Eight-times Oscar-nominated composer Thomas Newman has two scores in contention this year, both very different compositions for very different films: Andrew Stanton's animated futurist fable Wall-E and Sam Mendes' period drama Revolutionary Road.

There is a chasm between the pictures in terms of tone. Wall-E is set in the future while Revolutionary Road is fixed at a moment in post-war America recognisable to millions of viewers. Animation, says Newman, is literally more animated. "The big difference is the rate of change. Moods are not sustained for long, whereas in live action a mood can be sustained for 10 minutes." Animation's many transitions, the changes from tempo to tempo, translate into a lot more writing.

On Wall-E, he says, the initial impulse was to pay homage to space operas such as Star Wars. "There is a vernacular. To a degree we had to abide by it and then decide how far we could take it." After all, he adds, "Wall-E is not just a space movie but an intimate, character-driven story."

Because the character of Wall-E has its own distinctive mechanised voice and sound presence, says Newman, "Andrew and (sound designer) Ben Burtt wanted my palette to be symphonic and orchestral so it could stand in relief to all the sound effects." But that mandate, he admits, felt limiting from a dramatic point of view. He convinced Stanton to let him introduce computer-generated elements to the score in the latter part of the film, where the introduction of future humanoids brought its own compositional challenges.

Revolutionary Road, an adaptation of Richard Yates' 1961 novel, is "classic period film scoring", says Newman. "You're drawing different musical conclusions, a theme is developed and repeated. The good thing about writing music for period films is that the image tells you what you can and cannot get away with. Whereas with Wall-E, the process is more reductive. You take your best shot and then let it hit you. And then you subtract."

The similarity in both cases was that Newman has collaborated with both directors on earlier pictures. He worked with Stanton on another Pixar-Disney production, 2003's Finding Nemo, and scored Mendes' American Beauty (1999), The Road To Perdition (2002) and Jarhead (2005).

"It's always the next time out," says Newman of working with the same directors. "You have the success behind you, it got you through the door, but the challenge remains. You have to do the job as excellently as if you had never worked together. You couldn't get anything past those guys."




Although many Westerners will not recognise his name, AR Rahman is one of the world's biggest music stars and composers, with more than 100 Indian films to his credit. They include, in recent years, Jodhaa Akbar, Water, Rang De Basanti, The Rising, Swades: We The People and Lagaan. He has sold more than 100 million records and a further 200 million cassettes, making him one of the world's top 30 all-time best-selling artists.

Rahman is no stranger to working outside India. He scored Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth: The Golden Age and He Ping's Warriors Of Heaven And Earth, for example. But working with Danny Boyle on Slumdog Millionaire allowed him to collaborate with a Western film-maker on an Indian film - a fusion of styles, perhaps.

"Slumdog may have a Western sensibility because of Danny, but the heart and soul is very Indian and it is based on an Indian story," he says.

Scoring it, however, was very different to a traditional Bollywood film, which can run to 200 minutes or more. "Indian movies have a huge amount of cues," he explains, "180 cues maybe, and six songs. In Slumdog, the main slots for music were much less but very important. There was much more quality in it for a composer."

Boyle approached Rahman, who is a huge celebrity in India, when he was coming to the end of the shoot. "He had discovered my music by then," laughs Rahman. "He sent a DVD with the first cut of the movie on it, a very basic cut which was very long. I saw the promise of the movie and started sending him ideas on e-mail.

"In his previous films, Danny likes to have a collage of styles in the music so I took hints from that, giving him different genres and styles. It's very urgent music and unique in its way. It's not scorey-scorey at all. The way Danny works, he creates great moments for music, like the title sequence or the chase through the slum or the last song."

That final song, Jai Ho, which plays as the entire cast dances in a Bollywood-style dance number on a railway platform, is a favourite scene for many Slumdog fans.

"The song was shot with a temp song," explains Rahman. "When I saw it they didn't lip-sync, so I wrote a song in a day based around the Jai Ho chant of victory and celebration. And while it took a day to write, it took plenty of time to produce it."

Rahman continues scoring Indian movies, such as holiday hit Ghajini starring Aamir Khan, but says he plans to spend more time in 2009 on personal music not connected to movies. And what if Hollywood comes calling' "I'd love to work in Hollywood if I get someone like Danny who knows what I do and knows his stuff. I know what it's like to have a bad experience with a director."

Mike Goodridge



Renowned composer Danny Elfman came to Milk without any ideas about how the music would eventually sound. "I've learned over the years that the best way for me to see a movie is with my mind blank. I believe in a lack of research," he says. "I look at it and see what speaks to me."

