The Sound of Money and Power: Musical Scoring in Trump Era Television Drama

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


The Trump era has witnessed a dissolution of the political status quo and traditional class structures that has left liberal elites scrambling to understand their place within this new populist world order. This has culminated in dramas infused with dark comedic undertones such as Succession (HBO, 2018-) and The Good Fight (CBS All Access, 2017-). Playing on the taste and knowingness of their liberal, educated audiences, the scores of both series directly reference 17th and 18th century orchestral music in an intentional and often bathetic manner. David Buckley’s theme music for The Good Fight, for example, overtly draws on not only the stately conventions of Baroque music such as a figured bass and counterpoint, but also the discord and emotion of Romanticism to create something that teeters on farcical in its extravagance and excess. Buckley states that he had to navigate between being comedic and serious in his score for the show. For Succession, composer Nicholas Britell was tasked with establishing “a sonic palette of extreme, obscene wealth.” The musical theme which recurs in different arrangements throughout the show, embodies the grandeur of old money and the disintegration of hegemonic complexes through its juxtaposition of classical instruments with electronic instrumentation and hip-hop beats. The musical pastiche and references in these compositions can be intellectually understood by the shows’ intended viewing demographic through the music’s historical references, but audiences can also feel an emotional and structural unravelling through the musical form. Filled with the absurdity of history repeating itself, these scores are also underscored with tension and dissonance in their harmonic structures that reflects a societal unease. This chapter explores how series such as these utilise their musical scores to accentuate and embody the irrationality, chaos and disruption of prevailing power and class structures in contemporary Trump-era society.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAmerican Television During a Television Presidency
EditorsKaren McNally
Place of PublicationDetroit
PublisherWayne State University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780814349373
ISBN (Print)9780814349359
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2022

Publication series

NameContemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series
PublisherWayne State University Press


  • Television
  • Music
  • Television Studies
  • Film Studies
  • Moving Image
  • Trump Era Drama
  • Film Music
  • Television Music
  • Succession
  • HBO
  • CBS All Access
  • Quality Drama
  • David Buckley
  • Nicholas Britell
  • The Good Fight
  • The Good Wife
  • Trump Presidency


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