How ‘White Lotus’ Composer Reimagined Themes for Second Season Through an Italian Lens
A theme song sets the tone for a series. This is certainly the case for HBO’s awards favorite, “The White Lotus,” which won an Emmy for “Aloha” last year. The jungle sounds, exotic tones, yodels and screams laid over percussive rhythms and high-pitched flutes became instantly identifiable and an echo of the contentious characters vacationing at the Hawaii-based titular resort.
Considering how iconic “Aloha” became, changing the theme for the Sicily-based second season was a bold choice. Chilean Canadian composer Cristobal Tapia de Veer drew his original musical ideas from the script and from conversations with series creator Mike White. White “wanted the music to feel like it was boiling under these characters,” de Veer says from his studio in Montréal.
“I felt like native sounds were the way to go — not to mimic how Hawaii sounds, but to reflect the way the guests treat nature and the locals,” de Veer says. “When you have lots of details on the page and depth from the characters, that can sometimes get lost. Music can help bring those details.”
For the second season, de Veer reimagined the borderline-dangerous original theme music as calm and romantic through a piano, ramping up with a dancefloor-ready techno beat, all the while keeping tension at its core.
The renamed “Renaissance” theme plays along with opening credits once against set against wallpaper — only his time it evokes 16th century Italy rather than an island setting.
De Veer namechecks Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino’s style as a major influence on his sonic choices this season. Sorrentino “has this way of using dance music right beside really beautiful classical music,” he says. “At first, I wasn’t sure about making it a dance track. It sounded too much like a remix.
“There was a trashiness to ‘Aloha,’” he says. “‘Renaissance’ felt too pretty, too clean, too nice. I didn’t
think it was going to work, but [White] loved it.”
“Renaissance” has been burning up dance floors worldwide. And who can forget the “Saturday Night Live” parody of “M3GAN” with “The White Lotus” Season 2 star Audrey Plaza as “M3GAN 2.0” doing a robot dance to “Renaissance?”
“I could say it is calculated genius,” says de Veer, “But, it’s just accidental that it fits so well on the dance floor.”
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