Composing music: Rewarding creative endeavors — with orchestra or iPhone software

Thomas Newman directing
Thomas Newman directs the orchestra to record the soundtrack for Wall-E, with film footage on the screen in the background. See the YouTube video about the composing and recording process —

I’m often improvising and developing music for my Native American-style flutes, my kanteles, my ukuleles — or for all of them.

So I was interested in the NPR interview with Thomas Newman, who writes movie music scores, including the music for “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Saving Mr. Banks” and animated films “Finding Nemo” and “Wall-E.”

Newman talked with Robert Siegel about some of the challenges and rewards of writing movie scores. Newman emphasized the importance coordinating the music’s tempo with the action of the film. “Pace is what it’s all about,” Newman said.

music recorded with iPhoneSiegel pointed out that for an animated film like “Wall-E,” with the leads being two robots who do very little speaking, writing the music score is similar to the role of music in the old silent movies — responsible for carrying much of the emotion of the film.

Newman talked about his enjoyment of the creative process involved. I could identify with that, even if I’m not composing music for a movie soundtrack and working to coordinate my efforts with a film director. I’m trying to capture a mood or the sound of a bird that has flown into sight. I’m trying to harmonize two flutes or a flute and a kantele.

I often use my iPhone to record the song in progress, so I’ll have that recording to refer back to as I continue to work on the song. And I’m able to create the effect of multiple players by recording and combining multiple tracks.

[The interview with Thomas Newman, on Dec. 22, 2014, was the first of a series of NPR interviews on film composition.]