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Composer Tamar-kali dug deep for her work on 'Mudbound'

'Mudbound' composer, Tamar-kali, is a Brooklyn-based composer and singer-songwriter.
'Mudbound' composer, Tamar-kali, is a Brooklyn-based composer and singer-songwriter.
Nina Mouritzen

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The Netflix film "Mudbound" sadly might not have won any Oscars, but it remains one of the most powerful movies released last year.

On March 3, on the eve of the Academy Awards, the film's cast was honored at the Independent Spirit Awards. When director and co-writer Dee Rees took the stage she gave an impassioned, poetic speech about the current state of cinema. And one-by-one Rees honored her key collaborators on the film, including her composer, Tamar-kali, whose music she said, was "the blood beneath the mud." 

Tamar-kali spoke with The Frame recently about working on the film: 

Dee has a very strong vision. She was very clear that she wanted an intimate string ensemble. She was like, I want strings. I want strings. When she initially came to me, I was like, That's my wheelhouse — strings, melancholy, intimate — I can do that. There's melancholy, there are sweet aspects, but then there's this underlying rub. 

As a result of Tamar-kali's influences and Dees' direction, the music is visceral and sparse, using instrumentation that mimics the violence and injustice portrayed in the film.

The bowed bass represents the rubbing against where it's uncomfortable and can even border on abrasive. 

Her greatest challenge scoring the film came from its brutal lynching scene. In order to get the music right, she had to watch it over and over again.

This story is the story of some of my ancestors. So there was this part of me that was pushing back against that particular cue ("Missing Letter"). I was trying to really come from a "clean" perspective, trying to have this theoretical, analytical approach to the cue. And it was just crap. I knew it wasn't working, but I was like, I don't know what to do. Then I [thought], You can't really run from this. You just have to sit there, feel it, see it and build off of that. So it was the one piece that was very specifically improvised.

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