FX’s ‘Tyrant’ Extends Its Global Roots to Its Score

Jeff and Mychael Danna Tyrant Score
Christopher Barr

Shot across Israel, Turkey and Morocco, FX’s “Tyrant” is international to its core, so it’s fitting that the score, from brothers Jeff Danna (“Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck”) and Mychael Danna (“Life of Pi”), follows suit.

Written collaboratively between California and Canada, it’s recorded by an orchestra in Prague, with four Arabic soloists Skyping in. The net result is a rich, cohesive cinematic sound that clearly benefits from having two musical minds at work on it.

“Television production schedules are a quickly moving conveyor belt,” Jeff Danna says, “and if you want to do something with high production values, a real orchestra, and interesting instruments, it’s enormously helpful to have two of us able to turn these shows around quickly and still trying to maintain a high level of musical integrity.”

In addition to a full orchestra, “Tyrant’s” musical palette makes plenty of room for pan-Mediterranean percussion and Arabic instruments such as the ney, kamaan, oud and santoor. Both Dannas are old pros at gracefully incorporating non-Western instrumentation into classical harmonic contexts, yet Mychael Danna admits that securing the resources for such a complex ensemble on a TV budget required some doing.

“It’s not just the money that scares the producers, it’s the schedule,” Danna says. “But we’ve convinced them that for a very small percentage of the overall budget, you can bring the production value up significantly. It’s extremely difficult, maybe even crazy, to do it every week, but we’re both difficult and crazy enough to ask for it.”

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