Alan Silvestri to Thomas Newman and Back Again

silvestri1Recently I watched a really great Hollywood Reporter roundtable featuring this year’s Oscar nominated composers. The lineup was Steven Price, Hans Zimmer, Christoph Peck, Henry Jackman, Thomas Newman and Alan Silvestri.

During the session each man spoke of their career highlights and influences, and despite each of their A list statuses, it became quickly obvious that Alan Silvestri was the one the others revered as being the genius in the room. What started as a round table discussion ended up as more of a tribute to the work of Silvestri. He spoke of his early work and how Romancing the Stone and Back to the Future were the very first times he had ever worked with a full orchestra (he feared not being able to use a rock drummer!). You could see the adulation on the faces of these other men, who all carry a more classically trained background.

I have championed Thomas Newman for many years so what interested me about the interview/chat was that Silvestri picked Newman out as being his favourite working composer. He said Newman is the master of harmony and melody; Newman was understandably humbled. After all it was Newman who started the room off in its revering of Silvestri, and now this man who had been his hero was telling him he was the greatest!

So where am I going with this?

I watched Flight for the first time yesterday. Yes I know it’s taken me a while to get around to it. But throughout the Silvestri penned score I noticed something; the music sounded very much like a Thomas Newman composition. There were those drawn out single chord strings and haunting minimal sustained piano that has become one of the staple Newman devices. It suddenly hit me when I recalled the above mentioned round table. Silvestri has completed a loop of creative influence that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. Observe:

To put it clearly, Silvestri influenced the style and career of Thomas Newman, whose ground breaking work and originality have cast their influence over Silvestri.

I realise that it was a bit extreme to use Back to the Future when Silvestri has created many more somber scores. But I wanted to highlight that there is a real noticeable shift in style from his work prior to Newman becoming a noted composer.

The teacher becomes the student. I love it. As if the words from Silvestri’s mouth during the roundtable interview weren’t praise enough, Silvestri has expressed his deep love for Newman by creating work in his mould. If there are any other such examples with other filmmakers you know of please leave them in the comments section below. I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to be in Newman’s shoes. I imagine it’s very surreal. But very fulfilling.

James is a movie obsessive with a particular love for scores and screenplays. He has written for numerous blogs, sites and cinemas and has been involved in several screenwriting projects. He can usually be found in front of a large plasma screen devouring Westerns, 80s pulp, Jimmy Stewart movies or anything by the Coens.

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