Nicholas Britell’s Latest Score Is Fit for a King

By Etan Rosenbloom, Director & Deputy Editor, Marketing & Communications  •  November 14, 2019


Screen composers are expert time travelers, often tasked with sonically translating the vibe of the distant past in a way that will resonate with modern listeners. Even so, when Nicholas Britell was scoring the new Netflix film The King, directed by David Michôd and loosely based around Shakespeare’s Henry IV and Henry V, he was faced with the big challenge of how to craft a musical language that felt authentic to early 15th century England, but untethered to any specific time or place.


As Britell explains it, “My first instinct upon seeing a rough cut of the film was actually to imagine that the film was set not in the 15th century but in the 25th century. I tried to think of a set of sounds that could work in either the past or the future.”

Britell’s score evokes the great English string music tradition, and several cues add a moving boys’ choir – another element with a rich history in English religious and classical music. But he also added curious color by running bass clarinets through tape filters and crafting warped metallic sounds. “The result was a sound which felt organic yet quite mysterious and strange at the same time,” he says.

With universal acclaim for his work on Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk, a 2019 Emmy win for his score to Succession, and a recent Film Composer of the Year honor from the World Soundtrack Awards, Britell has quickly ascended to the top ranks of the screen composer court. His score for The King confirms his spot as screen music royalty.

Watch The King on Netflix

Read our interview with Nicholas Britell about his work on Vice, Succession and more

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