Severance’s Theodore Shapiro on bridging memories through music

Theodore Shapiro Severance

Welcome to Right on Cue, the podcast where we interview film, TV, and video game composers about the origins and nuances of their latest works.

In a world where so many people have learned to start working from home the last couple of years (and many still do), the phrase “don’t take your work home with you” has become ever more dubious. But what if you could really leave it all at the office — not just your work, but your memories of doing that work?

That’s the eerie premise of Apple TV+’s latest series, Severance, a Ben Stiller-directed corporate satire that imagines a company that allows its employees to undergo an experimental procedure to cleave their memories in twain. One of you, the “Innie,” only remembers the time you spent in the office; the other, the “Outie,” gets to live their off-work hours blissfully unaware of the stressors or responsibilities of the job.

It sounds nice in practice, but for the Innies who actually work for the Lumon Corporation, it’s a special kind of existentialist hell, where all they know are the four white, antiseptic walls of their office. And it’s a place that Mark (Adam Scott) and the other three members of his department will have to navigate, as they work to figure out what their real lives are like and discern what they’re actually doing for Lumon.

Severance is easily one of the best shows of the year thus far, flitting effortlessly in tone between horror and workplace comedy and haunting character drama thanks to Stiller’s stylish, unpredictable direction. Aiding the feeling of banal claustrophobia the show engenders is the score by Emmy-nominated composer Theodore Shapiro, who’s scored just about every comedy you ever loved in the 2000s (13 Going on 30, Dodgeball, Jennifer’s Body). But his versatility really shines through in his work with Stiller, especially here, where the existential emptiness of Lumon, and the Innie’s lives in it, is personified by ominous descending piano melodies and mind-mending instrumental distortions.

I was lucky enough to sit down with Teddy to talk about Severance, the challenges of TV scoring, stepping out of the comedy wheelhouse, and finding the right, restrained sound for such a complicated show.

You can find Ted Shapiro at his official website here.

Severance is currently streaming on Apple TV+. You can also listen to the score for Severance on your preferred music streaming service courtesy of Endeavor Content.

CategoriesRight on Cue
Clint Worthington

Clint Worthington is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Spool, as well as one of the founders of the website/podcast Alcohollywood in 2011. He is also a Senior Writer at Consequence of Sound, as well as the co-host/producer of Travolta/Cage. You can also find his freelance work at IndieWire, UPROXX, Syfy Wire, The Takeout, and Crooked Marquee.

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