Brian Reitzell reflects on Hannibal


With Hannibal’s recent move to Netflix and a full cast reunion for Nerdist, talk of a fourth season is now more of a possibility than ever.

Bloody Flicks caught up with composer Brian Reitzell to reflect on three seasons of Hannibal and the possibility of a return.

Tell us how you got involved with scoring Hannibal?

The director David Slade brought me in. David directed the first episode as well as the finale and a few other episodes. David and I have a unique relationship with sound. We first worked together on the film “30 Days of Night” back in 2007. We developed our own process for scoring that film. A style we have been experimenting and further developing over time. David thought Bryan Fuller would be excited by this method and my taste.

Can you recall what those early conversations with Bryan Fuller were like?

Bryan said he wanted the score to be elegant, and psychological He also said he wanted to be cocooned in the sound of the show. Bryan and David both have great ears. They like to push things into new waters but also retain some of the classic elements of film scoring. Bryan knows his film and TV music. We had many conversations about music over the course of the series. What do mushrooms sound like? What would it sound like if someone had their chest split open and their vocal chords bowed? I think once Bryan was hearing what I was doing and the process that David and I were now further expanding on that it opened up some doors for him to further his storytelling. He mentioned David Lynch, Morricone, Argento, Cronenberg, and the one we really took to heart Kubrick and “The Shining”. I was the music supervisor and composer so we had lot’s to talk about. We were on the same page from day one so it was all very natural.

How much of an undertaking for you was it scoring an entire TV series?

For a show like Hannibal, it’s huge! I come from the film but I had previously scored the TV show “Boss” with Gus Van Sant so I knew the workflow. The stuff Fuller was feeding me was mind-blowingly good so that get’s you outta bed and keeps you up at night working late. By the end of season one, I had really dug myself in. I had invented a musical language for the show full of audio tropes that I had to adhere to. Will Graham’s nightmares were now his reality so I was scoring the whole show, top to bottom. 42 minutes of music written, recorded and mixed all quadraphonically every two weeks or so. I lived inside the show while I was working on it. Not reading scripts to get ahead. I would sit at an instrument and play along to the show the first time I watched a new episode to get out my first reactions and find the pulse. I would then build on top of that sometimes running out of the 256 tracks that Pro Tools allows – in one act! I had never done anything that complex before. Inventing new sounds every day and further developing the musical language of the show was exciting stuff. I was doing the score, music supervising and much of what would be considered sound design. By the end of season two the characters entered my own dreams which were scary. That had never happened to me before. You have to pace yourself when you are working like that and have a good team surrounding you. Bryan and David gave me the keys to the kingdom or should I say the ears of a Network TV audience to play with. I was inspired to try to do something special.

From season to season, how did the music evolve from your point of view?

The music in Hannibal evolves from scene to scene episode to episode. It’s all connected. Once you get to about episode 3 – 4 the sonic language is hopefully pretty well established. There are more audio Easter Eggs in Hannibal then all of Germany! I took a cue from Fuller… season one is a bit French, season 2 is more Japanese and season 3 is slightly Italian. It’s subtle but it’s there. Before I made a living playing music I was a chef so this has more to do with ingredients (or in this case instruments) then geography. The orchestra added and removed instruments as the characters came and went.

What is your favourite piece of music from Hannibal?

This is why I have only one child! I could never pick a favourite. With Hannibal, I was always trying to out do myself so if I had to pick I would say the very last cue I did, the track with Siouxsie Sioux.

Its five years later, are you surprised that fans are still talking about Hannibal coming back?

Not at all. Five years is not that long. Seven would be perfect actually! Seven is a healthy number.

Did you use any music as a reference point for Hannibal at any stage?

Just as music supervisor. I built a record collection for Hannibal Lechter to draw from. He liked Debussy, Messiaen, Mozart. I did do a bit of an homage to ‘The Shining’ where I built my own heartbeat sounds and made dense orchestral clusters for one episode. I also took inspiration from a series of French avant-garde Classical records I collect from the ’60s.

Was there any music you composed for Hannibal that you liked but hit the cutting room floor?

No, thankfully.

Hannibal had a small but viciously loyal fanbase, why do you think it didn’t strike a chord with a mainstream audience?

Too clever for US network TV??? Timing??? Hannibal was a unique show in many ways. It was made with a tremendous amount of passion from all angles. I was nurtured and encourage to push things further and further and the fact that it ran for 3 seasons on NBC is a small miracle.

Are you a fan of the Thomas Harris novels and if so which one is your favourite?

I had only seen “Silence of the Lambs” the movie. I wanted to steer clear of seeing the other films or reading the books once I started working on the show to avoid being influenced in any direction. I stuck to the Bryan Fuller version and tried to do my own thing. If I had a question about a character or needed further background I could ask Bryan which I did a few times. I really wanted to watch “Manhunter” but I waited until we finished. One night I got home late and “Red Dragon” was on TV. Once I saw Edward Norton playing Will Graham I shut it off.

If a 4th season ever did take place, would you like to see an interpretation of The Silence of the Lambs or something new?

Bryan’s got ideas. Lambs is a fine film. I always like to do new things.

Did you have full creative control over the music on the show?

Yes, thankfully!

Watch the Hannibal Reunion from Nerdist –

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