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Latest Articles

Unusual approaches in this year’s film scores

Monday, December 5th, 2016 at 6:28 am

What do the composers of some of this year’s most talked-about films — Nocturnal Animals, Moonlight and Lion — have in common? Fresh and innovative approaches, as I discuss in my latest music story for Variety. Interviews with Abel Korzeniowski (Nocturnal Animals), Nicholas Britell (Moonlight) and Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka (Lion) reveal that each found… Read More

The music of “Hacksaw Ridge” and “Allied”

Sunday, December 4th, 2016 at 7:46 am

The third of my four stories in this week’s special issue of Variety deals with the music for this year’s big war movies, Hacksaw Ridge and Allied. I interviewed Rupert Gregson-Williams about working with Mel Gibson on the music of Hacksaw Ridge, and Alan Silvestri about Allied, his 16th feature film with director Robert Zemeckis…. Read More

Johann Johannsson, Thomas Newman Interviewed

Saturday, December 3rd, 2016 at 7:51 am

The top story in this week’s special music edition of Variety deals with music for science-fiction films. Arrival — about learning to communicate with alien visitors — is already much-talked-about, and Johann Johannsson’s fascinating, voice-based score is widely considered a strong candidate for awards. Passengers, which hasn’t yet opened, is sure to be much-discussed, too,… Read More

John Williams, James Newton Howard interviewed

Friday, December 2nd, 2016 at 3:50 pm

The first of my four stories in a special edition of this week’s Variety deals with fantasy-film scores, specifically The BFG by John Williams and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by James Newton Howard. Both composers gave me time on the phone last month, Williams before he dove back into the Star Wars… Read More

Music in “Manchester by the Sea”

Friday, November 25th, 2016 at 6:50 am

I’ve written a lot over the past year about women composers in Hollywood. Let’s not forget the ones who are contributing great work to film, but aren’t in L.A.! One of the year’s most riveting and powerful films is Manchester by the Sea, and for a story in this week’s Variety I interviewed both Toronto-based… Read More

The year’s Oscar music race begins!

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016 at 11:25 am

While the general public may not be thinking about Oscars this early in the year, the reality is that awards season is already well underway in Hollywood. Screenings of November-December releases are in full swing, awards consultants are emailing and phoning, and Variety has begun its coverage of potential honorees. Here is the backstory of… Read More

Alexandre Desplat’s 2016 scores

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016 at 7:33 am

I love the headline on the print version of my Variety story about French composer Alexandre Desplat — the 2014 Oscar winner for The Grand Budapest Hotel — and his four alternately dramatic and delightful scores for major films this year: “The Hardest-Working Man in Score Business.” Desplat created a fun jazz backdrop for The… Read More

Henry Jackman profile for Variety

Thursday, September 29th, 2016 at 10:44 am

The latest in Variety‘s series of Billion Dollar Composers (so-called because the aggregate box-office of all their movies exceeds $1 billion) is Englishman Henry Jackman, whose music you may know from the last two Captain America movies — but who may be an awards contender for his music for the upcoming The Birth of a… Read More

“Lost” in concert; Giacchino conducts

Monday, September 26th, 2016 at 11:21 am

Oscar- and Emmy-winning composer Michael Giacchino conducted selections from his music for the TV series Lost over two nights last week at the Ford Theatre in Los Angeles. “Tonight is for you guys,” he told the crowd of Lost fans — who had flown from all over the world to attend (Friday night’s concert sold… Read More

James Horner’s final score, for “Magnificent Seven”

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016 at 10:14 am

I am very proud to have written this story. When composer James Horner was, tragically, killed in a plane crash last year, few knew that he had already written the main themes for his next assignment, the all-star remake of The Magnificent Seven — even though shooting hadn’t even begun. His longtime collaborator Simon Franglen… Read More

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In Person

  • Interviewing Burt Bacharach for “Po”

    December 1, 2016 at 12:51 pm L-R: JB, Burt Bacharach, director John Asher

    It was a distinct honor to be asked to interview legendary songwriter Burt Bacharach Wednesday night before a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening of the new film Po, about a single father struggling to raise his autistic son. Joining me onstage was director John Asher, who himself has an autistic son — and whose accidental meeting of Bacharach on a plane a few months ago led the three-time Oscar winner (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Arthur) to decide not just to write a song for Po but to score the entire film. Bacharach told the tragic story of his own daughter Nikki, born prematurely in 1966 and who was only diagnosed late in life as autistic; she committed suicide in 2007. I’ll be writing in more depth about Bacharach and his score later this month for Variety.

