The Handmaid’s Tale music: How Adam Taylor composed the original theme tune for the hit Hulu show

14 August 2019, 10:23 | Updated: 14 August 2019, 10:26

Elisabeth Moss stars as Offred in The Handmaid's Tale
Elisabeth Moss stars as Offred in The Handmaid's Tale. Picture: Hulu

By Helena Asprou

Adam Taylor’s minimalist melody for ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ became an instant hit with TV audiences – here’s everything you need to know about the music and its composer.

Created by Bruce Miller and adapted from Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name, popular TV series The Handmaid’s Tale tells of life in Gilead, a dystopian society ruled by a fundamentalist religious regime that sees women as property of the state.

In the show, we follow lead character Offred (played by Elisabeth Moss), a Handmaid in the Commander’s household, as she attempts to survive the cruel treatment bestowed on her after being recognised as one of the few remaining fertile women in Gilead.

We’re never quite sure what has caused the fertility crisis, but it’s named as being the fault of women (while men’s fertility remains untested in the dystopian tale).

The dark drama demanded a musical theme to evoke the on-screen action (listen below). In an interview with Behind The Audio, American film composer Adam Taylor describes his approach to writing the score:

“In creating the score for The Handmaid’s Tale, I recalled a conversation with series creator Bruce Miller where he describes a world which is dark, but hopeful. That description shaped how I approached the creation of a theme that would emotionally connect the audience to the various systems at play in the series.

“The systems are the antagonist of the series, a relentless and indifferent force that is slowly disfiguring society and the inhabitants of Gilead. I thought about it like waves of sound, waves that slowly grew in volume and dissonance until it overcame the senses. This led to what we landed on as the opening theme, and also how we approached the dynamics and shaping of the orchestral elements of the score.”

And we can certainly hear Taylor’s minimalist style shine through in the opening theme for the show, defined by a steady tempo and sparse instrumentation.

While the piece begins with a guitar playing a two-note ostinato figure and a moving arrangement for the strings, tension builds quickly with eerie-sounding digital samples, an ominous bass drum and crashing cymbals.

Alexis Bledel plays Ofglen in The Handmaid's Tale
Alexis Bledel plays Ofglen in The Handmaid's Tale. Picture: MGM

Who is Adam Taylor – and what is his musical background?

Based in Long Beach, California, TV and film composer Adam Taylor has become popular with music fans for his contemporary scores.

His interest in music began at an early age, picking up the guitar at 15 and performing in bands during his school years, as well as writing music for prayer meetings at his church.

However, Taylor’s career as a composer really got started after his music was heard by film director Eliot Rausch, who invited him to collaborate on a number of short films, including the soundtrack for John Wells’ August: Osage County.

Taylor wrote his first full film soundtrack for the 2015 American drama, Meadowland, before penning the main theme for The Handmaid’s Tale, released by Lakeshore Records in 2017. He also composed the main theme for Netflix series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018).

How can I listen to the music from The Handmaid's Tale?

To hear Adam Taylor’s main theme and other music from the show’s soundtrack, head to Spotify:

The Handmaid’s Tale season 4 has no official release date yet, but it is expected viewers will see the show in 2020.