Track of the Day: Transparent Theme, by Dustin O'Halloran

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Tonight marks the season-three debut of Amazon’s tremendous series Transparent. If you haven’t been watching, you have made a grievous life error—though happily one that is quite easy to rectify. (Be sensible, though: Start with season one.)

For those unfamiliar, the show follows the Pfeffermans: Maura, née Mort, a former Los Angeles pater familias (the great Jeffrey Tambor, who just picked up his second consecutive Emmy for the role) who, after 20 years of secrecy, has decided to openly live her life as a woman; Maura’s ex-wife; and her three adult children, who are all working through their own sex-, gender-, and identity-related questions as well.

What is perhaps most remarkable about Transparent is that the Pfeffermans are a decidedly dysfunctional and self-absorbed clan—the show is a bit like Arrested Development with gender complications added—yet they are portrayed with astonishing empathy and affection. And utterly crucial to this tricky tonal balance is the title theme by Dustin O’Halloran.

A wistful piano waltz, O’Halloran’s melody is the perfect mood-setter, at once melancholy and reassuring. Yes, it seems to say, we’re all deeply screwed up and likely to make many terrible life decisions. But somehow—somehow—it will probably all work out. With every Transparent episode, I can literally feel the music easing me into precisely the right state of mind to appreciate the show’s emotionally complicated charms. For fans and future fans alike, here is an extended version of O’Halloran’s theme. Happy viewing:

(Submit a song via hello@. Track of the Day archive here. Pre-Notes archive here.)