White Lotus Music Supervisor Explores the Series (Mostly) Hawaiian Needle Drops
Emmy nominee Janet Lopez, the music supervisor for “The White Lotus,” notes that the show’s creator, Mike White, didn’t script any songs.
The idea was to establish the location, which took her into listening to beautiful and important music from Hawaii, that she found through researching the music available from the region’s publishers and record labels.
Lopez’s goal was to thread together a musical journey that resonated with the characters while enhancing the exotic location of the show. “We wanted the music to travel with the emotion in the scene, instead of feeling like pure needle drops on top of it,” she says.
To achieve that, it was down to the show’s editors to connect those moments. Lopez says, “That allowed for flexibility to explore a variety of songs and pursue authentic tracks that were special to Mike.”
Lopez explored some key music selections from the show’s first season for Variety.
“He Hawai’i Au” by the Sunday Manoa
“Like so many songs in ‘The White Lotus,’ this song was a favorite of Mike White. … Everything about this song and the Sunday Manoa is authentic, so having it play beautifully over a new day in Hawaii as our characters wake up to the possibilities was perfect. It was so organic that letting it simmer and play as the source in the lobby is what we did.”
“Hawai’i Aloha” by the Rose Ensemble
“The end of this episode marks the first song use by the Rose Ensemble. Their thoughtful and soulful sound is heard often throughout the season, and playing them over Armond’s internal conflict into Quinn’s (Fred Hechinger) first pure appreciation of nature felt honest and real.
“Their songs just worked and by the end of the season, they too felt like a sort of theme that we were grateful for.”
“Hukia Mai” by APM Music
“A common misconception about production library music is that it’s affordable and therefore not valuable. This is just not true.
“APM Music is a perfect example of how important and credible library songs can be. Kapono Beamer is a beloved and respected, Grammy-nominated and 12-time Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award winner (Hawaii’s premier music award), and along with Mac Prindy and Grahame Roy Maclean, he is a co-writer on the song ‘Hukia Mai.’
“‘Hukia Mai’ was not an alternative to a more expensive song, but rather a proud first pick for what worked best in the scene.”
“Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” (aka “Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147:X. Jesu bleibet meine Freude”) by Eugene Ormandy & the Philadelphia Orchestra
“Mike White loved this particular arrangement of Bach’s ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.’ And while it was very different than anything we’d heard in the season, it also felt 100% right.
“In any other show, this could have been a scored moment, but Mike’s vision was spot-on and we used this recording as well as a gorgeous version by the Dominican Sisters over various sequences of Armond unraveling.
“Mike’s openness and exploration for what works is part of the magic and fun in the music.”
“Island Style” by John Cruz
“This song plays over the end credits in the final episode and was an important song for Mike. Its performance by Grammy and Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award-winner John Cruz is genuine and a beautiful final reminder of our show.”
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