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Interview: ‘Murder Is Easy’ Songwriter Segun Akinola Blends ’50s Hollywood With Electronic Soundscapes

Interview: ‘Murder Is Easy’ Songwriter Segun Akinola Blends ’50s Hollywood With Electronic Soundscapes

Interview: ‘Murder Is Easy’ Songwriter Segun Akinola Blends ’50s Hollywood With Electronic Soundscapes

BBC Crime is easy is the latest Agatha Christie adaptation to captivate audiences in recent years, but the series differs from other Christie adaptations in several ways. The show stars David Jonsson as Luke Obiako Fitzwilliam, a modernized version of Christie’s original protagonist. Jonsson’s Fitzwilliam deeply values ​​his Nigerian and Igbo heritage, one of the many reasons why the composer According to Akinola it fit perfectly for the series.

Akinola is of British-Nigerian heritage, and his familiarity with Nigerian and Igbo cultures allowed him to innovate at every step of the songwriting process. He incorporated the Udu, for example, an Igbo percussion instrument.

“Udu … worked really well to create a connection with (Fitzwilliam’s) Igbo heritage and still fits easily in a more orchestral setting,” says Akinola. “Certain Udu expressions are used when there is a direct connection to or mention of his Igbo heritage. While, in its theme, it provides rhythmic support throughout.”

When Akinola was first brought to Crime is easyhe was commissioned to pay homage to the Hollywood music of the 1950s. The previous Doctor who the composer delivered on his promise while still pushing the show’s sonic palette even further.

“As I started writing music early on, the direction changed a bit to include more contemporary elements such as synths and breaths in Fitzwilliam’s music, but the original drive remained an important part of the score.”

Part of this early work involved a surprising discovery for Akinola. As he considered ways he could blend that traditional 1950s sound with more contemporary elements, Akinola turned to an unexpected source.

“I always wondered if there was room in the score for ambient electronic soundscapes that I could make by manipulating sound from other cues,” says Akinola. “We tried it and sent an idea to the editor, which was very well received by the director and producers, so it managed to become a big part of the suspense in the score, allowing the audience to ‘feel’ the suspense more. rather than actively hearing something more musical and traditional”

Check out our full conversation with Akinola below to learn more about his unique fusion of traditional and electronic elements in his score for Crime is easy (streaming on BritBox in the US)


What originally inspired the music for the series and how did it evolve as production progressed?

Hollywood music of the 1950s was the initial brief that led me down a certain musical path. As I started writing music early on, the direction changed a bit to incorporate more contemporary elements like synths and breaths into the music for Fitzwilliam, but the original drive remained an important part of the score.

Could you describe the specific musical elements used to represent Fitzwilliam, such as the investigative motif and the Igbo percussion instrument Udu?

Fitzwilliam’s Nigerian heritage and Igbo culture are very important to him. The values ​​he learned during his upbringing are guiding principles for how he should behave, so he felt it important to include this in his theme. The udu is an Igbo percussion instrument which worked really well to create a connection to his Igbo heritage and still fits easily into a more orchestral setting, which I knew would be necessary for this score, so it was the instrument perfect for him. Certain Udu expressions are used when there is a direct connection to or mention of his Igbo heritage. While, in its theme, it provides rhythmic support throughout.

While Fitzwilliam’s theme tune is its most obvious component, it is used sparingly in the score. The more important element is the investigative motif that opens its theme and is used throughout the series as Fitzwilliams delves into all the mysterious deaths that occur in such a small English village.

How did you approach composing the theme for Fitzwilliam and Bridget and what musical techniques did you use to convey their evolving relationship?

I originally wrote a love theme, but it didn’t really work for them. Their relationship is much more nuanced than falling in love at first sight. It felt like it was more about their attraction to each other, sometimes a dangerous attraction and a meeting of the minds. There’s a really charged moment between them in the second episode, so I used some of the original theme and rewrote it to make it more energetic, tense and sensual. Once it worked here, the director and producers knew it would work everywhere else.

Can you explain the significance of the theme of death in the score and how it is integrated throughout the series to emphasize the threat of murder?

I started my work Crime is easy writing three themes: Fitzwilliam’s theme, Fitzwilliam and Bridget’s theme, and a death theme that could be used whenever someone dies in Wychwood. The theme of death ended up being more significant than anticipated because it permeated so many parts of the score. It wasn’t just used for all the deaths in Wychwood: the song is used as the theme for the opening titles and also forms the bassline for the titles; a combination of this song of death and Fitzwilliam’s investigative motive is used as a sub-theme whenever Fitzwilliam thinks he is closing in on the killer. For example, he can be heard at the end of episode one when he accuses Dr. Thomas. These are just two examples, but there are many more, as all clues in the series are based on one or more of the three original themes.

How did you incorporate the ambient electronic soundscapes into the score, and how did they contribute to the overall atmosphere of the series?

Early in the process, I was trying out ideas against the rush and always wondered if there would be room in the score for ambient electronic soundscapes that I could make by manipulating the sound from other cues. I tried it out and sent an idea to the editor, which was very well received by the director and producers, so it was able to become a big part of the suspense in the score, allowing the audience to “feel” the suspense rather than actively hearing something more musical and traditional. Soundscapes were always made from existing material. For example, I processed a version of Fitzwilliam and Bridget’s theme and used it when they were investigating together, so there’s a direct connection to their journey as characters, but it also adds to the suspense of the particular situation they were in at the time. who were together with vital details about the crimes.

Can you provide insight into how the score for the series was designed to introduce and weave these important musical elements and themes into the first episode?

I always like themes that are made up of more than one distinctive element, so I can take one part of one theme and combine it with one or two parts of another theme. So when I started writing the assignments, I made sure they could work well together in a number of ways. It also means I can build entire indexes from part of a theme. This interconnected approach allowed me to create a web of musical elements in the first episode, both helping to create a cohesive score throughout, as I could always call on those original themes and present them in different ways depending on what what was happening on the screen.