[WATCH] ‘Moonlight’ composer Nicholas Britell on trying to find the music to match the poetry of the film

“When I saw an early cut I was hit by the feeling of poetry,” said composer Nicholas Britell about his first reaction to seeing “Moonlight” (watch below). “The film had this intimacy, this tenderness, a sensitivity. The first questions musically was, how do you translate that feeling into music? What is the musical analog of poetry?” Britell was part of a “Meet the Experts” panel presented by Gold Derby at the Landmark Theater in L.A. on Nov. 16 to spotlight great achievements in crafts.

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“Moonlight” is a coming-of-stage story set during three periods of the life of Chiron, a boy living in a poor Miami neighborhood who has to come to terms with being gay while also coping with his mother (Naomie Harris), who is addicted to drugs. We meet Chiron as a nine-year-old boy and follow him into his troubled adulthood.

Scoring the film required an especially close collaboration between Britell and the film’s writer-director, Barry Jenkins. “Early on I said to him that I felt it was important for us to spend a lot of time together in the same place,” Britell remembered. “He’d come to my studio and we’d spend days together exploring things, experimenting.”

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“We had no preconceived notions about what the music would be … It was something that evolved,” Britell added. “It was very much an organic process in that way where we started with certain ideas and feelings and saw where they took us.”

Britell has nearly 15 years of music credits, but mostly in short films. To date he has composed a half dozen full-length features: “Domino One” (2005), “Gimme the Loot” (2012), “A Tale of Love and Darkness” (2015), “The Big Short” (2015), “Free State of Jones” (2016) and now “Moonlight.” For “The Big Short” last year he was nominated for Discovery of the Year at the World Soundtrack Awards, and this year he has already won Best Score at the Hollywood Music in Media Awards.

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