Latest Articles

“American in Paris” at the Hollywood Bowl

Thursday, September 12th, 2019 at 6:52 am

Every summer, the Hollywood Bowl becomes a showcase for film music — sometimes live-to-picture concerts, sometimes potpourri evenings of classic movie music, always an end-of-summer bash featuring the legendary John Williams. It’s been my pleasure (for more than 20 years now) to provide program notes for many of these evenings, as these concerts often feature… Read More

Controversy over the music-supervision category

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019 at 7:14 pm

Last year, the Television Academy added a music supervision category to its many Emmy craft fields. Then, the newly admitted music supervisors could vote only in that category; this year, they can vote in all seven music categories, including four composition fields, which has many composer members up in arms. Considerable resentment is simmering in… Read More

Detailed look at all the Emmy music nominees

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019 at 7:07 pm

Every year at this time, Variety asks me to view all of the Emmy nominees in the music categories, interview as many as possible, and write a bit about their accomplishment. It’s gotten more complicated as the years have gone by, as there are now seven categories (music composition for a series, for a miniseries… Read More

“Doctor Who”: new doctor, new composer

Friday, August 16th, 2019 at 6:15 pm

The casting of the new Doctor Who — Jodie Whitaker, who is wonderful as the first female doctor in the 55-year history of the BBC sci-fi serial — demanded a new musical approach, too. Producers recruited Segun Akinola, who holds a slightly different distinction: he’s the first person of color to score Doctor Who. I… Read More

Music for Disney remakes and sequels

Thursday, July 18th, 2019 at 4:00 pm

This year Disney and Pixar have been on a roll, revisiting classics and asking their original composers to return with new music, or refreshed versions of their award-winning music from the past. Music is so critical to our appreciation of these fantastic worlds, and in each case Variety asked me to interview the Oscar-winning musical… Read More

Earle Hagen at 100

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019 at 4:31 pm

I couldn’t let the 100th anniversary of the birth of Earle Hagen — one of the most important and most successful composers in TV history — pass without a look back at his massive impact on the medium. For this Variety story, I revisited the interviews I did when the Andy Griffith Show and Dick… Read More

Composer-arranger Sid Ramin, dead at 100

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019 at 5:00 pm

I knew him as the composer of the themes for The Patty Duke Show and The Trials of O’Brien back in the 1960s — and as the creator of the “Come Alive!” Pepsi Generation jingle sung so memorably by Joanie Sommers in that same era. But Sid Ramin, who died July 1 at the age… Read More

Adapting the Beatles’ music for “Yesterday”

Friday, June 28th, 2019 at 5:16 pm

One of the most interesting movie-music assignments of the year fell to composer Daniel Pemberton (Steve Jobs, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.), who was recruited by director Danny Boyle to supervise all of the music, on-screen and off, in the romantic comedy Yesterday. There are 25 Beatles songs, heard in part or in their entirety, many… Read More

No Isaac Hayes music in the new “Shaft” movie?

Friday, June 14th, 2019 at 4:44 pm

An unexpected controversy arose over music in the new Shaft movie, starring Samuel L. Jackson, Richard Roundtree and Jessie T. Usher as three generations of the Shaft family. Isaac Hayes III, son of the Oscar- and Grammy-winning soul-music icon, hoped to produce the new film’s soundtrack; but that didn’t happen, and the New Line film… Read More

Lesley Barber’s music for the film “Late Night”

Thursday, June 13th, 2019 at 5:25 pm

Canadian composer Lesley Barber (Manchester by the Sea) started work on the new Emma Thompson-Mindy Kaling comedy Late Night before shooting. Director Nisha Ganatra needed a theme for Thompson’s failing evening talk show! In this Variety story, Barber explains how she “pretended I was Paul Shaffer” to come up with a winning tune, and then… Read More

Read More Articles

In Person

  • The music of “Fosse / Verdon”

    August 20, 2019 at 7:36 pm

    Fosse / Verdon was one of Marilee’s, and my, favorite miniseries of the 2018-19 season. We were suspicious going in (Sam Rockwell and Michelle Williams as Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon? Really?) and then hooked — and completely convinced — from the opening frames. So when I was asked to moderate a Q&A with Emmy-nominated Alex Lacamoire (supervising music producer) and Steven Gizicki (music supervisor), I jumped at the chance. Lacamoire, whose credits are stellar (including Broadway’s Hamilton!), and Gizicki, equally so (La La Land!), explained the complexity and detail involved with re-creating the songs and sounds of the theater and film classics in the show — everything from Sweet Charity and Pippin to Cabaret and Chicago. Both guys are now working on the film version of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Into the Heights, and I can’t wait for our next conversation.

