EXCLUSIVE: How ‘WHAT IF…?’s Composer Balances Dozens of MCU Themes

The Collector in Marvel Studios’ WHAT IF…? exclusively on Disney+. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

The MCU may not have the most consistent of iconic musical themes but when they’re iconic, they’re pretty damn iconic. A theme like the Avengers theme has penetrated the zeitgeist in the same way the Superman Donner theme has.

Being an anthology show about the MCU, What If…? unifies all the themes together to create a tapestry of familiar yet unique sounds. At the center of this is composer Laura Karpman, who shared with us how she balances all the different sounds and melodies of the MCU.

The great thing about all the themes is they have these wonderful handles you can just grab onto. You see Captain America, you hear Captain America’s theme, and then you move on. If you think about Endgame, that’s the way they’re handled. When somebody appears, you hear their signature, and then move on.

This season’s Black Panther x Guardians of the Galaxy mashup is the prime example of just how a unified What If…? score could be. It meshes the best of both worlds; Ludwig Gorranson‘s hi-fi tribal soundtrack and Tyler Bates’ cosmic orchestral work. Karpman had this to say about that episode’s particular sound.

For Episode 2, we took elements of Ludwig Goransson’s wonderful score for Black Panther. So you have a Roland TR-808 sound or an African flute and then you can layer that with the orchestral sounds of Guardians of the Galaxy. And it works in addition to the heist theme that I composed. The references to themes of the MCU are spices in a stew that is quite different.

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