Latest Articles

Jeff Russo talks about “Star Trek: Discovery”

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 at 3:43 pm

In his first interview about scoring the new Star Trek: Discovery series, composer Jeff Russo talks about how he came up with the theme, the use of full orchestras (now a rarity in weekly TV scoring), and about the idea of a more nuanced approach to scoring the Klingon Empire. Variety published this today, just… Read More

Big orchestras for “The Orville”

Thursday, September 7th, 2017 at 6:24 am

Writer-director-actor-singer Seth MacFarlane loves the orchestra — not just as backing for his albums and live musical appearances, but for his movies and TV shows too. He is a fan of classic movie scores and understands the value of real musicians helping to support the emotional needs of both drama and comedy. So for his… Read More

John Williams, Kobe Bryant at the Bowl

Thursday, September 7th, 2017 at 6:17 am

The annual John Williams concerts at the Hollywood Bowl are always cause for celebration, and they remain as popular as ever, generally selling out three consecutive nights on a late-summer weekend. But this year offered a surprise: Williams conducted, live-to-picture, his score for the animated short Dear Basketball, based on Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe… Read More

The complete Emmy music rundown

Thursday, August 24th, 2017 at 6:21 am

Every year for Variety‘s late-summer music issue I prepare a chart examining every nominee in the Emmy music categories. This year the number expanded from five to six, with the new music-supervision category, so the “chart” now encompasses two pages instead of just one. We looked at the nominees’ past Emmy record, and created a… Read More

Music in the Marvel TV Universe

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017 at 7:00 pm

There is tremendous excitement among Marvel Comics fans about the upcoming Inhumans series on ABC, which has a a big orchestral score by Sean Callery (24, Jessica Jones). But, in fact, the Marvel TV universe encompasses a wide variety of musical sounds and styles, which I explore in a piece in this week’s Variety. In… Read More

Tax credits for recording film music in L.A.?

Sunday, August 20th, 2017 at 12:02 pm

The American Federation of Musicians, particularly its Local 47 and its Recording Musicians Association conference, has been struggling for years to lure recording work back to L.A.; much of it is now done off-shore, especially in London and other European cities, primarily because of the union’s insistence on residuals for studio musicians. Its latest tactic… Read More

Hans Zimmer Concert Review

Saturday, August 12th, 2017 at 12:57 pm

Nearing the end of his world tour, composer Hans Zimmer brought his live concert show to L.A.’s Shrine Auditorium, where 6,000 fans screamed and cheered to his iconic themes from The Lion King, Pirates of the Caribbean, Inception and many others. I attended the Friday-evening concert and filed this report for Variety the next day…. Read More

“Women Who Score” Film Spotlights Composers

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017 at 6:22 pm

A year ago, in August 2016, a unique and important concert happened in downtown Los Angeles: A 55-piece orchestra and 30-voice choir performed the music of 20 leading film, TV and game composers — all of whom happened to be female. Sponsored by the Alliance for Women Film Composers to call attention to their underrated… Read More

Tyler Bates, Billion Dollar Composer

Thursday, July 20th, 2017 at 1:12 pm

If you left Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 unexpectedly moved by the finale, you can thank composer Tyler Bates, whose symphonic and choral work was perhaps his most accomplished yet in films. Bates, a former rock guitarist who still goes out on the road with Marilyn Manson from time to time, has not only… Read More

A new category for this year’s Emmys

Monday, July 17th, 2017 at 12:56 pm

As Emmy Awards season begins, we take an overall look at the nominations in all of the music categories, including the ones for original composition (for a series, for a movie or miniseries, for theme, and original song), for music direction, and the new sixth category, for music supervision. Music supervisors are hailing this decision… Read More

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In Person

  • Talking “Apes” with Michael Giacchino

    July 26, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    On Monday night, it was my pleasure to lead a Q&A with composer Michael Giacchino after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening of his latest film, War for the Planet of the Apes, on the 20th Century-Fox lot. It is Giacchino’s second film in the Apes series (after Dawn, in 2014) and his fourth film with director Matt Reeves (the Apes movies, Let Me In and Cloverfield). The composer reported that 90% of the score — played by a massive orchestra and choir on the Fox scoring stage — was original, and he even came with props: the mixing bowl used by percussionist Emil Richards on Jerry Goldsmith’s original 1968 Planet of the Apes, and a ram’s horn that he played himself on both of his Apes scores.

