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In winter 2020 I was asked to edit a documentary about youth imprisonment called JustUs. Near the end of the project, I was asked to write the music for the film as well. With a tight deadline on the horizon, I composed the tracks here in about a week.
Because there is little space in the film without dialogue, the score needed to be fairly subtle most of the time. I wrote sparse pieces like "Englander" so that the notes were struck in the pauses between the interviewee's sentences. Others like "Ako" float underneath the interviewee while emphasizing the emotion at play and building a sense of momentum. "Eighteen" was written for the trailer, in three sections that mirror the trailer's three acts. "Feel Like a Thousand" and "Marine" are unused pieces.
Due to the tight deadline, there wasn't a lot of time to polish the pieces of music as they appear in the film. Fortunately this didn't matter much, because the music needed to be low in the mix, so imperfections are difficult to pick out. For this release, however, I polished each of these pieces up. Some of them are extended or shortened, and all of them are remixed for isolated listening.
Directed, produced, and narrated by a current prisoner, this 50-minute documentary follows three Iowans who were convicted of serious crimes as teenagers — murder, armed robbery, and kidnapping — as they re-enter society and work to improve their communities decades after their arrest. It was an honor to work on a meaningful project like this and I encourage you to watch the film if you get a chance.
releases September 27, 2021
Composed, performed, mixed, and mastered by Justin Norman
Cover photograph by Chris Phan
Cover design by Justin Norman