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Sandy Hook Documentary ‘Newtown’ Brings Composers Together for Sensitive Subject

From “Empire” to “UnREAL” to “How to Be Single,” film and TV audiences have been exposed to Fil Eisler’s diverse scoring style.

In “Newtown,” a documentary about the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, which screened March 13 at SXSW, Eisler stepped into unique musical territory.

He invited a number of other composers to contribute elements to the score for the sensitive project, and wove as many songs into the finished piece as possible. “I was part composer, part curator,” Eisler says. “I said to them, ‘Let’s work for free.’ No one backed out. Everyone enjoyed the sense of community.”

Eisler set a single stipulation: The music had to celebrate the lives of the children prior to the shooting. He did not dictate styles or instrumentation and gave the contributors full freedom to explore their interpretations.

Approaching the score like a tapestry, Eisler selected musical segments and pieced them together to create a finished product that’s uplifting and hopeful.

In case the experiment didn’t work, Eisler scheduled enough time to complete a full score. But in the end, collaboration won the day.

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