Thomas Newman - updating the family tradition

Thomas Newman - photo Thomas Newman is another of Alfred Newman's sons, David Newman's brother, and therefore part of that very musical family which also includes Lionel Newman and Randy Newman. Thomas quickly made a name for himself with his early soundtrack work on "Reckless" and "Desperately Seeking Susan". This led to his employment on some high profile hollywood films including "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe", "Scent of a Woman" and "The Shawshank Redemption" where he has displayed an easy ability to both use and mix a wide variety of traditional and popular styles. Since this inauguration, his career has seemed to grow exponentially, with recent years building a CV putting him at the top of the profession with "Up Close and Personal", "The Horse Whisperer", "The Green Mile", Meet Joe Black, "American Beauty", "Erin Brockovich" and The Road to Perdition!

Thomas Newman - The Horse Wisperer soundtrack CD cover Among Newman's supreme talents is the ability to musically paint great subtleties of mood and emotion. This was ably demonstrated on the soundtrack to "The Horse Whisperer", whose early scenes in New York use dreamlike music to establish the events before and after the accident which physically and emotionally scars a young girl and her horse, affecting her family. When the horse is taken to the Whisperer in Montana the music takes on a slight touch of country, and then superbly highlights the trials and steps leading to recovery, which also entangle the lives of those involved. Although the music in this film is quite prominent, sometimes Newman's music is required to take a back seat. This was evident in movies such as "In the Bedroom" where he was able to subtly heighten scenes of apparent normality and suggest all sorts of thoughts that might lurk under the surface.

Thomas Newman - American Beauty soundtrack CD cover This ability was stretched further in the haunting dreamlike music in "American Beauty" which is perfectly suited for the movie's blending of fantasy and perspectives on reality. Its main sounds are tuned percussion though based on short figures rather than overt melody (another Newman hallmark). The success of this movie and popular identification with its heightened reality in mundane circumstances, has resulted in the music (and many imitations) being used in many other places including TV and radio. In many ways Newman is leading the way in finding a new voice for film music. His distinctive music seems to enjoy sounds which jingle and tinkle, using piano, strings or pads, and tuned percussion played with mallets, while blending natural and synthesised instruments, and sprinkling the mix with effects. His style can use aspects of popular, jazz, classical and world music, yet their fusion is uniquely Thomas Newman and always interesting.

Thomas Newman - The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel soundtrack CD cover While Thomas Newman has not done a lot of work in television, his contributions to the small screen have been just as memorable as his contributions to the large screen. His title theme for "Six Feet Under" has won a grammy and his music for the mini-series Angels in America has won the composer much critical acclaim. His film scores continue to keep Thomas Newman very busy indeed. After his traditional orchestral score for "The Good German" and his cute family score for "Wall.E", Newman has scored "Revolutionary Road", "Brothers", "The Debt", "The Adjustment Bureau" and "The Help". His latest films are contrasting works for "The Iron Lady" and his mildly spiced but delicious music for "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel". The sequel for this, amusingly called "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel", was also wonderfully scored by Newman.

David Arnold was too busy working on music for the London 2012 Olympic Games at the time, and so Sam Mendes called on Thomas Newman (with whom he had worked several times previously) to score Skyfall and then later the pair collaborated on the next Bond movie Spectre. See our article on James Bond Music for the overall story of Bond's music. Newman's understated score for Bridge of Spies makes him the first composer in 30 years other than John Williams to score a film directed by Steven Spielberg.

Films by Thomas Newman:

    Thomas Newman - Angels in America soundtrack CD cover
  • Reckless
  • Desperately Seeking Susan - a mix of pop, rock, synth and world music (some Chinese sounds for the Chinatown setting) and featuring Madonna
  • The Man with One Red Shoe - starring Tom Hanks
  • Girls Just Want to have Fun
  • Jumpin' Jack Flash
  • The Lost Boys
  • The Great Outdoors
  • Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
  • Whispers in the Dark
  • Scent of a Woman - many of Newman's trademark sounds and some Tango music by "The Tango Project"
  • Thomas Newman - Whispers in the Dark soundtrack CD cover
  • The Player - unusual, with hints of jazz scales and off tuning
  • The Shawshank Redemption
  • Little Women (1994) - Newman provided some uplifting Americana for this adaptation of the novel with an all-star cast
  • How to Make an American Quilt - an evocative soundtrack with interesting oboe parts
  • Unstrung Heroes
  • Up Close and Personal
  • In The Bedroom - captures the scenes of domestic normality and the disturbing events that unfold
  • The People vs. Larry Flynt
  • Phenomenon
  • Oscar and Lucinda - winning the composer a "best original music score" award from the Australian Film Institute
  • The Horse Whisperer - a recommended soundtrack displaying Newman's talent
  • The Green Mile - very delicate sounding
  • Meet Joe Black - there are some touches of Americana and some similarity to the work of James Horner
  • American Beauty - the unusual themes for this movie are laid back, with a haunting beauty
  • Erin Brockovich - there are a couple of songs by Sheryl Crow but it's Newman's distinctive music which dominates the soundtrack, sad at times but generally upbeat
  • Road to Perdition - the music hints at Irish origins, but generally takes a back seat in support of the narrative
  • Finding Nemo - Thomas seemingly following his cousin Randy in the scoring of musical animations
  • Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events - another children's film, in this one the music is quirky yet magical with a music box theme and matching eccentric characters by being scarey without being horrifying
  • The Good German - this oscar-nominated score is very much in the old tradition of film scoring and very much a departure for Newman
  • Thomas Newman - Wall.E soundtrack CD cover
  • Wall-E - a delightful, characterful score to accompany the latest Pixas-Disney creation
  • Revolutionary Road
  • Brothers
  • The Debt
  • The Adjustment Bureau
  • The Help
  • The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - the engaging music compliments the film with some Indian sounds
  • The Iron Lady - the film with Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher
  • Skyfall - Newman's approach to the latest Bond film has been to largely take his own approach to the action sequences, though there are some subtle nods to the James Bond theme and a reference to Adele's title song
  • Side Effects
  • Saving Mr. Banks - Disney delves into its own history, telling the story of how Mary Poppins was brought to the big screen, with a charmingly nostalgic score from Newman and of course some of the well-known songs by the Sherman Brothers
  • The Judge
  • The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - sequel
  • Spectre - building on Newman's previous work with Skyfall
  • Bridge of Spies - for Steven Spielberg
  • Finding Dory - sequel to Finding Nemo
  • Passengers - an effective score for this big budget, high concept sci-fi movie
  • Victoria and Abdul - another film with an Asian connection
  • Thank You for your Service
  • The Highwaymen - netflix movie
  • Tolkien - starring Nicholas Hoult as Tolkien
  • 1917 - Thomas Newman collaborates once more with Sam Mendes in this harrowing WWI story
  • Let Them All Talk - the composer working again with Steven Soderbergh, starring Meryl Streep
  • Operation Mincemeat - another war-time drama for Newman
  • A Man Called Otto - with Tom Hanks
  • Elemental - Disney animation

TV work by Thomas Newman:

  • Angels in America - TV mini-series
  • Six Feet Under - winning a grammy for this title theme
  • The Paper Chase
  • Anazing Stories - an episode of this

Thomas Newman - Recommendations:

To further explore the music of Thomas Newman, there are many soundtracks that you might wish to hear. Here we provide links to: