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Interview: ‘Moon Knight’ Composer Hesham Nazih Talks About the Incredible Score

Moon Knight‘s score is the best the MCU has to offer since its inception. Having seen every single film and TV title (even the Netflix/ABC/Freeform/Hulu shows) from the franchise, no other score has ever been so energetic during its action sequences, and epic in scale and scope. The theme song feels like we’re back into the good ol’ days of sweeping theatrical epics, and there are some tracks that are more emotionally restrained to accentuate Marc Spector (Oscar Isaac)’s past as a “hero” born out of pain.

Hesham Nazih has worked on more than 40 award-winning soundtracks and is widely known in the Egyptian film industry. Moon Knight was his first English-language project, which is even more impressive when you’re working on an MCU title as your first English-language title. In working with Marvel Studios on crafting the score for Moon Knight, Nazih explained the process as “quite an experience”:

“Everything was new to me. The environment, the nature of the project, the Marvel system, the workflow, everything, especially the nature of the project, because I have never written a score for a superhero before. So this was so new to me. And it was amazing because it was like stepping on a new planet. When you step onto a new planet, you find new birds, new water, new oceans, and new plants. So it was amazing, really.”

It was also his first time working with multiple directors. Moon Knight’s episodes were directed by Mohamed Diab, Justin Benson, and Aaron Moorhead. According to Nazih, the filmmakers were completely aligned with what they wanted the music to sound for their respective visions:

“I remember Mohamed Diab was really keen about having the Egyptian aspect of the music all the way, whereas Justin and Aaron were really keen about the pace of the music throughout the scenes. And that was really helpful. I did not work with them on all episodes, and so I thought there might be a sense of confusion, but none at all. It wasn’t like that. It went fluently, and it went flawlessly, really.”

In developing the theme song for Moon Knight (which plays during the end credits of episode one), Nazih wanted to develop a theme that would be as complex as the protagonist is:

“He’s not just a hero. He’s just always victorious and triumphant. But, you know, the amount of pain he carries, the number of regrets, everything he has in his background, and even the character Marc Spector is so rich. It is so easy. He’s very complex, to say the least. This is the first idea I had in mind. I usually don’t trust first ideas, but this is the first time where I thought I could do something better, I can do something more, and different.”

The first element he had in mind while crafting the score for Moon Knight were its themes and motifs:

“I knew from the beginning that the score will have Egyptian elements, ethnic ancient elements, and only bits of vocals at the beginning that turned out to be vast chorals halfway through. I imagined it as a rich and big wall of emotional sounds. For instance, I did not imagine that the strings would have such a presence, as the chorals, like the choir and the human voices. The brass was also in my head. It was big, but not as big as it ended up.”

One of the most brilliant uses of music in the show is during episode four’s fight between Layla (May Calamawy) and the Heka Priest, which was one of the most challenging pieces of music to write, because of the interplay between silence and music:

“I remember wanting to have the silence because any movement or any scratching sound would be troublesome for Layla and for Steven. The music needed to hit some moments very hard, and yet keep the silence at the same time. So it was a moment of randomness for the dynamism of the music. If there’s such a thing, you know, you want to keep the momentum, you want to keep the tension down but you want to keep it silent as well. So I was trying to preserve those moments of silence. And then the music needs to hit back in full action. The balance of it was really a fun exercise.”

You can listen to our full conversation below and stream all episodes of Moon Knight on Disney+ today:

[Quotes were edited for length and clarity]

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Written by Maxance Vincent

Maxance Vincent is a freelance film and TV critic, and a recent graduate of a BFA in Film Studies at the Université de Montréal. He is currently finishing a specialization in Video Game Studies, focusing on the psychological effects regarding the critical discourse on violent video games.

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