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The Help Me Like Thomas Snoozeman's Music Thread


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As you all know, and if the thread title doesn't clue you in, I don't like Thomas Newman's music. It's all ambient and sparkly but it rarely has that underbelly of substance that I want from my music.

It's part of what I like about John Williams. Even in his most cheery and sparkly pieces, he writes with a darker (almost sad?) voice, a fullness, and weight you don't get elsewhere. It's the same case with Jerry Goldsmith.

Yet you all seem to love this Snoozeman fellow. I can't seem to connect the line from Williams fandom to Snoozeman fandom.

So your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to introduce me to Thomas Newman pieces that clarify that connection.

I like one Thomas Newman album throughout: Skyfall.

Outside of that, I like the track "Rock Island, 1931" from Road to Perdition. I particularly love the heavy string writing following the ethnic stuff in that track.

And that's it. I know, not much to work with.

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Help me to like Thomas Newman? This is too easy:

Shawshank, dude.

If Eve Retrieve doesn't pique your interest then just give up on life.

Well to start: What have you already listened to?

I was listening to American Beauty last night, and the whole thing sounded like New Agey cringe-stuff to me. I did like "Any Other Name" though!

Well the thing is, Williams' dramatic works typically fall into a warm nostalgic sound, while Newman utilizes a cold morbid sound. At least to my ears. If you're looking for something that's a little less quirk and distant, I'd recommend something like The Good German, in which he's writing in the Golden Age sound. Or if you're looking for something that feels like it has a little more weight, perhaps Little Children or A Series Of Unfortunate Events.

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There are tons of great moments in so many of his scores. I feel like you can experience Newman the best by watching one of the films. Probably easier to digest than the 20+ short cues on his albums. Then listening to the albums after seeing the film is how you learn to appreciate it more.

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There are tons of great moments in so many of his scores. I feel like you can experience Newman the best by watching one of the films. Probably easier to digest than the 20+ short cues on his albums. Then listening to the albums after seeing the film is how you learn to appreciate it more.

I also feel this to be at least partially true. But his work does stand on its own as a listening experience but he is a very different composer from John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith or even his father Alfred Newman.

Newman by his own admission is interested in working with smaller ensembles and unique sonorities of various specialty instruments in trying to track down that sound of the film.This makes his scores sometimes feeli delicate or even insubstantial as he relies on few voices instead of an entire orchstra. But he has shown that he is capable of writing in the more conventional idiom of Hollywood's orchestral scores and scores like the above mentioned Angels in America, Little Women, Shawshank Redemption, Oscar and Lucinda, Meet Joe Black, The Good German (love letter to the film noirs of the past) and indeed Road to Perdition for the most part illustrate this very well. And yet he handles such sound with his own unique way that still sets him apart but it is the most relatable work for those who love bigger orchestral sound.

His work for films is also less leitmotivic than of e.g. John Williams' or Jerry Goldsmith's or Elmer Bernstein's although he does write very strong melodic identifications for films. Newman seems to prefer to create individual musical moments rather than a quilt of thematic interaction with his music and he most often focuses on the mood and underlying feel of a scene rather than enforces its emotions with straightforward thematic statements. But when he does the effect is often beautiful and powerful. I feel that few can convey the feeling of longing and bittersweet yearning melodically as well as Newman does. His thematic statements are sparse in most of his scores and he usually sums up these ideas in his finale and end credit pieces. You can take almost any Thomas Newman score and invariably the ending has the most fleshed out version of his main idea(s) for the score.

One rather irritating thing on his album can be the short running time of the cues. Newman can make a quick statement in a minute of time but sometimes this choppiness, indeed his loyalty to the individuality of the cues, makes for a 40 track album with many shorter tracks that might not have room for development. In this he is also different from older generation of composers in that he does not often combine his music into longer suites of cues containing related pieces or cues with similar moods and that may create feeling of jumpiness and underdevelopment in his music.

Newman can also noodle with soundscapes and sound design type of atmospheres for long sections of the score but I luckily feel that he does it better than most "sound designer/composers" working Hollywood today. Listen to e.g. the Murder in 4 Parts from Road to Perdition, such unique orchestrally created atmosphere for clashing sonorities.

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Great post there Inky. It made me realize that one of my favorite things about Newman is that focus on individual moments rather than any overarching thematic threads, while still managing to bring those small fragments together in the end - or maybe it's the opposite. Whereas the "traditional" approach to themes in a score results in a sort of tapestry with a clear narrative and development, Newman's scores are more like a finely crafted piece of glass (that culminating theme), which he then delicately shatters and makes a mosaic with.

In that respect, I think he's one of the most innovative composers working in film, almost an analogue of the move towards impressionism in concert music. I would put Zimmer up there too with regards to thematic innovation, his method also being less concerned with development or strict consistency of association than a Williams or Shore approach is. Take his Batman scores, or Inception, which are thematically static aside from one "main" idea which isn't developed as much as it is held back in power and strength until the coda of the film. Instead you have a number of elements/ideas which are freely applied, though often with some level of consistency. In those two examples, especially Inception, I'd say his approach is more based on situational or conceptual motives, rather than any connected to characters or items or locations. You have an "awe" idea, a "sleuthing" idea, two "action" ideas, a "chase" idea, a "regret" idea, a "catharsis" idea... there is one that actually does apply mostly to a character, Fischer, but anyway....

Sorry for the Zimmer digression, but I enjoy looking at film music from a broad historical/musicological perspective, thinking about different trends and styles and movements and whatnot, in this case one which Newman and Zimmer share. I think that viewpoint makes it easier to appreciate some of those composers who are, uh, less fashionable to be a fan of. There are plenty of different approaches, each as legitimate as the last, regardless of whether or not it does anything for you.

