Lesley Barber

Lesley Barber

Affiliated Program

Slaight Music Lab


Lesley Barber


A 2016 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences initiate, film composer Lesley Barber writes music marked by intelligence and emotional depth.From orchestral to atmospheric, alternative to children’s music, Appalachian to electronic, Barber has an innate ability to bring the essential to light and avoid the cliché.

In Manchester by the Sea, the new film directed by Kenneth Lonergan, Barber employs intricately harmonized vocal performances and subtle, atmospheric orchestral work that provides integral support for the incredible performances by Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler and young discovery Lucas Hedges. Praise for her work on this project promises to launch her into the top tier of a new generation of film composers.

The power of music to articulate the unspoken and take a film to a new level truly inspires Barber. After starting her career as a concert composer, she knew she’d found a new calling on her first feature, Patricia Rozema’s When Night Is Falling. Other auteur-driven projects followed and shaped her career, including for the Oscar-winning You Can Count On Me (also directed by Lonergan, with Mark Ruffalo and Laura Linney) and Mira Nair's Golden Globe-winning Hysterical Blindness (starring Uma Thurman and Gena Rowlands) which combined a full orchestra with a separate string quartet and unusual, inventive electronic effects.

Barber’s interest in modern electronic programming, loops, and effects adds dimension to her work. She often employs a signature solo instrument as well. For the award-winning documentary How To Change The World (dir: Jerry Rothwell) Barber used the hardanger (Norwegian fiddle) and the bowed acoustic guitar as part of a primarily electronic score. For Mary Harron’s The Moth Diaries, she used prepared piano, string harmonics and effects. A conservatory-trained pianist, Barber plays many of the piano solos in her scores, as well as other instruments.

Other film credits include a string of award-winning and highly acclaimed projects including Patricia Rozema’s Mansfield Park, Boaz Yakin’s A Price Above Rubies, Yo-Yo Ma: Six Gestures, Bette Gordon’s Luminous Motion, Wiebke Von Carolsfeld's Marion Bridge, the children’s classic Little Bear with Maurice Sendak, and the recently released powerhouse doc The Apology by Tiffany Hsiung. Barber recently finished a remake of the film Beaches, directed by Alison Anders, starring Idina Manzel and Nia Long, which will air in January, as well as Attiya Khan’s feminist documentary A Better Man, for which she is utilizing analog synthesizers and other 80’s genre electronics.

Barber is an active member of the Alliance for Women Film Composers, which has taken a leading role in the much-publicized diversity conversation now occurring in Hollywood. She has a passion for good food, great cities and interesting company.