  • Talking to Sundance Fellows at Skywalker

    July 14, 2017 at 7:30 pm

    It was a genuine thrill to visit George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch to address the Fellows of this year’s Sundance Institute “Music and Sound Design Lab” for feature films. I talked about the possibilities of music and image with the directors and composers who were collaborating on their first films. The Marin County setting is stunning and I was one of several “creative advisors” on board (some of the others were composers Thomas Newman, George S. Clinton, Harry Gregson-Williams and Christophe Beck, director Miguel Arteta and sound designer Randy Thom). Film Music director Peter Golub, Feature Film director Michelle Satter and BMI executive Doreen Ringer Ross were immensely supportive.

  • Stephen Schwartz on “Wicked,” “Prince of Egypt”

    June 15, 2017 at 11:13 am

    For my first Variety Artisans video, I interviewed veteran musical-theater songwriter Stephen Schwartz, the recent recipient of ASCAP’s Founders Award, at the renowned Nightbird Studios in Hollywood. He talked about the ASCAP honor, discussed the status of the Wicked movie (due, we hope, in 2019), and previews a new song that he has written for the stage version of Prince of Egypt, which will debut in Palo Alto, Calif., later this fall.

  • Interviewed in new film-music doc “Score”

    June 15, 2017 at 10:49 am

    A new film on the craft of creating music for movies, Score: A Film Music Documentary, opens this weekend in New York (and next weekend in Los Angeles). It features new interviews with composers including Hans Zimmer, John Powell, Quincy Jones, Brian Tyler, John Debney, David Arnold, Rachel Portman and others; footage from earlier films featuring John Williams and Thomas Newman; and commentary from critic Leonard Maltin, agent Richard Kraft, Disney executive Mitchell Leib, record producer Robert Townson, director James Cameron, and many more. I am on camera from time to time to offer historical perspective. Filmmaker Matt Schrader filmed numerous scoring sessions in Los Angeles and London, and the result is a fast-moving, illuminating look at the art and business of movie music. You’ll see me in the trailer, which is here along with the New York Times‘ rave review.

  • Live-to-picture “Handmaid’s Tale”

    June 9, 2017 at 5:44 pm

    On Thursday I was pleased to be part of the advance showing of the season-ending cliffhanger of Hulu’s acclaimed The Handmaid’s Tale. It was a special screening that included a live-to-picture performance of the score by Adam Taylor (22 musicians from the Hollywood Studio Symphony conducted by Peter Rotter). Afterwards, I conducted a Q&A with the composer about his unusual musical choices and dark soundscape for the chilling dystopian drama. Here is an overview of the event and my interview with Taylor. The Montalban Theatre was packed with nearly 1,000 Handmaid’s Tale fans; star-producer Elisabeth Moss and several of her co-stars were also on hand.

  • Women composers at ASCAP Expo!

    April 15, 2017 at 7:22 am

    It was a pleasure to moderate a panel at Friday’s ASCAP “I Create Music” Expo at the Loews Hollywood Hotel. The topic was “Women in Film Music” and the panelists included composers Lesley Barber (Manchester by the Sea), Stephanie Economou (The Zookeeper’s Wife), Carly Paradis (Line of Duty) and Pinar Toprak (The Lightkeepers). ASCAP’s Rachel Perkins also introduced Lolita Ritmanis of the Alliance for Women Film Composers and Tracy McKnight of Women in Film, who kicked off the discussion about the expanding profile of female composers for film, TV and games. It was a stimulating hour with these thoughtful, remarkable women and I was honored to be on stage with them.

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