EXCLUSIVE: ‘Divorce’ Composer on the Inspiration Behind the Minimalist Score — Watch the New Opening!
Sarah Jessica Parker’s new HBO series, Divorce, takes a comedic look at one couple’s dissolution of marriage, but it’s not just the story or the ’70s-inspired feel that stands out: the musical score leaves its own unique mark.
Credit Keegan DeWitt, who at 34 years old has had an eclectic resume as a musician and songwriter, though it’s his work as a composer (see: Sundance Film Festival favorite, Morris the America) that has garnered notice as of late. When HBO sought out his help in creating the score for Divorce, it was a no-brainer.
“It was something about the imagery of upstate New York in the wintertime, which is this suspended, frozen air feeling [that was intriguing],” the Portland, Oregon, native tells ET, adding that the executive producers — including Parker and Catastrophe’s Sharon Horgan — had a desire to make the show feel “cinematic.” “You know that sort of sound when it’s winter out, and there’s snow everywhere and it’s quiet? That resonated for me.”
DeWitt worked closely with Parker especially, as she had a strong desire to infuse a sense of lived-in nostalgia. ET exclusively debuts the opening scene from next Sunday’s episode, which includes the charming main title.
“I think it really clicked for S.J.,” DeWitt says of the string-, flute- and oboe-heavy score, affectionately referring to the Sex and the City alum with her nickname. “Something about what I did really spoke to what she was trying to do, and we instantly became confidantes. She really fought for me hard on the project.”
For DeWitt, who previously worked exclusively on film scores, the task of creating the perfect score for a show as highly anticipated as Divorce was “daunting” at first. But soon, the nerves subsided and the fun began.
“We spent the first three weeks trying so many crazy ideas,” DeWitt recalls. “We explored orchestral ideas. We explored punk rock ideas. We did everything. We tested everything in the spectrum; it’s not often you get to be in a room with that many talented people and everyone’s coming in, being like, ‘OK, this is a crazy idea.’”
“I felt really proud that we were able to do musically what they were also able to do with the show itself, which is have a nuanced representation of what divorce is. Adult life in general is both sad and weirdly hilarious at the same time,” he says. “I wanted to make sure to do that musically and I feel like we did.”
DeWitt, who next will score Fox’s midseason comedy, Making History, starring Adam Pally, praised Parker for sticking to her guns. “The thing that impressed me the most about her — and everybody to a certain degree — but it’s her face onscreen and it’s so much her identity being marketed [was that] she was really brave until the last second,” he says.
As for DeWitt’s personal influences, he points to minimalist works like Michael Nyman’s Wonderland, Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip and the There Will Be Blood orchestral score, the latter of which is composed by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood. “All scores don’t have to be Star Wars or Avatar,” DeWitt says.
“The crazy thing about TV is you do all this labor and [have] sleepless nights, and you realize that there’s four minutes of total music,” he says with a refreshing awe. “Trying to think of a cohesive thought that’s intelligent and feels cinematic when it’s only going to fill up three or four minutes of an episode is a challenge.”
Divorce airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.