Multi-genre composer Nicholas Britell, from “Moonlight” to “The Underground Railroad”

Posted on: May 11, 2021

“ ‘The Underground Railroad’—a 10-part series, based on the novel by Colson Whitehead, that debuts on Amazon this month … is [composer Nicholas] Britell’s first television collaboration with [director Barry] Jenkins, and his compositions for it are less a single score than 10 intersecting, fully realized musical universes,” writes Jamie Fisher in Thursday’s (5/6) New York Times. “You have almost certainly heard Britell’s music, even if you don’t know his name…. You may have seen ‘The Big Short’ (2015)…. Or maybe ‘Moonlight’ (2016), narrated by a violin-and-piano theme that matures with the protagonist…. Britell also scored HBO’s ‘Succession.’ … Consider what movies sounded like in their earliest years: the swashbucklers that Erich Korngold scored in the 1930s, or Max Steiner’s lush ‘Casablanca,’ or the sweeping historical epics…. Britell’s most arresting scores tend to fuse both ends of his musical education…. ‘Moonlight’ chops and screws a classical piano-and-violin duet as if it’s a Three 6 Mafia track.” Film-music historian Jon Burlingame says most composers “have found it impossible to incorporate such modern musical forms as hip-hop into dramatic underscore for films. When Nick did it in ‘Moonlight,’ I was frankly stunned. I didn’t think it was possible.”