It’s no secret that I love The Queen’s Gambit. And an essential—yet too often overlooked—component to any great TV show or film is its score. How do you make chess exciting for casual viewers in a narrative context? Well, a lot of great editing, which Netflix’s limited series provides. But that has to be augmented by careful composed music.
“I have always loved underdog tales like Rocky, or Rudy. The moment I read Scott Frank’s teleplay, I knew getting to work with him in telling Beth Harmon’s story would be one of the great thrills of my life,” says Emmy-winning composer Carlos Rafael Rivera in a press statement. “It was something special, and to say the least, challenging, as we were going to have to make the game of chess exciting on screen for those who play it—and even for those who don’t.”
Rivera adds, “Having such a complex protagonist as Beth Harmon, I wanted to avoid writing a ‘Beth Theme,’ but rather themes for different aspects of her character: addiction, genius, mischief, growth, etc. By resorting to these, I could apply and develop them throughout the seven episodes, as Beth herself developed, helping create a more holistic representation of her character.”
“I am ever grateful to Scott for trusting in me to bring all of these musical ideas, that slowly developed throughout each episode, into a fully matured state, playing into one very tense, dramatic, and ultimately exhilarating ending,” says Rivera.
In the “Main Title,” which you can listen to below, Rivera’s swirling symphonic melody plays over a darkly complicated percussive base that suggests many things: Beth’s dual natures, the heart-pounding nature of her chess matches, and something distinctly Russian—they being the masters of the game, after all. Like the show, it’s exceptional:
Check out the full track listing below. The Queen’s Gambit premieres on Netflix Friday, October 23rd; Maisie Music Publishing, LLC will digitally release music from the series that same day, which you can pre-save here.
•Methuen Home For Children 1957
•The Scholar’s Mate
•Training With Mr. Schaibel
•Am I Good Enough Now?
•Playing Mr. Ganz
•First Day At School
•The Green Pills
•Kentucky State Championship 1963
•The Lake – Cincinnati 1963
•Playing Benny – Las Vegas 1966
•Two Sides of the Same Coin
•Mexico City Invitational 1966
•Playing Girev I
•Playing Girev II
•Ohio US Championship 1967
•Training with Benny
•Paris Tournament 1967
•Returning to Methuen
•Moscow Invitational 1968
•Close Your Eyes
•The Final Game
•Take It, It’s Yours
•Sygrayem (Let’s Play)
Allison Keene is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For more television talk, pop culture chat and general japery, you can follow her @keeneTV
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