Latest Articles

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

“A Star Is Born”: What about the previous versions?

Friday, October 5th, 2018 at 11:12 am

A neighbor of mine, an avid filmgoer, was surprised to learn that the current Bradley Cooper-Lady Gaga movie A Star Is Born is a remake of an earlier film (in fact, this is the third official take on the story). Variety asked me to look at the music of the prior films: the 1937 original… Read More

Music in “The Hate U Give”

Thursday, October 4th, 2018 at 7:43 pm

I hope The Hate U Give is remembered at awards time. It’s a powerful and very timely film, and Variety asked me to write two stories about its music. One was about Oscar-nominated Lion composer Dustin O’Halloran’s piano, synth and strings score, which carefully and effectively augments the songs assembled by music supervisor Season Kent…. Read More

“Mandy”: Johann Johannsson’s final score

Friday, September 14th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson, widely considered among the most interesting of the current generation of film composers, died in February at the age of 48. But the Oscar-nominated composer of The Theory of Everything, Arrival and Sicario had completed more work before his death. His final score, for Mandy — Panos Cosmatos’ wild horror-revenge thriller… Read More

The unusual musical score of “First Man”

Wednesday, September 5th, 2018 at 7:57 pm

I couldn’t wait to see First Man — in part because manned spaceflight was my obsession all through the 1960s and I have very vivid memories of watching Neil Armstrong set foot upon the lunar surface on July 20, 1969, and also because I was fascinated by how director Damien Chazelle and composer Justin Hurwitz… Read More

John Williams’ 40th at the Hollywood Bowl

Monday, September 3rd, 2018 at 10:11 am

This weekend John Williams, the most famous composer in Hollywood history, celebrated his 40th anniversary conducting at the Hollywood Bowl. His very first concert leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Bowl was on July 28, 1978, subbing for an ailing Arthur Fiedler, who had been scheduled to conduct a pair of “Pops at the… Read More

Our annual Emmy music chart

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 at 8:06 am

Each year, for its summertime Music for Screens section, Variety asks me to prepare a chart listing every nominee in all six music categories including a brief description of the music itself, or something relevant to the nomination. It means a lot of TV watching in July and August! And often interviewing the composers, songwriters… Read More

Emmy nominees in the music categories

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018 at 9:20 am

The Television Academy announced its nominees for the 70th annual Emmy Awards on July 12. There are now six music categories in the prime-time race. My overview of the music nominees ran that morning in Variety, highlighting the possibility that an Emmy win for songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul could make them EGOTs (having… Read More

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In Person

  • 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.

  • Interviewing Hurwitz, Chazelle on “First Man”

    October 14, 2018 at 7:26 pm

    The new film First Man, which chronicles the 1960s experiences of Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong (first to land on the moon in 1969), reunited composer Justin Hurwitz and director Damien Chazelle — both of whom earned Oscars for their musical La La Land in 2016. On Oct. 14, Hurwitz and Chazelle joined me for a lively discussion of their collaboration on the film; why they felt that a theremin and vintage Moog synthesizer sounds were appropriate musical choices; and the advantages of a composer having his studio literally next door to where the film was being edited. The occasion was a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening at the Linwood Dunn Theater.

  • Honoring Lolita Ritmanis

    October 8, 2018 at 7:43 pm

    This year, the Recording Musicians Association honored composer (and current president of the Alliance of Women Film Composers) Lolita Ritmanis, both for her own career and for her role in helping to lead the fight for greater recognition of women working in this male-dominated field. I was delighted to be asked to introduce Lolita, whose music (including the Emmy-nominated theme for Justice League and scores for the animated Batman and Superman series) I have long admired. As I said: “Lolita is a brilliant composer; a thoughtful and creative collaborator; a warm and giving human being; an admired colleague in a very difficult business, for either men or women. She is everything a young musician should aspire to be. And in her role as leader of a talented but underutilized segment of our musical community, she is making a difference in people’s lives.”

  • Interviewing Tyler Bates

    September 27, 2018 at 7:31 pm

    Composer Tyler Bates is not only one of the nicest people in the music business, he’s among the most thoughtful and philosophical, and just plain fun to be around. So when the Production Music Association asked me to return to their annual conference to do the keynote Q&A with him, I jumped at the opportunity. Bates, who has scored not only the two hugely successful Guardians of the Galaxy films but also this year’s fun Deadpool 2, talked about his composing process and his other musical pursuits ranging from TV’s The Punisher to concert tours with his friend and musical collaborator Marilyn Manson.

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