The Deepest Breath Composer Nainita Desai On the Art of Composing for Documentaries

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Nainita Desai is an award-winning composer whose work has spanned creative formats, from documentaries like The Reason I Jump where she won an Emmy for Outstanding Music Composition, to TV series like Funny Women, to video games like Telling Lies and Immortality. With over 150 credits to her name, Nainita is nothing short of prolific.

In the following interview, Nainita talks about her journey into becoming a composer and how Peter Gabriel impacted her career. While we don’t touch on her education in mathematics, it plays a vital role in her career as a composer, guiding her interest in sound design as well as composition. From here, our discussion leads into talking about the role of nature in her work, as heard in films like The Deepest Breath, and the 2024 Sundance award-winning film Nocturnes. In both of these films, the role of the ocean and the mountains is as important as the world of the people we are following, and Nainita talks about the way that she reflects those characters journeys in her compositions.

Equally important is the role that silence plays in her work. Nainita talks about the role that silence plays as the unspoken instrument for a composer, and how important it is to relinquish the score to amplify the drama of a scene. As a flow on of this discussion point, Nainita talks about the difficulty of knowing that not all aspects of her score will end up in the final film.

This wonderfully insightful conversation flows between creativity and personal journeys, with Nainita giving us an in depth look at the mind of a composer. This conversation was recorded ahead of Nainita’s upcoming appearance at the Australian International Documentary Conference, which opens in Melbourne on 3 March 2024. Nainita will be presenting a discussion called The Art of Composing for Documentary with Nainita Desai, alongside moderator Emma Bortignon. As we close out this interview, I asked Nainita about the importance of being accessible for interviews and panel discussions, which leads Nainita to reflect on the role of being a mentor for emerging composers, particularly women composers. To find out more about AIDC, visit AIDC.com.au.

If you enjoy this discussion, I urge you to seek out other interviews with Nainita as they have regularly been in depth and valuable insights into her art as a composer. Also visit her website nainitadesai.com for more information.

Andrew F Peirce

Andrew is passionate about Australian cinema, Australian politics, Australian culture, and Australia in general. Found regularly talking online about Sweet Country, and reminding people to watch Young Adult.

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