  • Hosting a new film-music podcast!

    August 20, 2019 at 11:39 am

    Word is out: Disney Music Group took out this full-page ad in Variety‘s Music for Screens issue to announce its new podcast, “For Scores,” with me as host. The first four installments will drop on Friday, Aug. 23: Conversations with composers Alan Silvestri (on Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame), Pinar Toprak (Captain Marvel), Harry Gregson-Williams (on Disneynature’s Penguins and Disney’s upcoming Mulan) and Henry Jackman (on the Wreck-It-Ralph movies and Big Hero 6). We’re nearly finished with the next four installments — but Disney will make that announcement in time. I agreed to do this in part because the Disney empire now encompasses Marvel, Pixar, Lucasfilm and 20th Century-Fox, and the possibilities for fascinating conversations with top composers seem endless. More details are here, in Variety‘s news story; Billboard talked to Disney execs about it. Go here to listen!

  • Music of “A Million Little Things”

    June 22, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    The last of the Emmy-worthy music panels I moderated during the run-up to the Emmy nominations was on the music of A Million Little Things, the ABC series about seven close friends who try and come to terms with the mysterious suicide of another of their friends. Composer and songwriter Gabriel Mann (who also scores ABC’s Modern Family) was the focus of the evening, although editor Lauren Connelly, music supervisor Billy Gottlieb and singer-songwriter Kyler England also contributed valuable insights into the scoring process. This was just a few days after my Variety story about Mann, which you can find here.

  • “The Bad Seed” with Leanna Primiani

    May 21, 2019 at 6:31 pm

    One of the most remarkable TV-movie scores of the past season was in Lifetime’s remake of the classic The Bad Seed. The composer was Leanna Primiani, who has many concert-hall credits but is a relatively new voice on the film-music scene. I was so impressed with her music — and, in fact, with actor-director Rob Lowe’s work on the film, which matched the original in scares and suspense — that I agreed to do the Q&A after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening of the film during Emmy season. It was great fun, and I look forward to more work by this talented composer.

  • Book signing at Maltinfest!

    May 12, 2019 at 6:42 pm

    The first annual Maltinfest was held over the weekend at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, and I was honored to be included in Sunday’s book-signing alongside TCM’s Alicia Malone and the legendary film historian Leonard Maltin himself. These are wonderful people — in case you were wondering, yes, both Alicia and Leonard are as nice as they seem on TV! — and it was massive fun to be with them on a Sunday morning, chatting and signing books for fans. Maltinfest, the brainchild of Leonard’s daughter and podcast partner Jessie, was such a success that they’re already talking about next year’s gathering.

  • Revisiting the U.N.C.L.E. Car, 50 years later

    May 4, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    One of this month’s highlights was attending the opening of the Petersen Automotive Museum’s “Hollywood Dream Machines: Vehicles of Science Fiction and Fantasy” exhibit — especially because they are showcasing the Man From U.N.C.L.E. Car that was such a favorite of mine during the series’ final two seasons in 1966-68 (I later produced seven CDs of original music from the series and its spinoff films). My old friend Robert Short restored and owns this futuristic-looking, one-of-a-kind spy car, and he has loaned it to the museum for the next few months. Bob was there for the opening, too. The U.N.C.L.E. car, fascinatingly, is displayed between two other iconic 1960s vehicles: The Green Hornet‘s Black Beauty and Batman‘s Batcycle. I wanted to get in/on both of them but security would surely have thrown me out.

View More Appearances