Sunday reading: “The composer at the border of film music”


You have almost certainly heard the music of Nicholas Britell, even if you don’t know his name. More than any other contemporary composer, he seems to have the entire history of music at his fingertips, moving easily from one vocabulary to another, often in the same film.

His most striking scores tend to merge the two ends of his musical education. “Succession” is 18th century court music married to pulsating beats; “Moonlight” chops and fucks a classical piano-violin duo as if it were a track from Three 6 Mafia.

Britell’s resume reads like the setup for a comedy movie: a world-class Harvard-trained pianist who studied psychology and once performed in a moderately successful hip-hop group, which ended up managing portfolios on Wall Street.

That’s until he started scoring movies and quickly got Oscar nominations.

“What I’ve discovered in the past,” said Jon Burlingame, a film music historian, “is that people have found it impossible to incorporate modern musical forms like hip-hop into the underline. drama of the movies. When Nick did it in ‘Moonlight’, I was downright stunned. I didn’t think it was possible.

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Additional production of The Sunday Read was produced by Emma Kehlbeck, Parin Behrooz, Carson Leigh Brown, Anna Diamond, Elena Hecht, Desiree Ibekwe, Tanya Perez, Marion Lozano, Corey Schreppel, Margaret Willison and Kate Winslett. Special thanks to Mike Benoist, Sam Dolnick, Laura Kim, Julia Simon, Lisa Tobin, Blake Wilson and Ryan Wegner.

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Kehoe Young

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