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‘Barkskins’: Listen to David Thewlis Singing as Part of Nat Geo’s New Historical Drama Series

Plus, first details about when you can listen to Colin Stetson's haunting score for the series.

Trepagny (David Thewlis) taps Duquet (James Bloor) with his walking stick as Sel (Christian Cooke) looks on. (National Geographic/Peter H. Stranks)

Christian Cooke, James Bloor, and David Thewlis in “Barkskins”

National Geographic/Peter H. Stranks

Sometimes, there are days that feel slightly incomplete without the sound of renowned actor David Thewlis’ singing voice. Luckily, the new National Geographic series “Barkskins” offered the actor a chance to add to the eerie atmosphere of the show with a chilling in-character exhortation.

“Barkskins” follows a number of residents of a settlement in modern-day Quebec at the twilight of the 17th century. As colonial forces threaten to rip apart life for the people that journeyed across the Atlantic and the people who lived on the land previously, New France becomes a physical and metaphorical battleground.

Thewlis’ character, Claude Trepagny, is an eccentric land speculator living in the colony. Amidst the various backroom deals and arranged relationships, Trepagny offers these chilling words for anyone in the forest within hearing range:

The song “Awake You Sleepy Hearts” was written by the show’s composer, Colin Stetson, who before turning his attention to New France wrote the gorgeous music for the Hulu series “The First.” He’s contributed his talents to recordings by a number of bands and artists, with film work that also includes “Hereditary” and “Color Out of Space.”

“David Thewlis delivered such an iconic performance in this series, which for me was an absolute thrill to work with. It’s maybe best summed up in this cue I think — his singing is just absolutely perfect, so drunk with purpose. I wrote this music up around that initial song, which subsequently became one of the main recurring themes not only for his character, but for the entire show,” Stetson said.

The renowned saxophonist composed the score for “Barkskins” as well, bringing a kind of ethereal air to the series. Stetson said that he drew heavily on elements of nature for musical ideas and textures.

“The ‘sound of the forest’ was what I was first tasked with in generating the overall aesthetic and character of the score for ‘Barkskins,'” Stetson said. “Taken both literally and metaphorically, I based much of the sonic backbone on two pillars: Of an essence and feeling of wild and heavily wooded places, I combined the sounds of low bowed strings and my own voice, in unison and extreme glissando, to create an undulating melodic bed, deeply creaking and airy, as trees swaying in the wind. And literally, the actual sounds of the forest, those of red squirrels, finches, ravens, and I think a sea lion (whoops) all twisted and modified into a supporting sonic landscape within which to compose.”

The entire score will be released on June 5 and will be available for pre-order beginning Friday, May 29. For a hint of what’s to come, see the track listing below:

  1. Forest Fire
  2. Company Man
  3. The Tree
  4. Renardette
  5. True Warrior
  6. English Scum
  7. Lie Down
  8. The Company Way
  9. Marth Burns
  10. Father Clape
  11. A Proposal
  12. Aftermath
  13. With Death Upon You
  14. First And Last Meals
  15. The Letter
  16. Retrieving The Dead
  17. Punishment
  18. Alive
  19. Awake You Sleepy Hearts (feat. David Thewlis)

“Barkskins” airs Monday at 9 p.m. on National Geographic, with episodes available the following day on Hulu. 

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