Latest Articles

The Oscar nominations for music

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020 at 9:12 am

Variety was first out of the gate with an instant analysis of Monday morning’s Oscar nominations for original song and score. The early readings suggest that Hildur Guonadottir’s Joker score and Elton John’s Rocketman song have the inside track, but I am being cautioned that Oscar voters can be unpredictable in these categories and not… Read More

Oscar voting ends; Globe song musings

Wednesday, January 8th, 2020 at 9:24 am

As the Golden Globe awards were nearing and Academy voters were deciding who to nominate in the music categories, Variety commissioned a final few stories related to songs and scores from calendar year 2019. Chris Willman and I shared a byline as we examined how period films handled music (my portions involved 1917, Ford v… Read More

The Hans Zimmer Bond exclusive

Tuesday, January 7th, 2020 at 9:12 am

This writer — the author of The Music of James Bond — was proud to supply Variety with the world exclusive that composer Hans Zimmer is scoring the new 007 film, No Time to Die. I placed a lot of calls to sources on both sides of the Atlantic to lock down as many details… Read More

Musical challenges of ABC’s live “Little Mermaid”

Tuesday, December 31st, 2019 at 7:22 pm

ABC, which is owned by the Walt Disney company, re-staged The Little Mermaid in a live telecast on November 5. But how, exactly, did they conceive and execute this mostly underwater adventure with songs and music? The editors of DGA Quarterly, the magazine of the Directors Guild of America, asked me to investigate, so I… Read More

John Williams on “Rise of Skywalker”

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019 at 4:12 pm

It is a rare privilege to be able to sit down with composer John Williams and discuss his latest project. I was honored that he agreed to talk about his 42-year history with the Star Wars franchise and especially the long-awaited finale, The Rise of Skywalker, which opens this week. In this piece for Variety… Read More

The Oscar “shortlists” for song and score

Monday, December 16th, 2019 at 7:01 pm

Every year at this time the Academy announces its “shortlists” in music (and other specialty areas including visual effects, makeup, documentaries, short subjects, etc.). This year, 170 scores and 75 songs qualified under the rather stringent Oscar rules. My initial story, a Variety exclusive, detailed the six major scores (including Captain Marvel, A Hidden Life… Read More

Discovery to Composers: your music is worthless

Friday, December 13th, 2019 at 6:50 pm

A couple of weeks ago, I was tipped off to a shocking payment plan that the Discovery Networks (a conglomerate of cable channels that includes Discovery, Animal Planet, HGTV, Food Network and others) were demanding that composers accept by year’s end: Composers (already poorly paid for their work on all these shows) would no longer… Read More

In Contention: this year’s movie songs

Friday, December 6th, 2019 at 8:12 pm

Original songs for movies is a world unto itself, as we continue to discover. This year’s awards-worthy movie songs were covered in several Variety stories spread over the past two months: discovering that Taylor Swift and Andrew Lloyd Webber had collaborated on a new song for Cats, Oct. 24; our early guesses as to who… Read More

In Contention: the best of this year’s film scores

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019 at 7:44 pm

Between October and December, my calendar is filled with screenings, composer interviews, live Q&As, and most importantly writing about all of this for Variety. All of this was spread across a series of stories that attempted to cover most of the major candidates for awards consideration at year’s end. The first story, Oct. 29, covered… Read More

Music for “Endgame,” “How to Train Your Dragon”

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019 at 6:42 pm

Two of this year’s biggest, most moving musical scores were for larger-than-life spectacles. Avengers: Endgame became the year’s top-grossing film, and its massive symphonic score by Alan Silvestri (Forrest Gump, Back to the Future) matched the galaxy-spanning scope of the Marvel Universe finale. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World featured some of the… Read More

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In Person

  • New podcasts with the “Frozen” songwriters, composer

    December 11, 2019 at 6:15 pm

    As many of you know, I now host a podcast, For Scores, that gives me the chance to interview prominent composers and songwriters working on current films. This month we have two, and these are some of the nicest, most thoughtful and articulate people in the business: Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, the Oscar-winning songwriters (Frozen, Coco), and Christophe Beck, the Emmy-winning, Grammy-nominated composer (Frozen, Ant-Man). Frozen II was the subject for both, as the Lopezes talked about their long odyssey with Anna, Elsa and friends. And for Beck, we talked not only about  scoring the Frozen films but also about his Marvel adventures (the fun scores for Ant-Man and Ant-Man & The Wasp). Here is the address to find them, which will then direct you to your favorite podcast source to listen.

  • Howard Shore on “The Song of Names”

    November 19, 2019 at 10:22 am

    It is always a pleasure to converse with composer Howard Shore, whose now legendary three-year odyssey with the Tolkien-inspired Lord of the Rings trilogy earned him three Oscars and a heightened visibility that has led to numerous classical commissions. He combined both with this year’s The Song of Names, which required him to write a Hebraic-influenced cantor’s song prior to shooting and then embrace the several decades of dramatic storytelling with a compatible orchestral score. I interviewed Howard in North Hollywood at a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening.

