Mac Quayle is one of the best composers working today. His work on Ryan Murphy’s Ratched is grand, lush, and enhances the emotional journeys of all the characters throughout this bloody origin story. Coupled with the standout music supervision, Quayle’s score allows us to connect with one of the most celebrated cinematic villains of all time. We may find ourselves conflicted the next time we watch One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest because Quayle’s compositions have us looking at Mildred Ratched in a whole new light.
We are pulled into Quayle’s score even more by the presence of music that sounds very familiar. When Edmund Tolleson terrorizes the priests in the beginning of the series, we hear Cape Fear and then we hear pieces from Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. “The choice to put in some Bernard Hermann or Elmer Bernstein compositions was something Ryan wanted from the past to ground that sound instead of only a modern interpretation,” Quayle explained.
When I spoke with Quayle about his score, I found myself asking about certain themes and character motifs. We started with Sarah Paulson’s title character but then we gravitated towards her hospital nemesis, Nurse Bucket, and then to Finn Wittrock’s dangerous Edmund Tolleson.
“I didn’t write the theme with a curious intention, but it was the real theme that I wrote. It originally was the opening scene and then they changed the structure and added the murder scenes. It’s the first time we meet this woman, so we wonder who she is and what is her deal. The cue does ask that question. My intention with it was the simple harmonic movement with a major chord and a minor chord. The minor would evoke sadness for her and her upbringing coupled with this dark, ominous vintage horror quality with the diminished chord. Going back and forth between the two was kind of going back and forth from being sorry for her and then scared of her.”
“There s a sadness that we feel for her really because she seems quite insecure and she’s a bit awkward. Because we’re human and we often will sometimes be amused at someone’s unfortunate circumstances, there’s something funny about her two. Judy Davis is so great in the role and I was never asked to do anything comedic. The show was more serious but I think this waltz just gave us something a little breath of lightness in some of the horror moments throughout the show. Nurse Bucket was the one that got this waltz to underscore our amusement of her.”
“Edmund Arrives at Lucia”
“At that point in the story, he is one of the bigger villains. Right in the first episode, we see him murder these priests and so I just wanted a theme and a cue that very simply was for a bad guy. He is arriving there in police custody with sirens with dark, big brass as he makes his way there.”