The Spool / Podcasts
Joseph Trapanese on the sonic fantasias of “Shadow and Bone”
The composer breaks down the sprawling score for Netflix's latest big-budget fantasy series.
Read also: popular streaming services that still offer a free trial>

Welcome back to the Spool’s weekly interview podcast, More of a Comment, Really…, where editor-in-chief Clint Worthington talks to actors, filmmakers, composers and other figures from the realm of film and television.

In the wake of Game of Thrones‘ ending, virtually every streaming service has tried its hand at vying for prestige-fantasy drama supremacy, adapting book series filled with sprawling worlds and dense mythologies. The latest of these, Shadow and Bone, based on the Grishaverse novels by Leigh Bardugo, is one of the lushest and most intriguing in a good long while — set in a war-torn steampunk world split by various warring nations. The largest of these, Ravka, is split by a mysterious black fog called the Shadow Fold, which proves dangerous crossing due to all manner of horrifying creatures that lie in the darkness.

The only hope of destroying the Fold lies with a young girl named Alina, a cartographer who suddenly discovers mysterious powers that thrust her to the forefront of a battle for the very soul of the planet.

Shadow and Bone (Netflix)

Such expansive genre fare requires a deft musical hand to manifest, and Shadow and Bone has that in the form of Joseph Trapanese, who burst onto the scene in 2010 with his collaboration with Daft Punk for the iconic score to Tron Legacy. Since then, he’s worked with Legacy director Joseph Kosinski on Oblivion and Only the Brave and scoring other works like Straight Outta Compton, Tron: Uprising, and The Greatest Showman (alongside John Debney).

With Shadow and Bone, Trapanese offers up a muscular, global-sounding score that steps up to the mighty challenge of sketching out the varying worlds and colorful characters of the Netflix series. He combines electronic elements with traditional orchestration to sell the fantastical sweep of Alina’s journeys, while also incorporating Slavic voice and instruments like gamelans and balalaikas to flesh out the Russia-inspired climes in much of the series’ first season is set.


I sat down with Trapanese for a lengthy chat about the challenges of scoring an entire series of such grand scope, the creative inspirations he took from the books, and the interconnecting, interweaving musical motifs of the major characters. In a first for the podcast, Trapanese also provides commentaries explaining his process for the cues “Erase the Past” and “Royal Archives Heist.”

Shadow and Bone is currently streaming on Netflix, and you can stream the entire soundtrack for series 1 courtesy of Maisie Music Publishing.