DARK without its atmospheric and eerily resonant sound design.

Dark has undeniably been a worthwhile watch despite its overwhelmingly demanding aspect. This is no surprise to those familiar with the series. In this article, we exclusively look into the sound design of DARK. This series runs only through three seasons successfully. It makes the viewer come out as a changed person, pondering their way out through the labyrinth of concepts. This would never have been as effective without its diverse catalog of music.

Beginning intro song with visuals from DARK

(Photo courtesy of Netflix)

Themes Explored Through the Sound Design of DARK

The songs that accompany Dark throughout an episode’s running time usually make their appearance in the end. This is at the time of a heightened climax or a mind-shattering revelation. It paves the way for the conclusion of the respective episode. The opening intro song called Goodbye by Apparat already serves as an undoubtedly perfect example. It is not just there but acts very much like a prologue that prepares us for literal separations. It is a recurring theme or rather the very core foundation which the series is grounded on. Ranging from songs of popular artists such as Fever Ray to comparatively obscure ones. Such as the phenomenal operatic cover of Robert Johnson’s song Me and the Devil Blues by Soap and Skin.


It seems that the catalog determines the viewer’s approach in an anti-Brechtian way. This is done by immersing the viewer completely into the show, and leaving no way for the “Verfremdungseffekt” or “alienation effect”. It was the way of the renowned German dramatist Bertolt Brecht. The conscious viewers of Brecht’s dramas are aware of their separation from the play onstage. A viewer of Dark is most likely to ponder upon their individual life concerning the concepts that govern the series.

Katharina Nielsen inside the cave in sound design of DARK

(Photo courtesy of Netflix)

We can highlight an instance such as this from the series. In the eighth episode of the second season, the lyrics of the song, called My Body is a Cage by Peter Gabriel, accompany the unraveling of events. With the forced opening of the barrels in the power plant, we hear the lyrics as:

“My body is a cage, that keeps me from dancing with the one I love”

(from left to right) Claudia Tiedemann, Regina Tiedemann, Peter Doppler and Elisabeth Doppler in the bunker prior to the Apocalypse in sound design of DARK

(Photo courtesy of Netflix)

Anybody familiar with the episode may recall the severe attempts of the characters in seeking union with their close ones. These attempts are so intense that they embrace the unimaginable desire to even turn back time, breach alternate timelines and change things by human will. The show entirely aims at the negation of this will. The usage of songs also aims towards this. It builds a connection of the viewers with the show.

An Arranged Dissonance

In the usage of songs in Brecht’s dramas such as The Caucasian Chalk Circle, the distancing effect is dominant. However, the creators of Dark have not intended the songs as entertaining distractions from the main plot. They deal largely with themes of separation, nostalgia, fear, and obviously, death. The songs introduce complexities contributing towards a sinking feeling on the part of the viewers. The objective is to completely burden the viewer with the strange, unorthodox, and complex arrangements of the narrative. The series does this well as a work of art. The songs only act as catalysts in enhancing this intention.

Winden power plant in sound design of DARK

(Photo courtesy of Netflix)

Dark is quite atmospheric. The viewer cannot do away with the whole of the show without ever being intrigued by the ambiance it establishes. The viewer’s mind is impressed with the gloomy and often cloudy setting of Winden. Often at times, it is accompanied by varieties of soundscapes. For instance, if we look at the opening moments of the first episode of the first season, the house of Jonas and Hannah is shown. Along with the display of the date of November fourth, 2019, a keyboard tune accompanies the scene.

And More…

Meanwhile, a timed hitting of separate harmonic notes occurs over subtly. This adds to the building of a peculiar sense of tension that clouds the mind of the viewer. It is even more effective for a first-timer like me. I had begun watching the show upon being intrigued by the ongoing talks of incomprehensibility regarding it. During this scene, the viewer is still unaware of the plethora of shifts of space and time this show is going to chain them to. The keyboard tune serves in building up an atmosphere of mystery in the dim and seemingly tiny cabin of a house. This leads only to Hannah’s copulation with Ulrich upstairs.

Jonas and Martha inside the cave in sound design of DARK

(Photo courtesy of Netflix)

Another sonorously dissonant musical accompaniment recurs frequently in the series. This coats an added layer of strangeness over the already unexpected turn of events. The notable fact is that this seemingly haunting short piece of music also appears in certain seemingly antithetical scenes. For instance, it appears in a scene as warming as that of Regina‘s reunion with the younger self of her mother Claudia. This, however, does not make it sound out of place. The brilliance of the situational aspect of the expert sound design of Dark is self-reflective. The makers have not overloaded the series with music. Often the exchange of dialogues takes place solely over no background score. Such a limitation ensures that the tunes have maximum impact when they appear. Their positioning contributes immensely to the subtlety of the act of “viewer-immersion”.

(Photo courtesy of Netflix)

In Conclusion of the Sound Design of DARK

Alexander Wurtz is the person responsible for the sounds. He spoke in an interview conducted by Asbjoern Andersen for Television Sound. The record reads that for a sci-fi show such as Dark, “it was vital to find the perfect balance between reality and the abnormal world“, and thus not tipping the scales either towards the visual aspect or towards the sonic aspect solely. The series manages to maintain a surprisingly adequate balance between the two and comes off as one that has both of these aspects at the very core of it. Removing any of this would adversely reduce the potency of the show.

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