Composer Hildur Guðnadóttir on Creating the Music You Do (or Don’t) Notice for Cate Blanchett and Todd Field in Tár

The Oscar winner was instrumental to drawing audiences into the world of a complicated female conductor

Hildur Guðnadóttir Interview Tar

Little Children director Todd Field’s return to film, the acclaimed drama Tár, was worth the wait. A haunting descent into the psyche of a composer/conductor (Cate Blanchett) whose ambitions get derailed by her past and present foibles, the film presents a lush soundscape that includes many layers, from the original composition that Lydia Tár is struggling to create, to the lush symphonies of Mahler, to the uneasy underlying score created by Oscar-winning composer Hildur Guðnadóttir (Joker).

Field brought Hildur onto the project very early on — “I think I was like the second person to join the project after Cate,” she tells Consequence via Zoom — and she says that when she first read the script, she felt like the writer/director had authentically captured a lot about the modern-day world of music composition and conducting.

“There’s a lot of how the character is that’s very different from my musical world and my musical landscape. But I think that for a certain type of musician, I think he came pretty close,” she says. She did have some notes for Field: “There were some parts that I was like, ‘No, you’d never say that as a musician.’ But the great thing is that Todd is a musician himself, he used to be a trombone player. So he has a pretty good understanding of what it is to be a musician. I think he was well-informed.”

While the character of Tár has completed the famed achievement of winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony, Hildur is currently a T shy of EGOT-ing, something she tells Consequence she doesn’t mind too much. Below, transcribed and edited for clarity, the Icelandic composer also explains how deep her involvement in the film went, from literally writing music to help set the pace of scenes, to helping to create a “concept album” that will capture all the musical elements of Tár. This includes her own actual score for the film, which is deliberately subtle so that it “lives in a realm that’s more the subconscious level, the otherworldly place where you’re not sure exactly what is real and who is who.”

To start off, talk to me about what joining the film was like, because I’m very curious about how that all went.

Todd really wanted to involve me in the whole process, you know, because the film is a process film, it’s all about music. So, obviously music was very important and it’s also all about the psychological and emotional aspects of what it is to rehearse music, what it is to write music, like what it is to be frustrated with that process, to be really encapsulated by it — or what happens if you’re misaligned in your process.


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