Ken Burns

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Biography (Excerpt)

Ken Burns is an Academy Award–nominated documentary filmmaker who has directed and produced nearly 20 films over the past three decades. Several of his works have been the highest-rated programs in American public television history and have earned him innumerable film and television awards as well as over 20 honorary degrees. Nonesuch has released the soundtracks for two of Burns’s most popular works: Baseball and The Civil War.

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Ken Burns is an Academy Award–nominated documentary filmmaker who has directed and produced nearly 20 films over the past three decades. Burns was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1953 and, fittingly, his first documentary deals with the history of the Brooklyn Bridge. Other notable Burns documentaries include The Civil War, Jazz, The National Parks, The War (about World War II), and Baseball. Several of his works have been the highest-rated programs in American public television history and have earned him innumerable film and television awards as well as over 20 honorary degrees.

Nonesuch has released the soundtracks for two of Burns’s most popular works: Baseball and The Civil War. The music for the latter, especially the main theme, “Ashokan Farewell,” has been highly praised and is often mistaken for a Civil War–era tune because of its highly evocative use in the film.

Latest Release

  • October 25, 2024

    The original score for Ken Burns’s two-part documentary Leonardo da Vinci, with new compositions by Caroline Shaw, features performances by the composer’s longtime collaborators Attacca Quartet, Sō Percussion, and Roomful of Teeth as well as John Patitucci. Shaw wrote and recorded new music for Leonardo da Vinci, marking the first time a Ken Burns film has featured an entirely original score. The film is directed by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon, who says: “Caroline’s existing body of music—joyful, daring, at times transcendent, and wholly unique—seemed to speak directly to Leonardo, a seeking soul who, 500 years after his death, can come across as strikingly modern ... The music Caroline created is dynamic, enthralling and filled with wonder."

News

  • July 16, 2024

    The original score for Ken Burns’s new two-part documentary, Leonardo da Vinci, with new compositions by Caroline Shaw, is available via Nonesuch on October 25; the documentary airs on November 18 and 19 at 8pm ET (check local listings) on PBS, PBS.org, and the PBS App. The album features performances by the composer’s longtime collaborators Attacca Quartet, Sō Percussion, and Roomful of Teeth as well as John Patitucci. Shaw wrote and recorded new music for Leonardo da Vinci, marking the first time a Ken Burns film has featured an entirely original score. You can watch the video for “Intentions of the Mind" here. In a special event at The Town Hall in NYC October 29, the musicians will perform from the score, and the filmmakers will preview excerpts from the film.

  • September 3, 2015

    To mark the 25th anniversary of the debut of Ken Burns's acclaimed documentary The Civil War, PBS will rebroadcast the series over five consecutive nights starting Labor Day Monday, September 7. This is the first presentation of a newly restored, high-definition version of the landmark documentary. This is also the first time the film will be seen with the same fidelity and framing as the negative that Burns and his co-cinematographers Allen Moore and Buddy Squires shot more than 25 years ago. The film's soundtrack, released on Nonesuch Records in 1990, won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album.

Tour

Tue, Oct 29
New York, NY
The Town Hall
Tue, Oct 29
New York, NY
The Town Hall

Photos

Videos

About Ken Burns

  • Ken Burns is an Academy Award–nominated documentary filmmaker who has directed and produced nearly 20 films over the past three decades. Burns was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1953 and, fittingly, his first documentary deals with the history of the Brooklyn Bridge. Other notable Burns documentaries include The Civil War, Jazz, The National Parks, The War (about World War II), and Baseball. Several of his works have been the highest-rated programs in American public television history and have earned him innumerable film and television awards as well as over 20 honorary degrees.

    Nonesuch has released the soundtracks for two of Burns’s most popular works: Baseball and The Civil War. The music for the latter, especially the main theme, “Ashokan Farewell,” has been highly praised and is often mistaken for a Civil War–era tune because of its highly evocative use in the film.

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