  • “Jungle Book” with Debney, Sherman & Favreau

    November 22, 2016 at 10:01 am L-R: Jon Favreau, Richard Sherman, John Debney, JB

    John Debney is one of Hollywood’s finest composers and a really super guy to boot. I’ve known him for more than 20 years and his output contains many wonderful scores (as diverse as The Passion of the Christ and The Princess Diaries, not to mention Elf and Dreamer). On Monday I was pleased to moderate a discussion about the music of Disney’s The Jungle Book with Debney, original Jungle Book songwriter Richard Sherman, and director Jon Favreau. Debney and Sherman told surprising and funny stories about Debney’s youth, hanging around the Disney lot (his dad worked there) and meeting the famous Sherman Brothers in the mid-1960s. Favreau’s own comments demonstrated a genuine appreciation for Debney’s artistry. The Society of Composers & Lyricists audience was warm and welcoming.

  • “Waterfront,” “Casablanca” with the LA Phil

    November 21, 2016 at 5:30 am laurakarpmanwithjb

    The music of On the Waterfront and Casablanca were the subject of “Upbeat Live” talks I moderated on Friday and Sunday prior to the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s first-ever live-to-picture concerts of both scores at Disney Hall. David Newman, who conducted both, was on hand to offer musical insights into the classic Leonard Bernstein and Max Steiner scores. On Friday we were also joined by composer Laura Karpman, and on Sunday our guest was composer Charles Bernstein. Both Karpman and Bernstein are current governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences; this past weekend’s concerts marked the first of several events in the new three-year partnership of the Phil and the Academy. I also contributed the program notes for both films (Casablanca is here; On the Waterfront is here).

  • “Hidden Figures” with Zimmer, Pharrell & Wallfisch

    November 20, 2016 at 9:05 am L-R: Benjamin Wallfisch, Pharrell Williams, Hans Zimmer, JB

    Last night I moderated a Q&A with top film composer Hans Zimmer, top songwriter-producer Pharrell Williams and their talented collaborator Benjamin Wallfisch, whose combined talents resulted in the score for an upcoming film, Hidden Figures. It’s the amazing untold story of three African-American women whose math and engineering skills helped catapult the United States into the space race in the early 1960s. I think it will stun a lot of people when it opens at Christmas. The Society of Composers & Lyricists sponsored the screening, and the lively discussion that followed featured Williams discussing his original songs, and Zimmer and Wallfisch talking about how they were further inspired by both the story and Williams’ ’60s-style sounds.

  • “Rebel Without a Cause” by the LA Phil

    November 18, 2016 at 3:05 pm L-R: JB, Charles Fox, Scott Dunn

    The Los Angeles Philharmonic, in partnership with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, is doing a weekend of live-to-picture concerts of classic films. I’ve been asked to do the pre-concert talks, but instead of a lecture, I’m interviewing the conductors and current/former Academy music-branch governors. We began Thursday night with Leonard Rosenman’s score for the 1955 James Dean classic Rebel Without a Cause. Joining me in Disney Concert Hall were Scott Dunn, who not only restored the score for live performance (this was its debut) but also knew the composer quite well; and Charles Fox, the Grammy- and Emmy-winning composer and songwriter who is also a former Academy governor. We all talked about Rosenman’s life and career, and more specifically about his unique approach to Rebel — which combined his groundbreaking modernist style with a lively urban-jazz touch. Philharmonic performances of On the Waterfront and Casablanca will follow.

  • Behind the scenes of “Moana” music

    November 15, 2016 at 10:40 am L-R: Mark Mancina, Opetaia Foa'i, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tom MacDougall, JB

    It was a joy to host the Sunday Q&A with the braintrust behind the music of Disney’s new animated Moana, which I believe will be a big hit for the studio. After the Society of Composers & Lyricists screening of the film at Pacific Design Center, I quizzed Tony-winning Hamilton genius Lin-Manuel Miranda, Samoan-born singer-songwriter Opetaia Foa’i, score composer Mark Mancina, and Disney music producer Tom MacDougall, about how the songs and score came about; about their commitment to authenticity in conveying the music of South Pacific cultures; and just how Miranda managed to juggle Hamilton and Moana at the same time. These guys were informative, candid and funny. Here, incidentally, is the story I wrote for Variety about the songs and score.

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