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Latest Articles

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

Emmy-nominated composers for movies, minis

Thursday, September 8th, 2016 at 11:14 am

I love putting together Variety‘s annual chart examining all the nominees in Emmy’s various music categories, because it gives me a chance to talk with the composers about the musical and dramatic challenges they face. I assembled some of the best quotes from the six nominees in Emmy’s “music composition for a limited series, movie… Read More

Danny Elfman on Tim Burton

Thursday, September 8th, 2016 at 11:01 am

On the occasion of director Tim Burton being honored at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, I revisited much of what composer Danny Elfman has told me over the years about their long working relationship. It’s amazing when you consider the number of classic, and award-winning, scores they’ve done together over the years, including Batman, Edward… Read More

John Williams, cultural icon

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016 at 5:53 pm

John Williams conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic during three weekend concerts at the Hollywood Bowl. It was, as always, hugely entertaining, with the maestro doing considerable Star Wars music and introducing a new suite of music from The BFG. Then in just a few days, he’ll be honored on Turner Classic Movies with a night… Read More

All 28 Emmy music nominees examined

Saturday, August 27th, 2016 at 1:14 pm

One of my most enjoyable tasks is the preparation of Variety‘s annual chart looking at all of the nominees in Emmy’s five music categories: original music for series; original music for movies, miniseries or specials; main title themes; music direction (usually for one-shot specials); and original songs for TV. Because it’s a chart, it rarely… Read More

Women film composers making strides

Thursday, August 25th, 2016 at 9:23 am

Over the years, I’ve written a number of stories about women composers and why they aren’t hired more often for studio films. Despite the grim statistics, things are changing, partly because of the creation of the Alliance for Women Film Composers, but also due to the Academy’s diversity push (which led to a boost in… Read More

This year’s Emmy-nominated series composers

Monday, August 15th, 2016 at 10:45 am

Every year it’s my privilege to interview many of the composers nominated for Emmys in the key music categories. The occasion is usually the creation of Variety‘s full-page chart devoted to brief descriptions of the music in all five categories. But this year I’m doing more, beginning with a story utilizing what I heard from… Read More

John Williams on Olympic fanfares

Sunday, August 14th, 2016 at 10:34 am

I was lucky enough to attend composer John Williams’ 1992 re-recordings of his Olympics music, including his classic 1984 “Olympic Fanfare and Theme,” which prompted me to write this July 1992 piece for TV Update. (At the time, I was writing a nationally syndicated column about television.) I happened to stumble across the original piece… Read More

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In Person

  • Intro’ing films at the Autry Museum

    September 25, 2016 at 6:37 am autryintros

    One of the things I most enjoy is sharing my love for certain scores and specific movies. On Saturday I visited the Autry Museum of the American West — one of L.A.’s cultural gems — to participate as guest curator in their “What Is a Western?” film series. I introduced one of my favorite 1970s films and scores, Sergio Leone’s Duck, You Sucker (also known as A Fistful of Dynamite, or Once Upon a Time… The Revolution) with its glorious music by Ennio Morricone. It was a chance to extol the virtues of this underrated film (with Rod Steiger and James Coburn, teaming up during the Mexican Revolution), tell something of its curious backstory (Leone never intended to direct it, and battled Peter Bogdanovich for three months over it) and advise the audience on what to listen for. Autry procured that rarity, a complete 156-minute 35mm print, and I highly recommend the theater, a comfortable 200-seat room. I’ll be back there Oct. 29 to introduce The Big Country.

  • Intro’ing Elmer Bernstein films in Santa Barbara

    August 30, 2016 at 9:47 am ElmerBGranada2016-17

    I’ve begun a second season of introducing films scored by the late Elmer Bernstein at the magnificently restored Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara, Calif. We began last night with a screening of National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978), which ushered in a decade of comedy scores by the Oscar-winning composer. Members of the Bernstein family attended, and the gales of laughter in the theater were demonstrable proof that the movie is still wildly funny 38 years later. Coming up in the 2016-17 season are seven more classics: The Man With the Golden Arm (1955) on Sept. 26, Summer and Smoke (1961) on Dec. 5, The Shootist (1976) on Jan. 9, Far From Heaven (2002) on March 13, The Ten Commandments (1956) on April 10, Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) on May 8, and Trading Places (1983) on June 19. Come join us if you’re in Southern California!

  • Jeff Beal, Tom Selleck and “Jesse Stone”

    August 20, 2016 at 10:44 am JBwithBealSelleckJesseStone

    Thursday night at the Directors Guild of America, four collaborators on the Jesse Stone television movies joined me on stage after a screening of the latest Hallmark Channel movie, Jesse Stone: Lost in Paradise. The occasion was composer Jeff Beal’s Emmy nomination for Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie or Special, and it was a treat to hear star Tom Selleck, director Robert Harmon and writer-producer Michael Brandman extol Beal’s music as a key component of the storytelling in all nine Jesse Stone movies. I was delighted to act as moderator and to find out, first-hand, that actor-writer-producer Selleck was as interested in the contribution of music as everyone else on that stage.

  • With Howard Shore and the Pittsburgh Symphony

    June 28, 2016 at 12:00 pm photo by @ShelaghSings

    This past weekend I joined composer Howard Shore onstage at Heinz Hall for a unique concert experience with the Pittsburgh Symphony. Between pieces conducted by Ludwig Wicki, Howard and I talked about his career; his collaboration with such celebrated directors as Martin Scorsese, Peter Jackson and David Cronenberg; and how The Lord of the Rings changed his life. The concerts included the world premiere of his The Hobbit: Four Movements for Symphony Orchestra, a 30-minute distillation of many of the themes and motifs from his scores for Jackson’s recent Hobbit trilogy of films. Along the way we got to hear such classic Shores scores as The Fly, Ed Wood (with original theremin soloist Lydia Kavina), The Silence of the Lambs, Hugo and (of course) music from Lord of the Rings. Here is a review, which nicely summarizes the proceedings. (Photo courtesy @ShelaghSings)

  • The editor is also the composer!

    May 25, 2016 at 7:09 am JBwithOttmanSWC2016

    John Ottman, who is as skilled an editor as he is a composer, has filled both jobs again (as well as being a co-producer) on the action-packed, visual-effects-filled X-Men: Apocalypse, which opens this weekend. In this fascinating interview for SoundWorks Collection, Ottman talks about his triple-threat role, how complex the job was, whether he thinks about music while he’s cutting the film, and much, much more. This was his third X-Men film (after X2 and Days of Future Past) and his 10th project with director Bryan Singer.

  • Interviewing composers at the BMI awards

    May 13, 2016 at 6:08 pm Interviewing James Newton Howard

    Composer James Newton Howard (The Sixth Sense, The Hunger Games, pictured here) was honored with the BMI Icon award at Wednesday night’s annual film/TV honors of Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), while David Newman received its Classic Contribution Award for his work conducting classic film music in concert halls around the world. I was on the red carpet again this year, conducting no fewer than 25 on-camera interviews with composers for film and TV. BMI is posting them on YouTube; here is Howard, here is Newman. And here is my story about the evening.

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