<I>Secrets of the Whales</I>: Composer Raphaelle Thibaut
Issue: May/June 2021

Secrets of the Whales: Composer Raphaelle Thibaut

Secrets of the Whales, from National Geographic, takes viewers deep into the epicenter of whale culture to experience the communication skills and intricate social structures of five different whale species: orcas, humpbacks, belugas, narwhals and sperm whales. The James Cameron-produced nature docuseries for Disney+/NatGeo was filmed over three years in 24 locations. Season 1 spans four episodes on the Disney+ streaming platform.

Composer Raphaelle Thibaut wrote the series’ original score.

"I worked closely with the production team at Red Rock Films and, more specifically, with directors Brian Armstrong and Andy Mitchell,” she explains. “My experience working with them was fantastic. Very empowering. I felt free and was able to come up with my own ideas and creative angles.

"As a composer, and a French person, it was hard not to think of the score for Luc Besson's movie The Big Blue, back in the ’80s. As a kid, I was fascinated by those synthetic whale sounds that Eric Serra recreated for the film.”

Thibaut says she wanted to have some signature sounds in the score that would evoke the whales, but not imitate them. 

“Both the production team and I wanted to avoid overstepping the existing sounds of animals and nature,” she explains. “I thought of them like additional instruments more than in terms of sound design. Like subtle familiar voices in tune with the music."

The score is hybrid, and while it sounds mostly orchestral, it makes use of many electronic elements, which Thibaut says were used to “enrich it” and “make up for the fact that there would be no live player at all”. 

Everything was created in Logic Pro X, with Thibaut using her Komplete Kontrol S88 keyboard. She employed many orchestral and electronic plug-ins, as well as her own voice.