Elfman was coming off Standard Operating Procedure, Hellboy II: The Golden Army and Wanted and had a desire to work on a drama since he "thrives on contrast". He also had a strong working relationship with director Gus Van Sant after collaborating on To Die For, Psycho and Good Will Hunting.

"Gus would never tell me, 'This is the kind of score to write.' Gus likes having lots of options," Elfman says. "The tone and theme emerged slowly. I began very operatically, because Harvey Milk listened to opera. But that would give the character the wrong kind of melodrama."

He continues: "One theme that emerged was very simple, an almost Americana theme. I was apprehensive at first at going in that direction, but this is a classic American story."

Van Sant and Elfman wanted to bookend certain musical themes - there is, for example, a piece with choral voices for an early Harvey and Scott kiss that later inspired a lively, upbeat piece at the end of the film. Also, a closing piano theme was adapted for an earlier appearance. "Gus said, 'I really like the noir feel of this theme,' so we thought we'd try it with saxophone for the opening," Elfman says. "I always try to work around instincts."

Elfman knew from the outset he wanted to avoid a score that reflected the disco music of the period. "That would work for a silly or kitschy film; this was a different kind of story," he notes. Making use of the opera and pop music Harvey Milk actually liked was also never a priority. "That's getting literal and you're not serving the film. You don't want the music to jump out and grab you, you want it to feel like it's coming out of the character's head," he says.

Above all, Elfman and Van Sant knew the story and Sean Penn's performance were strong and they did not need the music to manipulate the audience. "There's a line between being emotional and going too far," he says. "Too bad there's no emotion-o-meter or schmaltz-o-meter to measure that. You just hope your instincts are right."



David Arnold, Quantum Of Solace

Terence Blanchard, Miracle At St Anna

Carter Burwell, Burn After Reading

Alexandre Desplat, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button

Clint Eastwood, Changeling

Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens, Gran Torino

David Hirschfelder, Australia

James Horner, The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas

Jan Kaczmarek, The Visitor

Clint Mansell, The Wrestler

Angelo Milli, Seven Pounds

Nico Muhly, The Reader

James Newton Howard, Defiance

John Ottman, Valkyrie

William Ross, The Tale Of Despereaux

Howard Shore, Doubt

Marc Streitenfeld, Body Of Lies

John Williams, Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull

Gary Yershon, Happy-Go-Lucky

Hans Zimmer, Frost/Nixon

Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, The Dark Knight

Hans Zimmer and John Powell, Kung Fu Panda


Another Way To Die from Quantum Of Solace

Barking At The Moon from BoltThe Boys Are Back from High School Musical 3: Senior Year

Broken And Bent from Role Models

By The Boab Tree from Australia

The Call from The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Can I Have This Dance from High School Musical 3: Senior Year

Chase The Morning from Repo! The Genetic Opera

Chromaggia from Repo! The Genetic Opera

The Code Of Life from My Dream

Code Of Silence from Save Me

Count On Me from The Women

Di Notte from The Lodger

Djoyigbe from Pray The Devil Back To Hell

Down To Earth from WALL-E

Dracula's Lament from Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Drive from Fuel

Forever from They Killed Sister Dorothy

High School Musical from High School Musical 3: Senior Year

Gran Torino from Gran Torino

I Thought I Lost You from Bolt

I Want It All from High School Musical 3: Senior Year

In Rodanthe from Nights In Rodanthe

It Ain't Right from Dark Streets

Jai Ho from Slumdog Millionaire

Just Getting Started from High School Musical 3: Senior Year

Just Wanna Be With You from High School Musical 3: Senior Year

Little Person from Synecdoche, New York

The Little Things from Wanted

A Night To Remember from High School Musical 3: Senior Year

Nothing But The Truth from Nothing But The Truth

Now Or Never from High School Musical 3: Senior Year

O Saya from Slumdog Millionaire

Once In A Lifetime from Cadillac Records

Right Here Right Now from High School Musical 3: Senior Year

Right To Dream from Tennessee

Rock Me Sexy Jesus from Hamlet 2

Scream from High School Musical 3: Senior Year

The Story from My Blueberry Nights

Sweet Ballad from Yes Man

Too Much Juice from Dark Streets

The Travelling Song from Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

Trouble The Water from Trouble The Water

Up to Our Nex from Rachel Getting Married

Walk Away from High School Musical 3: Senior Year

Waterline from Pride And Glory

The Wrestler from The Wrestler

Yes Man from Yes Man

Zydrate Anatomy from Repo! The Genetic Opera