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‘Moonlight’ Live Orchestra Screening: Watch Composer Nicholas Britell Lead the Powerful Performance

Britell and some very creative musicians show how they chopped and screwed an orchestra in this featurette.

Mahershala Ali and Alex R. Hibbert in "Moonlight"


David Bornfriend/A24

Nicholas Britell took on a unique challenge when composing the distinctive score to “Moonlight,” but putting together a screening where he conducted a live orchestra during the film unearthed some fresh new obstacles. In a brief but fascinating featurette, Britell describes how he was able to duplicate some very unique sounds and techniques to bring the score to life.

The event, which took place at The Million Dollar Theatre in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Jan. 10, presented considerable hurdles, given that the film’s score “chopped and screwed” the orchestra. The term refers to a Houston-area hip hop trend, where a song is slowed down and pieces rearranged from the initial concept to morph the track into something new. It lead to some complicated instrumentation live, including a notable mid-score shift from a regular to a modified electric violin.

READ MORE: ‘Moonlight’ Score: Listen to Nicholas Britell’s Moving Compositions

Britell further described the concept for the chopped and screwed orchestra in an interview with IndieWire.

“My [initial] musical instincts were to have sensitivity, tenderness and intimacy,” Britell said. “And a cool counterpoint to that was early on Barry told me of his love of chopped and screwed music, which is a genre of Southern hip-hop where songs are bent and pitched and slowed down. They become fascinating morphed versions of themselves that are deepened and enriched.”

Check out the Live Orchestra featurette below:

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