Laura Karpman’s “Ms. Marvel’s Score is as Colorful As the Series Itself

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The music of “Ms. Marvel” is as colorful as the bright, splashy visuals of the Disney+ series, and composer Laura Karpman — who has just finished five months scoring it — relished the challenge.

Karpman frames the situation this way: “How do you bring somebody like a Kamala Khan into the Marvel Universe, give her the kind of dignity and presence of every other major Marvel superhero, and also acknowledge where she came from?”

It was partly due to a close collaboration between executive producer Sana Amanat and the composer, who had specific musical ideas, and even suggested a violinist for unique sounds. She would often spend as much as seven hours a week at the composer’s Los Angeles studio.

Karpman, a five-time Emmy winner who last year scored Marvel’s animated “What If…?”, had already been announced as composer for next year’s big-screen feature “The Marvels”When “Ms. Marvel”This is effectively a prequel. “The Marvels”In February of this year, ), came to her.

“Marvel superhero meets a deep and significant heritage that had to also be a part of the sound of the show,”She spoke about her overall concept of the score. “It’s about representation, about elevating people who have not yet been seen a certain way cinematically. And when I can help with that, that’s really satisfying for me.”

Kamala Khan, also known as Iman Vellani, is a Pakistani American teenager who loves Captain Marvel. She was born with a magical bangle which gives her cosmic energy powers. Her return to Karachi leads her to her grandmother, and she discovers family secrets about the partition of India during the 1940s. The series’ sixth and final episode will air on Wednesday.

Kamala, as a superhero, would require a traditional orchestra. But her heritage suggested that there was a South Asian component to her music. Karpman reminds that “she’s a teenager. Kamala’s theme had to be hip, driven by contemporary beats, dhol beats, tabla beats, or both.”

South Asian influences were added by a variety of musicians, most of which recorded remotely from India and Pakistan: musicians playing stringed sarangi, sursringar and bansuri flutes, mridangam drums and two soloists: Raaginder (a specialist in Indian classical and South Indian vocal music), and Ganavya, a South Indian-raised violinist.

“I wrote major themes, sent them out, and then saw what came back,”Karpman speaks highly of world-music artists. “But then they’d do a third or fourth take, and sometimes the most interesting stuff was in those takes, when they would start improvising. It was incredibly exciting.”

Karpman mixed these sounds with an orchestra of 70 musicians, recorded each week at the Synchron stage in Vienna. Episode 5 was also recorded entirely in Pakistan by an eight-voice choir composed of South Asian singers, who sang partially in Urdu.

“I brought music and themes that I had written,”She says. “And together, as a group, we came up with the choir sound. Some unbelievably extraordinary things happened in that session. It was lightning in a bottle, not only having to come up with quick ideas based on what was happening in the room, but also what people threw back at me. It was one of the greatest sessions I’ve ever been at in my life.”

The music from episode 5 will be included in volume 2 “Ms. Marvel”The soundtrack is also due for release on Wednesday. Volume 1 contains music from episodes 1-3 and was released June 22.

In addition to Kamala’s theme, there are secondary themes for the bangle, her heritage, a love theme for Aisha and Hasan (Kamala’s great-grandparents) and more. It took a lot of work to produce and process all these acoustic elements.

Karpman does not lose sight of the fact that a television series from Marvel Cinematic Universe is showing viewers both the tragedy and the history of the region. “When you’re introducing people who have no idea what the partition is, and how destructive the diaspora was, you feel a sense of responsibility,”She says.

“I tried to be as authentic as I could be in collaborating with a lot of different musicians. I bring what I can to it, which is a sophisticated orchestral score combined with these incredible elements from a tradition not native to me. I’m glad they asked me to do it.”

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