The City & The City

Composer: Dominik Scherrer – View bio »

Release Date (digital): 6 April 2018

About the album

This is the soundtrack to BBC Two’s adaption of China Miéville’s mind-bending novel The City & The City, starring David Morrisey.

The story follows inspector Tyador Borlú (Morrisey). When the body of a foreign student is discovered in the streets of the down-at-heel city of Besźel, it’s just another day’s work for the inspector Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. But he uncovers evidence that the murdered girl came from Ul Qoma, a city that shares a dangerous and volatile relationship with Besźel, and this case will challenge everything Borlú holds dear.

With a story set in two radically different cities, inhabiting the same geographical space, but each with their own characteristic look and feel, writing the soundtrack for the series was a challenge to say the least. Award-winning composer Dominik Scherrer talks us through his processes.

Scherrer: “The City and the City takes place in the not-too-distant future, and contrasts two cities, which inhabit the same location, in their culture, feel, language and wealth. The two cities in which the story is set, Besźel and UI Quoma, coexist in the same geographical space but are separate because people are taught from birth to unsee the other city. The music had to highlight the contrast as well as unite the storyline spanning across the two cities.” 

Those two cities with their own particular sounds, then had to be merged into one seamless soundtrack. “The character’s journeys would span across the city borders. It was useful to play variations of the same themes with those two radically different line-ups and orchestrations in styles, so the story would be carried forward, but the concept of the cities’ identities could be retained.”
And as if the contrast between two cities wasn’t enough of a challenge, “The story then expands into the notion of an ancient civilisation, ‘Orciny’, which I scored with a women’s choir and the idiosyncratic viola and voice solist Charlotte Hug.” 
The dreamy tones of the choir and the viola embody the vision of an imaginary third city representing a longing to an long gone society. “we came up with some truly crazy sounds.”

Apart from translating the different spaces into music, Scherrer also went the extra mile to match the sounds he provided to the general look and feel of the series. “Director Tom Shankland used a lot of physical in-camera-effects instead of digital effects which gave the production a distinctly tangible, analogue texture. In turn I recorded and processed some of the instruments with ancient equipment to give it a more textured flavour. In this sense the music points to a 1950s, 1960s pas as well as a future in the mid 21st century.”

Tony Grisoni (The Red Riding Trilogy, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) has adapted this four-part genre-busting thriller from one of Britain’s foremost fantasy writers in a production made by Mammoth Screen and directed by Tom Shankland (Les Misérables, House of Cards, The Missing).

  1. Temple of Light – 3:43
  2. Beszel Waltz – 3:40
  3. Beszel Extreme Crime Squad – 1:32
  4. A Third City, Hidden – 0:51
  5. Yolanda – 3:22
  6. No Sign of Katrynia – 0:49
  7. Like A Melancholy Owl – 2:37
  8. Disputed Area – No Entry – 2:49
  9. Orientation School Ul Qoma Simulator – 3:18
  10. Invoke Breach – 2:10
  11. An Unaccountable City – 2:34
  12. Star-crossed Lovers – 2:07
  13. Hard Times in Ul Qoma – 2:01
  14. Whale Cathedral – 1:52
  15. Cultural imperialism is dead – 2:02
  16. Border Control – 1:28
  17. Walking into the Dark – 3:24
  18. The Skin that keeps Law in place – 1:30