Latest Articles

Lalo Schifrin 85th Birthday Concert

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017 at 6:54 am

Renowned film and TV composer Lalo Schifrin turned 85 this year, and the occasion was commemorated Saturday night with a concert featuring many of his memorable themes — everything from Mission: Impossible and Mannix to Bullitt and Dirty Harry. It was a co-production of Musicians at Play Foundation and Varese Live, with proceeds benefiting the… Read More

Wallfisch on the music of “Blade Runner,” “It”

Saturday, October 7th, 2017 at 11:02 am

With Blade Runner 2049 opening this weekend, and the colossal box-office success of It, I thought it was the perfect moment to talk at length with composer Benjamin Wallfisch about both scores — which, incidentally, couldn’t be farther apart in terms of style and execution. Wallfisch collaborated with Hans Zimmer on the all-electronic score for… Read More

Pasek & Paul’s new songs for Hugh Jackman & Co.

Thursday, September 28th, 2017 at 7:03 am

It was a genuine thrill to be the first journalist allowed to hear the songs that Oscar- and Tony-winning tunesmiths Benj Pasek and Justin Paul have penned for the upcoming Hugh Jackman film The Greatest Showman (debuting at Christmas), a musical biopic of the legendary P.T. Barnum. It’s the lead music story in this week’s… Read More

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

Alf Clausen Fired from “The Simpsons”

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017 at 7:04 pm

Strange as it may sound, this story may have had the widest global repercussions of any story I’ve ever written for Variety. I learned that composer Alf Clausen, after scoring more than 550 episodes and winning two Emmys for his music, had been fired from The Simpsons after 27 years on the job. It was… 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

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In Person

  • Paul Williams on movie songwriting

    October 14, 2017 at 7:10 pm

    I just want to say this from the outset: I love this guy. I first met Paul Williams a few years ago when we were in Santa Barbara talking about mutual friend Elmer Bernstein. But I’ve been a fan since the 1970s, when I discovered his songwriting abilities, first for the Carpenters (“We’ve Only Just Begun”), then in movies (“Evergreen,” “The Rainbow Connection”) and even TV (“The Love Boat”). I leapt at the chance to do an on-camera interview for the Film Music Foundation about his movie and TV career. You’ll find it here, among several other interviews (several by me) with craftspeople in the film and TV music arena. It’s less than 90 minutes — please watch!

  • With Mychael Danna at PMA Conference

    October 7, 2017 at 8:23 am

    I interviewed Mychael Danna, the Oscar-winning composer of Life of Pi, on Friday at the Production Music Association conference in Hollywood. It was a delightful hour, as Danna regaled the crowd of approximately 500 composers with stories of his 30-year career in media music. Perhaps the foremost proponent of the use of world music and musical multiculturalism in films, he discussed his drive to record authentic, often exotic instruments with top musicians in their home countries. He also gave the room an early preview of his music for an upcoming animated film, The Breadwinner, and talked about remotely recording Afghan singers and musicians for the score.

  • Zimmer & Wallfisch on “Blade Runner 2049”

    October 4, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    One of the most-anticipated movies of the fall season is Blade Runner 2049, and I was offered the opportunity to interview composers Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch for a half-hour Facebook Live previewing not only the film but also the soundtrack album being released Thursday via Epic Records. Zimmer and Wallfisch talked about their collaboration with director Denis Villeneuve, about their admiration for the iconic Vangelis score for the 1982 Blade Runner, and how they managed to evoke that sonic world for the new film while also extending it into new musical realms as appropriate. Joining us later in the conversation was singer-songwriter Lauren Daigle, who contributed a song, “Almost Human,” to the soundtrack.  Scroll down to the Oct. 3 videos on the Facebook Blade Runner page for the 28-minute conversation.

  • 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.

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