Lakeshore Records will release the MOONLIGHT – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack composed by Nicholas Britell digitally on October 21, 2016 and on CD shortly thereafter. Having listened to the soundtrack already, I can say that you will definitely enjoy it if you are a fan of bands like Radiohead. It really grabs you in a way you feel strangely at melancholic ease but then again most of the time something very fragile seems to be about to break. Towards the end, it simply tears you apart, though, and if it doesn’t have the same effect on you – you’re most likely a rock.
About Barry Jenkins’s ‘Moonlight’
MOONLIGHT is the tender, heartbreaking story of a young man’s struggle to find himself, told across three defining chapters in his life as he experiences the ecstasy, pain, and beauty of falling in love, while grappling with his own sexuality. Anchored by astonishing performances and the singular vision of filmmaker Barry Jenkins, MOONLIGHT is a groundbreaking exploration of male masculinity—a sensual, intoxicating piece of cinema that uncovers deep truths about the moments that define us, the people who shape us most, and the ache of love that can last a lifetime.
About the soundtrack of ‘Moonlight’
Both director Barry Britell and composer Nicholas Jenkins share a passion for hip-hop beats and wanted to experiment with melodies for the harsh setting of this film. Nicholas Britell was playing in a hip-hop band while in college, and at the same time, was excelling as a classical pianist. The composer and director were eager to use a Southern style hip-hop motif they were familiar with known as Chopped and Screwed, which layers different sounds and beats over one another and “bends” the musicality. In an instant, the tempo of the rhythm can switch from a quick pace to a slowed down groove, as well as raising and lowering the pitch; this combined with Britell’s classically orchestral score created a unique musical palate for the film. At one point in the movie, the music is so layered with the sounds of cello, piano and violin, and slowed down, that the music has a reverberating effect like a thunderstorm.
“Working with Barry on MOONLIGHT was a phenomenal experience,” composer Nicholas Britell stated. “He has an immediate instinct about how music works with picture. We would sit in my studio, watching scenes from the film, and experimenting with different possibilities.” Nicholas Britell continued, “This is one of my favorite things to do – exploring musical textures, sounds, and ideas live against picture. When an idea works, you see how it can change perceptions of a scene. You really feel it.”
In writing the music for MOONLIGHT, there were thus two distinct phases of the writing process. Nicholas Britell would write music that inspired him initially from talks with director Barry Jenkins and later from scenes he saw, but afterwards Nicholas Britell would begin to experiment with ‘chopping and screwing’ his own recordings. “I would bend tracks, taking cellos and turning them into strange bass-like instruments, taking pianos and violins and altering them into a totally new shape,” Nicholas Britell described. “The first word that comes to mind is ‘poetry.’ There is a true poetry to the way the film is created. There is beautify, intimacy, tenderness, and sensitivity. ‘Chiron’s Theme’ attempts to capture some of these feelings musically.” This is a feat Britell achieved effortlessly in the score.
Jenkins knew that Nicholas Britell was a fit for the film after the latter sent him an eclectic playlist following their first meeting: The Isley Brothers seguing into Bach, UGK and the Manhattans bleeding into Beethoven. At that moment, Jenkins knew that Britell had grasped his unspoken mantra for the film – We’re not going to take the hood to the arthouse, we’re going to bring the arthouse to the hood. “Nick’s compositions pulse and rumble, creating a feeling in one’s chest that reminds me of the trunk rattling music of home. When I listen to this music, I picture a 74 Impala on 28 inch rims drifting down MLK Boulevard… blasting Bach, chopped and screwed.”
About composer Nicholas Britell
Nicholas Britell is an award-winning composer, pianist, and producer. In 2015, Nicholas Britell wrote the score for Adam McKay’s Oscar-nominated film THE BIG SHORT. His music also featured prominently in director Steve McQueen’s Oscar-winning film 12 YEARS A SLAVE, for which he composed and arranged the on-camera music including the violin performances, spiritual songs, work songs, and dances. He recently finished scoring Gary Ross’ film FREE STATE OF JONES, starring Matthew McConaughey, as well as Natalie Portman’s directorial debut feature film A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS. Britell has also scored Steve McQueen’s film CARIBS’ LEAP which has recently been featured as part of the “Master of Light – Robby Müller” retrospective at the Eye film museum in Amsterdam. In addition, Nicholas Britell wrote the score for Adam Leon’s film GIMME THE LOOT as well as for Jack Pettibone Riccobono’s documentary THE SEVENTH FIRE. As a producer, Britell produced the short film WHIPLASH, directed by Damien Chazelle, which won the Jury Award for Best US Fiction Short at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. After the initial success of the WHIPLASH short, he subsequently served as co-producer of the Oscar-nominated feature film WHIPLASH.
He was awarded the Henry Mancini Fellowship from the ASCAP Foundation in December 2012 and also won the ASCAP/Doddle Award for Collaborative Achievement. Britell is a Founding Member of L.A. Dance Project and is a Board member of the New York-based ensemble Decoda, the first-ever affiliate ensemble of Carnegie Hall. He is an honors and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard University, as well as a piano performance graduate of the Juilliard School’s Pre-College Division. Britell was honored to be the commencement speaker at the Juilliard Pre-College Division’s Commencement Exercises in May 2016. He was recently nominated for Discovery of the Year by the World Soundtrack Awards.
Next in the pipeline for Nicholas Britell is “Battle of the Sexes” and “Ocean’s Eight”. Britell will be attending the 16th Annual World Soundtrack Awards in Gent Belgium, as he is a “Discovery of the Year“ nominee for his musical composition on “The Big Short”.
Credit: Photo by David Bornfriend, courtesy of A24