[WATCH] Composer Lesley Barber (‘Manchester by the Sea’) on bringing ‘a new character’ to Kenneth Lonergan drama

“I knew that it wouldn’t be right for me to write a score that was conventional from a narrative perspective,” reveals composer Lesley Barber during our recent webcam chat (watch above) when describing her work on Kenneth Lonergan‘s “Manchester by the Sea.” This Roadside Attractions release of an Amazon Studios production stars Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler, a man who must confront his past when he returns to his hometown to care for his nephew (Lucas Hedges) following the sudden death of the boy’s father (Kyle Chandler). Rather than, “writing some themes that would kind of coast along with the material and underscore, (the film) needed to bring in a new character that had its own life.”

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The tunesmith previously worked with Lonergan on his debut feature “You Can Count on Me” (2000), and knew that in addition to her score, the soundtrack would feature a wide variety of classical music, opera, pop and blues. “I don’t really think of it in a schematic sort of way,” she divulges, “but I would imagine that that’s in the back of my mind when I’m choosing the kind of music that will support and blend in and unify, and be the sort of gathering storm of meaningful music over the film.”

Related: Watch our interview with Lucas Hedges (‘Manchester by the Sea’)

She started her work after reading the script, far earlier than usual. Her initial pianos themes were inspired by, “New England, 17th Century Puritan hymns and psalms.” She then, “tried to put together a theme that somehow tapped into (the) melodic contours, and a kind of looping, elliptical quality that was in those pieces” (which) in a weird way, had a nice mirroring to what Lee’s going through in the film.” Check out our full interview above for more about Barber’s work on “Manchester by the Sea.”

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