Friday, August 26, 2005

The Composers: James Newton Howard



Continuing my blogs on my favorite film composers, and how they've influenced me...

James Newton Howard is one of the top film composers living today. His scores include Wyatt Earp, Signs, Sixth Sense, The Village, Waterworld, Alive, Dinosaur, The Fugitive, Unbreakable, Outbreak, Hidalgo, French Kiss, Grand Canyon, One Fine Day... the list goes on.

One of the reasons I'm always looking forward to JN Howard's scores is because not only is his music brilliantly crafted with layers and thematic development, but also because he loves to mix ethnic sounds and/or focus on solo instruments in his scores. I'll use Waterworld as an example. It's one of my favorite scores (note that sometimes the best scores come from mediocre movies as the music has more work to do to fix the movie). In Waterworld, Howard used a mix of the following:

Big brassy orchestra
Full choir
African drumming
Electronic sounds
Australian Dijerdoo and jewharp

All the above layers worked together to form a powerhouse of a score. One of the fun things he does with the heroic brassy Mariner theme is after he presents it at full assault with trumpets, trombones and horns, he inverts the theme and accompanies it with funky African drumming. Check the album out. The big action tracks are fantastic!

In French Kiss, he uses a Harmonica solo. In One Fine Day, he paints Gershwinesque colors with the jazzy piano and orchestra. The Fugitive had dark textures accompanying a lonely saxophone. In Hidalgo, he interchanged between two colors, Americana textures and Arabian deserty flavors with Arabic wailing voice and muzmar.

I hated The Village as a movie, but loved the score. The solo violin arpeggios accompanying subdued orchestral chord progressions showed a new approach from this brilliant composer. He chose a simple, less crowded sound.

Aside from being in love with his music, I've learned two great lessons from James Newton Howard over the years:

1) Oftentimes, less is more. You don't have to over-do something to be effective - as in the Village
2) Productivity under pressure. He's said that some of his best music was created under incredible pressure. He inspires me with how hard he pushes himself past his limits.

6 Comments:

Blogger Natasha said...

Amin,
Just wondering, why did you hate the village? I really liked it and thought the twist at the end was amazing!

10:09 AM  
Blogger Laith said...

walak gultilak tib3atli surti ma3 hal zalameh...hehe

10:20 AM  
Blogger Amin Matalqa said...

I hated the twist at the end. It was completely forced and gimmicky. I did like the metaphor in the movie, the control of people through fear. But I thought the whole scene with the moster was rediculous. The slow motion was terrible. Also, Adrain Brodey couldn't make those monster sounds from his throat. Watch it again and tell me it's not audience manipulation. Cinematography was great though. Score is amazing. Directing was very manipulative.

10:21 AM  
Blogger Amin Matalqa said...

Laith, it's on my laptop at Apple Store. My pic was on my site.

10:22 AM  
Blogger Linda said...

hhhmmm i love One Fine Day.

4:22 PM  
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