The Unsettling Soundtrack Underneath ‘The White Lotus’

The White Lotus is a dramatic comedy with a score designed to make your skin crawl. HBO’s anxious social satire becomes almost oppressively tense when paired with the music. The composer, Cristobal Tapia de Veer, explained how his drum-heavy score invokes dread.

The cast of 'The White Lotus' playing hotel staff welcome guests coming to the hotel from a boat in 'The White Lotus.'
The cast of ‘The White Lotus’ | Mario Perez/HBO

Who is composer Cristobal Tapia de Veer?

Cristobal Tapia de Veer is a Chilean-born Canadian composer. After studying classical percussion at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec, Tapia de Veer began a career in music. His band, One Ton, found success in Canada with the song “Supersex World,” a pulsing electronic dance song. 

Eventually, Tapia de Veer shifted into creating music for film and television. His work has appeared in the trailer for the 2019 remake of Pet Sematarythe season 4 finale of Black Mirror, the Channel 4 thriller Utopia, and the Jordan Peele-produced series Hunters among others.

How the score makes ‘The White Lotus’ eerier

The wild and heaving soundtrack for The White Lotus is a departure from his past work, but Tapia de Veer said he quickly found inspiration in Mike White’s script.

“I just started jamming on percussions and all this wild stuff. It just started feeling like a zoo, somehow, and I was completely into it,” he told the LA Times. “So it wasn’t calculated — you know, trying to laugh at these people and making them seem like monkeys. But somehow it became like that.”

In an interview with Vulture, Tapia de Veer said he and White had a specific goal for the heart-pounding score: “Lots of people say they feel very anxious [listening to the score], and some people feel like there’s going to be a sacrifice and things like that. And that’s exactly what we were planning since the beginning.”

In each episode, the show’s main theme settles viewers into a state of unease. The howling thread of music that runs through each episode compounds this feeling.

The score achieves this by pairing heavy percussion with a warble of human moans, screams, breathing, and animal shrieks. As a result, the soundtrack sounds like calamity — regardless of what is happening in a scene, there is a sense that something is deeply wrong. 

How are people reacting to ‘The White Lotus’ score?

Like the show itself, the soundtrack to The White Lotus has been exceptionally well-received. White emphasized his satisfaction with the show’s music. They were aiming for a general sense of “tropical anxiety,” he told the LA Times. “Cristobal nailed that—and then some.” 

Other celebrities have expressed their fondness for the music. Actor Sarah Paulson tweeted “My days and nights are entirely scored by the theme music from The White Lotus.” 

Billie Eilish’s producer and brother, Finneas, also tweeted about how much he likes the score. Finneas followed up his original tweet by saying, “A bold statement but… my favorite theme song of a show maybe ever? And there are so many good ones.”

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