Volker Bertelmann and Dustin O'Halloran debut their latest work

By Shirley Li
September 11, 2017 at 11:00 AM EDT
Credit: Dean Roger/The Weinstein Co.; Inset: Michael Kovac/Getty Images

A story about the battle of the currents needs an electrifying soundtrack to go with it.

Set in America in the late 19th century, The Current War chronicles the rivalry that took hold of the electric industry between two men: Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch), the brilliant inventor pushing the direct current system, and George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon), the press-shy industrialist championing the alternating current system. The story not only focuses on the bitter feud between the two that captured the nation’s attention and changed the world but also involves Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla (Nicholas Hoult), who becomes a wild card in the battle just as Edison and Westinghouse set their sights on powering the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

So for composers Volker Bertelmann (“Hauschka”) and Dustin O’Halloran — the duo behind the Oscar-nominated score for 2016’s Lion — scoring The Current War meant finding a sound that would match the film’s scope. “Even though it’s a period film, we wanted it to sound modern and vital and something no one has heard before,” the pair tells EW. “It’s a very experimental score to bring this sense of what Edison, Tesla, and Westinghouse were experiencing in their moment.”

Experimental, as in imbuing unconventional instruments into their strings-heavy theme. “Current War is a film about invention and electricity, and we wanted to bring this sense of discovery to the music,” they explain. “We researched a sound that was both electric and organic at the same time, using the sounds of modular synthesizers, prepared piano, manipulated orchestra and even the buzz of broken cables.”

Hear all of that in the exclusive track from the score below:

The Current War, which had its world premiere Saturday at the Toronto International Film Festival, hits theaters Nov. 24.

The Current War

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