<I>A Very British Scandal</I> composer Nathan Barr
August 9, 2022

A Very British Scandal composer Nathan Barr

BBC One and Amazon Studios’ A Very British Scandal stars Claire Foy and Paul Bettany as the Duchess and Duke of Argyll, whose divorce became one of the most notorious of the 20th century. Written by Sarah Phelps, the series spans three 60-minute episodes. Its first episode is Emmy nominated in the category of “Outstanding Music Composition For A Limited Or Anthology Series, Movie Or Special (Original Dramatic Score).”

Nathan Barr served as composer on the show and says director Anne Sewitsky helped guide him in a musical direction that incorporated contemporary sounds, even though the show takes place in the 1960s. 

“Rather than a strictly classical or traditional approach, I incorporated a variety of synths and custom built textures to underpin solo violin, piano and cello, which were often given the melody lines,” notes Barr. “The episodes were beautifully crafted and were easily supported by this mash of contemporary and classical music.” 

The soundtrack has an undercurrent of sadness and self-destruction for both the Duke and Duchess.

“The score supports the deeper emotional journey with two simple themes, one for each of them,” Barr explains. “As the Duke and the Duchess connive and scheme and plot against one another, the score is always rooted in the deeper sadness that motivates them both to constantly try and reach for more with ruthless ambition.”
The main title is Duchess Margaret Campbell’s theme, and is featured in many cues across the show’s three-episode arc. 

“I found that a portamento solo violin plugged into Margaret’s snake-like plotting with great effectiveness,” says Barr. “Alternately, for (Duke) Ian (Campbell)’s character, a simple solo piano theme plugged into the sadness that drove him into addiction and the ruthless pursuit of Margaret'’s family’s wealth.”