HBO’s “Watchmen” was nominated for twenty-six Emmy Awards—more than any other show this year—including two for the music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (who are also the members of the industrial-rock band Nine Inch Nails). The music negotiates the show’s superhero plot with its real and traumatic historical context: the Greenwood Massacre, in which mobs attacked the Black community of Tulsa in 1921 and killed as many as three hundred people. It “brings this very difficult history together with the sheer bad-ass fun of fantasy,” Vinson Cunningham says. “That tension shows up on every level of the show, and definitely in its wide-ranging score.” The music in “Watchmen” is “sometimes creepy, sometimes mournful, and sometimes outrageous—it’s not just a mood-setter; it’s like its own character.” Cunningham spoke with Reznor and Ross about how they achieved this effect, musically. “I knew we were not going to let the show down,” Ross said, “because it was clear that this one matters.”
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