James Newton Howard, Composer of “ News Of The World ”, On The Creation Of His Score – Deadline

James Newton Howard is no stranger to the Western. He composed the scores for Wyatt earp and Hidalgo, but the music for World news required a different touch. “It might be a great western, with great characters and landscapes,” says Newton Howard, “but it’s a much more introspective film.” The story follows Captain Kidd (Tom Hanks), who agrees to deliver a daughter, Johanna (Helena Zengel), to her only living parents, after being taken away by the Kiowa people. Newton Howard, along with director Paul Greengrass and editor-in-chief Billy Goldenberg, decided to start the score with the idea of ​​a “broken wife” of musicians to represent the shattered nature of the world and the main characters. Here, Newton Howard describes his approach to writing a score to follow a healing journey.

The movie that lit my fuse: ‘News Of The World’ director Paul Greengrass

Bruce W. Talamon / Universal Pictures

DEADLINE: Paul Greengrass has written about you two and editor-in-chief Billy Goldenberg, agreeing the score should be as if “a consort of players shattered by years of civil war, division and hatred have come together. finally reformed. ” How did you go about achieving this?

NEWTON HOWARD: The broken husband was indeed a concept that Paul proposed. And I think in this case, we executed it quite effectively. The way I approached it was that I took the group of musicians who specialized in what we call ancient instruments which would include the love cello, viola da gambas and string violins. in gut. These look a bit like traditional stringed instruments, but there is a technique for playing them that is quite different. You can feel them slowly pulling the bow across the strings, rather than sinking with a bow into the string. I know it sounds a bit technical, but it really gives you that wonderful buzz, sort of travel sound. We put a group of these people in the middle of the room, and then we surrounded them with a large traditional orchestra, and I think we ended up with this fragile core with a very secure environment.

DEADLINE: As The Broken Consort gets bigger as the movie progresses, it looks like The Consort gets a bit more cohesive throughout, culminating in the end credits theme, which is really big. How did you accomplish this musically?

NEWTON HOWARD: Well, because my favorite genre or type of movie is a big, epic romantic outdoor adventure. Not that there was a lot of romance in this movie, but I was always looking for an opportunity to write a great western theme while I was working on the movie, but there really was no room for that in the first one. act. And then there was a point if you remember, when Kidd and the Johanna made their way to Dallas, which was the beginnings of a big, bustling city that’s full of tons of activities and shops and lots of things to do. world. And it really became like a road trip. And I thought, aha, here’s my chance to write my first big scene. So I wrote it down. Basically the theme you hear was a theme to go with them while they were on the road to Dallas. And there was another scene where he decides to go back to see Johanna in this wonderful moment of clarity after visiting his late wife’s grave. And then it comes to understanding what to do. He rides a horse, he crosses the New Mexico desert. It’s a big moment and I wrote a pretty big thematic piece for this whole scene.

Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel in 'News of the World'

Universal Images

DEADLINE: My favorite part of the score was during the dust storm. It’s very minimal, but it develops in the end as he transforms into Johanna meeting the Kiowa tribe. There were so many emotions that were evoked throughout this scene, in the score in particular. How did you do this while battling the raging noise of the dust storm?

HOWARD: For every film composer, it’s always a calculation and a negotiation, if you will. Because sound effects are at the heart of every movie. The ideal situation is when the sound effects and the music are kind of, I don’t want to be poetic about it, but really do a dance together. And in that situation, I knew the whole opening, where they’re dying of thirst, I could really be ridiculously spared and almost do something that looked like a dried-up skeleton. You know, it was so hard and minimal. I just increased the orchestration as the dust storm rolled in and then Paul and I agreed that at some point in the dust storm the music would go away. And we’d switch the stage entirely to sound effects, which I think is a really smart way to do it. And then of course, as the people of the Kiowa Nation appear, it starts in a very ambient, rather abstract, way. I always feel like the character of Tom Hanks at that point sees the chef, and he just feels embarrassed that he’s been caught so ill-equipped with this girl in the middle of the desert, and then he sees that it doesn’t. will not be a hostile encounter but, in fact, a horse is offered to them by these people from whom everything has already been taken from them. The emotion of this scene becomes overwhelming but it is a slow and careful transition from one situation to another. I firmly believe that what makes the score of a film particularly successful is when it is not episodic and you feel like it is able to tell the story in a transparent way. one scene to another. I don’t know if I did this, but it definitely is what I tried to do.

DEADLINE: How much of your work on the World news score are you most proud of?

HOWARD: I feel like I did a good job telling the same story Paul wanted me to tell. Paul wanted to tell a story of healing and redemption as these two characters tried to fit into a world that was completely destroyed. I felt the music was doing that.

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