  • John Lunn’s music for the “Downton Abbey” movie

    November 15, 2019 at 8:11 am

    Focus Features’ Downton Abbey movie, the big-screen sequel to the Emmy-winning, hugely popular PBS series, surprised everyone by making nearly $100 million and virtually ensuring a sequel. Composer John Lunn, who scored all 52 episodes from 2010 to 2015, returned with a score he called “bigger, better and grander,” and the music lived up to the hype. I wrote about this for Variety on Sept. 20 and then did a Society of Composers & Lyricists Q&A with the composer on Nov. 14 at Universal Studios. Lunn, as always, was a delight.

  • Director and composer of “Motherless Brooklyn”

    November 12, 2019 at 9:49 am

    Motherless Brooklyn was one of my favorite films of the year, so when the Society of Composers & Lyricists asked me to moderate a Q&A involving both the writer-director-star Edward Norton and his composer Daniel Pemberton (Steve Jobs, Into the Spider-Verse), I couldn’t say no. Norton was thoughtful and articulate in discussing the entire music process — which also involved jazz great Wynton Marsalis and Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke — and Pemberton talked about his musical experiments in London that ultimately gave Norton what he needed, dramatically speaking. (L-R: Pemberton, Norton, JB)

  • Danny Elfman’s Masterclass

    October 31, 2019 at 10:50 am

    It’s a bit of a cheat to place this entry under “In Person” because you never actually see or hear me during Danny Elfman’s Masterclass — the veteran composer’s fresh and candid lessons about how to score a film (“music out of chaos,” he calls it). I am behind the scenes, interviewing and prompting Danny on topics, ideas and experiences. He’s looking at, and talking to, me most of the time (fellow composers John Powell and Nathan Barr dropped in later to augment some of my questions with others gleaned from their own professional experiences). It was challenging and fun to be a part of the Masterclass team during a week in June at Danny’s colorful, weird-memorabilia-filled studio in Los Angeles. Producer Amy Scott was my tireless partner in this enterprise, and fellow author Jeff Bond wrote the workbook that accompanies the class. You’ll find it at — although if you just want to see Danny’s more general thoughts about his life and career, you can find my two-hour interview with him here.

  • Nicholas Britell on “The King”

    October 31, 2019 at 10:01 am

    Composer Nicholas Britell — whose scores for Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk were Oscar-nominated, and whose theme for HBO’s Succession recently won an Emmy — visited Los Angeles for a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening of his latest film, The King, which stars Timothee Chalamet as England’s reluctant King Henry V. Britell discussed his collaboration with director David Michod and how it eventually led him to a string orchestra and boys choir to evoke the 15th-century setting and the melancholy mood of the film.

  • Interviewing Hildur Guðnadóttir at Variety music event

    October 30, 2019 at 8:01 am

    This year’s Variety Music for Screens summit featured an entire day’s worth of panels of interest to those active in music for movies, TV, games and elsewhere. I moderated two panels, one of which spotlighted Joker composer Hildur Guðnadóttir (pictured) discussing her much talked-about score, as well as the unique sounds of her Chernobyl miniseries that recently won her an Emmy. The second panel featured composers Amie Doherty (Undone), Michael Abels (Us), Christophe Beck (Frozen II), Nicholas Britell (Succession), Alan Silvestri (Avengers: Endgame) and Siddhartha Khosla (This Is Us).

  • Alan Silvestri on “Avengers: Endgame”

    October 25, 2019 at 8:54 am

    Alan Silvestri (Forrest Gump, Back to the Future) has been writing music for films for more than 40 years, and he is still at the top of his game as demonstrated by his music for the year’s highest-grossing movie, Avengers: Endgame. At a Society of Composers & Lyricists Q&A after a screening at The Grove on Thursday, Silvestri was both articulate and entertaining in explaining how he went about the final two Avengers scores (Infinity War in 2018 and Endgame in 2019), his earlier Marvel movies (Captain America and The Avengers in 2011 and 2012) and the inspiration required to write music when few if any of those all-important visual effects aren’t yet in the film. My 38-minute “For Scores” podcast with Silvestri can be found here.

  • Randy Newman on “Marriage Story”

    October 19, 2019 at 7:20 am

    The great composer-songwriter Randy Newman was my guest at a screening of Marriage Story sponsored by Netflix on Friday night at the iPic in Westwood. During a wide-ranging 45-minute conversation, we discussed his second collaboration with director Noah Baumbach (after 2017’s The Meyerowitz Stories); the orchestral music he wrote for the searing depiction of a divorcing couple (played by Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver); a bit about his Toy Story 4 score; and rumors that a documentary is being made about his life and career.

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