Interview: Composer David Arnold discusses ‘GOOD OMENS’ and scoring film

Award-winning composer David Arnold provided the Amazon Prime mini-series Good Omens (2019-) with a structure through his compositions by taking the wonderfully weird substance material that the show provides and converting it into charming, whimsical, delightfully peculiar arrangements of music.

Arnold, most recognizable for his work on Independence Day (1996,) Casino Royale (2006,) and Godzilla (1998) recalled that composing score was something that he fell in love with at a young age.”It was in my head at first, while I was in music class at school,” Arnold said, “I was five, and I was getting annoyed when other kids couldn’t hear downbeats or sing in tune! I was hearing harmonies and other melodies over chords the teachers were playing on the piano. I just loved the way it made me feel. Later, I saw some significant films, for a seven-year-old, such as ‘You Only Live Twice’, ‘The Jungle Book’ and ‘Oliver’ at the cinema, and they made a huge impression. I always wanted to write music, songs, anything that could come out of a radio, or be seen on a TV, or at the cinema.”

When it comes to writing the music, Arnold said that he watches the film, or, in this case, the show, that he is to work on and allows it to sink in. “I wander around with [the film]  in my head for a while trying to understand what it needs and how I can [give it] what it needs. The tonal color, the storytelling, the shape and thrust of it [all,] then eventually I sit down and hope something comes out of my fingers,” he said. His inspiration is “always [drawn] from the show.” If [the music] is not in the show, it can’t put it there. It’s fake, it’s cheating, and everyone knows when they’re being lied to when it comes to music.”

Good Omens is a strikingly unique limited series, and Arnold agrees that it can be categorized as both “peculiar” and “beautiful” at the same time. While creating the soundtrack for it, he said that the process was much like any other. “[The series] was so different that I can’t really compare it [to anything else,]” he said, “It was like I was taken to the top of a building, helped to jump and then found that I could fly. [Good Omens] is a story that is asking for musical help so that it can soar, roar, run, crawl, and all the other things a great story does,” he said, “The main difference was that it was so dense with character, story, humor, and heart that you couldn’t help but respond to it. The story moved so quickly and comprehensively and across time zones, places of reality, Heaven, and Hell that I had to come up with a very unusual and multi-faceted score.”

When it comes to a possible return to Good Omens, he said that he would “love to,” but the story has been told. He then added that he would “honestly” do anything for Good Omens creator Neil Gaiman and director Douglas Mackinnon while moving forward.

Arnold concluded by saying that “luckily [enough,] Gaiman and Mackinnon were both hugely trusting and encouraged me to go to the furthest places and then a bit further musically. It’s a show that can shoulder the most peculiar, outrageous and beautiful approaches. [Good Omens] is a gift of a show [as well as its] regards to music.”
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