Latest Articles

Ups and downs for music as awards season begins

Sunday, December 9th, 2018 at 8:31 am

In a little over a week, we’ve seen the Golden Globe nominations for song and score; the Grammy nominations which, with its offbeat eligibility year, combines the best of this year with last; and the news about scores that were disqualified, for various reasons, from Oscar consideration. Here are three stories I wrote for Variety… Read More

Celebrating 40 years of Varese Sarabande records

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018 at 8:04 am

The venerable Varese Sarabande company — long seen as Hollywood’s leading soundtrack label — celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, so Variety asked me to look back at its history, interview composers about its impact, and research its biggest hits. It was a surprisingly fun assignment, as its full backstory had not previously been told:… Read More

New twists in this year’s Oscar music race

Friday, November 30th, 2018 at 7:32 am

The process of choosing “best song” and “best score” for this year’s Academy Awards will be a little more complicated for voters. Revised Oscar rules mandate that the music branch choose 15 pre-nominees in each category, requiring them to see and evaluate all of the eligible works an entire month earlier than usual. This may… Read More

Kubrick scores with the L.A. Philharmonic

Sunday, November 25th, 2018 at 6:28 pm

It’s always a pleasure to write program notes for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. It’s one of the nation’s leading orchestras, and these extraordinary musicians perform in one of the world’s great music spaces, the Walt Disney Concert Hall. This past weekend the Phil (along with the Los Angeles Master Chorale) performed excerpts from the classical… Read More

The music of “Mary Poppins Returns”

Wednesday, November 21st, 2018 at 1:44 pm

Make no mistake, Mary Poppins Returns — the long-awaited sequel to one of the most beloved Disney films of all time — will be among this year’s biggest Christmas movies. I was lucky enough to see it several weeks ago in anticipation of writing at length about the songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman,… Read More

Lalo Schifrin gets his Oscar

Monday, November 19th, 2018 at 10:23 am

Composer Lalo Schifrin on Sunday night received an honorary Academy Award “in recognition of his unique musical style, compositional integrity and influential contributions to the art of film scoring.” Actor-director Clint Eastwood, for whom Schifrin composed eight scores (including Dirty Harry and Joe Kidd), presented Schifrin with his Oscar during an entertaining and funny 20-minute… Read More

An honorary Oscar for Lalo Schifrin

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018 at 7:09 am

Lalo Schifrin, the Argentine-born composer of Mission: Impossible, Mannix and more than 100 film scores (including Cool Hand Luke, Dirty Harry and The Amityville Horror), will receive an honorary Academy Award on Sunday at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ annual Governors Awards. Schifrin, who has been nominated six times but never won,… Read More

The death of Francis Lai

Thursday, November 8th, 2018 at 5:31 pm

We learned of the death of Francis Lai on Wednesday afternoon. The Oscar-winning French composer of Love Story and, a few years earlier, A Man and a Woman, was 86. I was especially saddened by the news because the composer had only recently, and very kindly, granted an interview for my next book and that… Read More

Oscar music candidates, part 1

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018 at 6:46 pm

This week, Variety published its first “Contenders” section designed to inform award voters (and watchers) about worthy work in 2018 releases. It may be a record for the earliest one yet (it’s still only October!); there’ll be another at the end of November. We started with three really interesting stories: Michel Legrand scoring Orson Welles’… Read More

A celebration of Henry Mancini music

Sunday, October 14th, 2018 at 8:12 am

I get to do a lot of fun things in my job, but the best part is always getting to listen to the music I love, performed live by top musicians in beautiful settings. On Oct. 13, the New West Symphony performed an evening of music by the great Henry Mancini, with guest vocalists Monica… Read More

Read More Articles


In Person

  • Music in “Black Panther”

    December 6, 2018 at 10:31 am

    On the eve of their triple Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture, Best Original Score and Best Song, Black Panther director Ryan Coogler, composer Ludwig Goransson and songwriter-producer Sounwave sat down with me for an in-depth conversation about their work on the biggest-grossing film of 2018. The occasion was a screening, co-sponsored by Disney and radio station KPCC, of Black Panther at Regal Cinemas at L.A. Live. It was great fun, and the attentive audience was a nice plus.

  • Interviewing Nicholas Britell about “Vice”

    November 28, 2018 at 7:34 am

    So far this awards season, a good deal of attention has been paid to If Beale Street Could Talk, the adaptation of James Baldwin’s Harlem love story that is even more relevant today than when it was written in 1974. Composer Nicholas Britell reunited with his Moonlight director Barry Jenkins on that one. But I find Britell’s music for Vice, writer-director Adam McKay’s seriocomic look at former Vice President Dick Cheney’s life, even more interesting and compelling. It required a full London symphony orchestra, and the mix of classically styled, big-band, dissonant and emotional music throughout was the topic of our Q&A after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening Tuesday night in Westwood.

  • Max Richter and “Mary Queen of Scots”

    November 15, 2018 at 7:16 am

    German-born, London-based post-minimalist composer Max Richter was in town this week to promote his score for the new Mary Queen of Scots starring Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie. Richter, who divides his time equally between concert music (The Blue Notebooks, Sleep) and media music (Miss Sloane, The Leftovers), is thoughtful and articulate, as he demonstrated during a Q&A I did with him after a screening of the film Tuesday night at Universal Studios. The Society of Composers & Lyricists sponsored the sold-out event.

  • Carter Burwell and “Buster Scruggs”

    November 9, 2018 at 10:22 am

    Thursday night, I had the pleasure of interviewing Oscar-nominated composer Carter Burwell (Carol, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri) after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening of the newest film by Joel and Ethan Cohen, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Burwell has been scoring the Coen brothers’ films for more than 30 years, dating back to Blood Simple in 1984. This often amusing, sometimes harrowing Western is in six parts, which was like “scoring six movies,” Burwell said.

  • The legacy of Bernard Herrmann

    November 4, 2018 at 10:59 am

    Bernard Herrmann — the composer of such classics as Citizen Kane, Vertigo, Psycho and North by Northwest — is today more revered and influential than even during his lifetime. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and The Film Music Foundation deemed his legacy important enough to launch an oral-history project focusing on this key American composer. So far we have done nearly four hours of interviews with biographer Steven Smith, director Larry Cohen, editor Paul Hirsch, conductor Richard Kaufman, the composer’s daughter Dorothy Herrmann, and Foundation executive Les Zador. They are all available here, at the Foundation’s website. More interviews are expected to be done in December.

  • Variety’s Music for Screens Summit

    October 30, 2018 at 7:12 pm

    Variety, which has been making a much greater effort to cover the Hollywood music scene this year, launched its inaugural Music for Screens Summit on Tuesday, October 30. I was privileged to moderate the score-composer panel, which I dared to declare the most diverse ever — Turkish-born Pinar Toprak (who is starting Captain Marvel), Dutch composer Tom Holkenborg (about to unveil Mortal Engines), Swedish-born Ludwig Goransson (Black Panther), German-Iranian Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones), African-American composer Terence Blanchard (BlacKkKlansman) and New Yorker Marco Beltrami (A Quiet Place). It was a wide-ranging discussion, covering everything from diversity issues to film — and, by extension, film scores — becoming part of the ongoing cultural conversation in America. Video of the entire session is here.

View More Appearances