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While I love Newman's eclectic style, the real thing that sells this composer to me is his wonderful harmonic signature. Those classic Newman progressions in the strings, regardless of how many times I've heard them, still get me every time.

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While I love Newman's eclectic style, the real thing that sells this composer to me is his wonderful harmonic signature. Those classic Newman progressions in the strings, regardless of how many times I've heard them, still get me every time.

Not being a musicologist, I'm not exactly sure what you are getting, K.K., but, as a layman, I would say that Newman's music has a definite "yearning" and "grasping" quality.

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While I love Newman's eclectic style, the real thing that sells this composer to me is his wonderful harmonic signature. Those classic Newman progressions in the strings, regardless of how many times I've heard them, still get me every time.

What's so compelling about Newman's writing, is that's its a sort of cross-pollination of the American blues tradition, sequenced EDM, minimalism and Golden Age Hollywood in the tradition of his father. But over all, it's the blues that comes through strongest, and that's what you can hear in those harmonies. Lots of modality, especially of the Lydian and Mixolydian sort, along with the standard blue notes (b9, #9, #4/#11 etc.).

That cue Hornist posted is classic Newman. The pre-piano intro is essentially revolves around two chords (with a Bbm/Db thrown in for a darker colour) - Ab and Gb. To those he adds various extensions - 9ths, 11hs, 7ths, and so on, while sticking to Ab Mixolydian mode. You could call this a modal exchange, since the next passage is based around Fm - Ab's relative key.

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Agreed entirely Sharkey. It's that modal quality in Newman's writing that I find so appealing. In particular, those clashing 9ths and 11ths that really bring out that bittersweet quality to it. It's a musical colour that Whitacre often takes after in his own music. It's just instantly satisfying, hearing Newman linger on a certain chord, bringing out those extensions in conflict (but not in an unpleasant way) in the upper registers with the melodic line before moving on to the next chord in progression. It's simply sublime.

While I love Newman's eclectic style, the real thing that sells this composer to me is his wonderful harmonic signature. Those classic Newman progressions in the strings, regardless of how many times I've heard them, still get me every time.

Not being a musicologist, I'm not exactly sure what you are getting, K.K., but, as a layman, I would say that Newman's music has a definite "yearning" and "grasping" quality.

Yes, it's exactly that bittersweet quality I was referring to Richard.

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Neither do I, nor am I pursuing one. What I know is basically what I've gathered from theory classes, piano lessons, and just plain ol' experience.

There are clearly people here who are far more knowledgeable in the field than I am.

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I know far more about music after decades of various experiences, some classes in college to get a "minor" in it, and two years after that of intense study on my own and with a couple of great teachers, than I do about physics after four years of university level study of it. I knew I wanted to compose within the first few months of college, but I stuck with studying physics. Looking back, I can see that was only because I thought it would be the more "lucrative" of the things I was interested in, and that's never a good basis on which to make a decision like that.

Part of me wishes I had backed out of school as soon as I realized I wanted to pursue music, and saved myself the wasted time/money... but if I had, I wouldn't have met some rather important people.

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My aim is med school, and still is (in my first year of university right now). But I hope to minor in music (I try and get involved in the music programs here as much as I can). Due to the nature of my program, I haven't been able to take any music courses this year, but that will change next year.

And while my career path is rather different, I hope to be able to pursue composition in some way throughout my life (both for film and the concert hall). Hopefully things will work out.

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I think they were both kidding.

I actually dont. But i do think that some people get a bit too involved with the "theoretical" aspects of music. Which are important for the composer, and those who need to perform the score, but should not be of any deep significance to the listener.

Well that's not necessarily true. I think the theory behind the music can definitely hold meaning with the listener.

It's like when you've got a great book. Sometimes you have great appreciation for the technique behind it, not just the overall effect.

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True, but i dont find the technique as interesting as other aspects. It's certainly not the main reason why a brilliant score is brilliant, in general.

For instance, if you, KK. took your minor in music and wrote a piece using the exact same techniques as JW often employs, would it automatically be as brilliant as his music?

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True, but i dont find the technique as interesting as other aspects. It's certainly not the main reason why a brilliant score is brilliant, in general.

This is true, but unfortunately we can't really examine the purely artistic/creative/imaginative process, so the technique people use to capture the results of that is the next best thing.

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Ok well, apologies for getting the wrong end of the stick.

But i do think that some people get a bit too involved with the "theoretical" aspects of music. Which are important for the composer, and those who need to perform the score,

... and those of us who wish to write equally compelling music now or sometime in the future. And by that I don't mean plagiarism like you suggested, but to simply understand why the music works the ways does-- what's behind its affect on the listener. As a composer you can soak this stuff up like a sponge, and apply similar techniques to your own writing with a discerning mind. It might not have much significance for you, but it does to KK, Grey and me, and to the future of music (even if it's a minuscule contribution we make).

You get me?

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True, but i dont find the technique as interesting as other aspects. It's certainly not the main reason why a brilliant score is brilliant, in general.

For instance, if you, KK. took your minor in music and wrote a piece using the exact same techniques as JW often employs, would it automatically be as brilliant as his music?

I agree Steef. You can't boil down what makes art "brilliant" down to a science. It's more complex than that. It's why a lot Williams' knock-offs just don't sound that good.

But it is nice to be able to discuss a score in more tangible terms, looking behind the screen to see what is being done to create that sound that appeals to us so much. You'd be surprised by what miniscule changes in orchestrations or performance can make one piece sound bland and the other sound 'brilliant', as you say.

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