Hannah Peel

With a new TV score in the bag, Hannah Peel is given the once-over by our quick-fire question machine

Photo: Paul Heartfield

Where are you now and what can you see?

“I’m looking out on a row of Victorian terrace chimneys and rooftops from my home studio in Northern Ireland.”

Let’s talk soundtracks. What’s the appeal? 

“I’ve always been fascinated by the scope of stories music can tell without lyrics. Prokofiev’s ‘Peter And Wolf’, which we had on vinyl when we were kids, was the most amazing way to imagine the action happening. As a teenager, buying soundtracks was always a thing. It didn’t seem to matter that I hadn’t watched the film!” 

Your ‘Game Of Thrones: The Last Watch’ score bagged an Emmy nomination…

“It was an incredible surprise, and it has been quite strange too. I still feel like an outsider, even though I’ve always written music for TV shows.”

You approached ‘The Deceived’, a TV series, as a full film score didn’t you? 

“The script references from the writers were all based around classic psychological thrillers like ‘Rebecca’ and ‘Dial M For Murder’. The production team all had a love for Hitchcock, so it was really appealing to think of the music as a character in the plot too.”   

You completed it in six weeks flat. That’s going some.

“It was 89 cues of music, just under two hours of listening time… I did slightly lose my mind after it had finished. Things changed in the direction midway. Initially it was largely sound based, atmospheres and textures. We then all felt it needed the more classic horror strings score sound and so to deliver that style in time, it was very fast work.”

It’s full of field recordings made on location. Where did that idea come from?

“Since the Mary Casio album, I’ve been making my own sampled instruments, but seeing HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’ and feeling the effects of Hildur Gudnadóttir’s score based around sounds recorded in a nuclear power station by Chris Watson made me want to take my sampling further.”

Tell us about Holestone House in Doagh, where much of the action is set.

“It’s a faded manor house, but still complete with the servants bells and secret passages too. It has a lot of history surrounding it. Irish Catholics were herded from there in the 1600s, never to return and it’s said that hundreds of unmarked graves lie within vision of the house.”  

Any sounds you were particularly taken with on location?  

“The house was full of so many rich sounds. From the owner’s crystal cut glass collection, which I turned into this ethereal ghostly instrument, to a fridge with a spooky hum full of microtones and harmonics like a muffled choir. I even used the high tinkles of an out-of-tune old piano in the living room across the series.” 

The cast say the place felt a bit creepy… 

“I went there one Sunday when there was no crew or cast, it was a cold and misty winter’s day… and the house had no heating on. I didn’t get too spooked out, but it definitely felt like anything could happen in that house!”

Do you believe in ghosts and the like? Ever seen one?

“I believe I have seen one! At 16, I lost a close friend one summer. A few days before that, I saw a figure moving towards me and a few others when we were out playing in some sand dunes one dusky evening. It was really petrifying. That summer changed my whole life. I can’t help look back now and view it as a sign of what was to come.”

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