Britell Talks 12 Years a Slave Score

Composer Nicholas Britell (“Gimme the Loot”) provides a powerful musical accompaniment for Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave with a series of spiritual-field songs and stringed waltzes (which are currently available on the Columbia Records soundtrack). These originals and recreations enable us to better understand and appreciate the rich musical heritage that sprung from such inhumanity.

“My Lord Sunshine (Sunrise),” an original, opens the movie, appropriately enough, with slaves chopping sugar cane in rhythmic sync, while another original, “Yarney’s Waltz,” is a string tune in the spirit of the period. However, in arranging three other traditionals — the fiddle tune, “Devil’s Dream,” the cast’s version of “Roll Jordan Roll,” and the Virginia Reel, “Money Musk” — Britell was compelled to go on a vital research expedition, since there are no recordings or notations from the era.

“It was a rare chance to explore the music of the 1840s,” Britell recounts. “It’s an era that we don’t know what the music sounded like, especially┬áthe spirituals. There are no recordings and even the notations that were done later in the 1800s don’t adequately communicate the music. So I think Steve definitely wanted to have a powerful sense of music in the scenes, but it was very much an open canvas on which I had the opportunity to research and explore and re-imagine that sound.”

Read the rest at TOH/Indiewire.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Clips, Movies, Music, Tech

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