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Bryce Dessner Discusses the ‘Marathon’ of Scoring John Wilkes Booth Thriller ‘Manhunt’ & Taylor Swift’s ‘Genius



You could call it kismet that the 47-year-old composer’s latest scoring endeavor is for Apple TV+’s Manhunt, a historical crime thriller centered around the aftermath of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. The seven-part series, which premieres March 15, follows U.S. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, played by The Crown’s Tobias Menzies, as he tracks down Anthony Boyle’s runaway John Wilkes Booth – a bloody, intense chase that Dessner says was like “running a marathon seven times” to write the music for.

To capture the scale of the tragedy’s impact — which risked putting Lincoln’s post-war plans for Reconstruction on the brink of collapse — Dessner threaded subtle electronic embellishments into an orchestral tapestry of strings and brass, all while honoring the American folk traditions of the time with the occasional fiddle or banjo. His attention to detail even led him to Nashville, Tenn., where he purchased a classic, early ‘60s J-50 Gibson guitar specially for the project.

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