating the classic sitcom themes. How much of it was reimagination and how much was direct recreation?
CB: The idea at first was to provide as close an emulation as possible. So there was a little bit of going back and and listening to the type of music that was used then—the instrumentation, the way it was recorded and the way it was spotted. By spotting I mean where music is used and for how long. As we started getting into it, we realized that we couldn’t be 100 percent faithful to all of those elements. First of all, we hired real musicians and we used the same type of instrumentation that was used back then. But we found that we couldn’t quite emulate the spotting as faithfully as we would have liked.
One of the interesting things that came up is that modern audiences are accustomed to a little bit more music in movies and TV shows than there has typically been in the past. On The Dick Van Dyke Show, for example, there isn’t a lot of underscoring. There’s a little play-in from commercial, maybe a button going out to commercial, a punctuation here or there. But there isn’t really underscoring. And we found as we were getting through the show that we missed the support that some underscoring could provide. So in some of the bigger comedy set pieces, for example, in that first episode when Wanda is trying to make dinner and things are going wrong in the kitchen and Vision’s trying to cover for her out in the living room. That entire sequence is scored where they probably wouldn’t have done that back in the day.
So we tried to stick as close as possible to the way it was done. But we didn’t feel completely obligated to go all the way. When we thought we wanted to deviate, we did.
There’s so much complexity in WandaVision‘s dueling stories and timelines. In that sense, what were the challenges of crafting a score for the series?
CB: Well, there’s only so much cross pollination you can do in that case, because the styles are so different and the instrumentation is so different. But one thing I did have going for me was I had an idea where the show was going from the beginning. So I was able to write some themes for characters and for situations that can come back in various ways.
I’m gonna keep it vague. But let me just say that there are themes for certain characters that are introduced in the style of the sitcom—in the first episode even—that come back in full-blown MCU glory, either as a heroic theme for our protagonist or a villain theme for our antagonist. Without getting into specifics, that is one way that I can bridge the gap between these two styles. It’s still pretty subtle; a five-second bouncy introduction of a character in a sitcom episode is necessarily going to be really different from a big action sequence eight episodes down the road. But for those viewers that are really paying attention, they will be rewarded with that kind of connectivity between the two styles.
Other than that, we just let the two worlds coexist next to each other without really trying to bend over backwards too hard to make them congeal. Much in the way that, in the show itself, you’ve got this world of the sitcom that Wanda is just trying her best to keep isolated and completely separate from what’s going on in the outside world. We treat the music the same way.
Was there a character you were particularly excited to write a theme for?
CB: The opportunity to write a definitive theme for Wanda. That’s what you hear in the end credits of every episode. That was the particular writing assignment on this project that I approached with the most relish. I think we as Marvel fans suspect that this is not the end of Wanda’s journey in the MCU. And I can only hope that the composers who work on the other projects where she may or may not appear carry on the tradition of using the theme to give the entire MCU that musical cohesion that we all want for it.
Going back to my days working on shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, that series featured a number of doomed romantic relationships. And the opportunity to write a theme that has that kind of richness, a love theme that can not only convey the romantic feelings of love that you find in a traditional love theme, but also can give hints of some of that tragedy and that sadness that comes from romantic relationships that have certain problems. You know, like death. That was definitely another challenge that I relished: to write a love theme for Vision and Wanda.
It’s probably okay for me to say that you do hear hints of it in the very first episode. When Wanda creates the rings for her and Vision and they have their very cute little romantic moment right at the end of the show. You hear that love theme for the first time and you will notice that theme comes back again and again and again, all the way through the series. And, of course, you can expect that it’ll happen in quite glorious fashion as we get deeper into the show. I’m really looking forward to people hearing that.
You weren’t the only Buffy alum either, with Emma Caulfield popping up as Dottie. Was she someone you got to write a theme for?
CB: [Laughs] I will say this: if it turns out that she’s a really important character she will, of course, have a theme.
Is there a certain piece that you’re really happy with or that you’ve found yourself returning to since finishing the score?
CB: Well, I only just finished yesterday! As I mentioned, the post-production process for Marvel can get a little intense, so there has been limited time for me to go back to bathe in my laurels. I will say, though, that the last couple of episodes—as you can imagine, given the way the first four episodes have gone—you can imagine that my role as composer of what you might consider the symphonic and more grand MCU style music gets bigger as the show goes on. The last couple episodes definitely feature some of what I consider really juicy scoring. And I would say my favorite pieces tend to be stacked toward the end of the series.
Now that you’ve seen the finished episodes, do you have a moment that gave you goosebumps when you watched it with the music?
CB: Yeah, I would say the opening of episode four. I mean, I remember the first time I saw it. Before I had even worked on it, just as I was getting the early cuts all the episodes. As a Marvel fan to see the other side of what life is like in the world when everybody comes back at the same time. It’s kind of glossed over in the Avengers movies, and in Spider Man: Far From Home it’s touched on, but more for comedic effect. And you don’t really get the sense of how dramatic of an experience that would be for someone coming back or for really the entire world. And now, really having seen the finished product with the music in that scene, I’m really pleased with the intensity of the music there and how it really brought out the chaos in that moment.