One of the most startling developments in the burgeoning field of film-music instruction is the “Hans Zimmer Teaches Film Scoring” online primer now available from San Francisco-based MasterClass (which has recently offered videos of Aaron Sorkin teaching screenwriting, Steve Martin teaching comedy, Kevin Spacey teaching acting, etc.). It’s a series of 31 lessons, totaling over… Read More
Upon hearing that Disney was creating a live-action version of its animated Beauty and the Beast musical, my first thought was: What will composer Alan Menken do differently than he has already done in the now-classic 1991 original (which won him Oscars for song and score) or the 1994 Broadway stage version (which earned Tony… Read More
One of the unsung (if you will) aspects of the hit NBC series This Is Us is its unusual musical score by Siddhartha Khosla. For a sidebar to this week’s Variety cover story on the show, editors asked me to profile Siddhartha and discuss his acoustic guitar-driven, often subtly emotional music. Khosla, the son of… Read More
The legendary London recording studio Abbey Road (you know, the one made famous by the Beatles) is moving with the times, adding two new studios, a new mixing stage and a new involvement with music-tech startups. For this story for Variety‘s “U.K. Creative Focus” issue, I interviewed Abbey Road managing director Isabel Garvey, Universal Music… Read More
Yes, those final moments of Sunday’s Oscarcast were bizarre and won’t soon be forgotten. But, that aside, there were a lot of great musical moments in the broadcast and we recount them all here — the wins by the La La Land team for score and song, the performances of all five nominated songs, the… Read More
My final two Variety stories for this Oscar season not only recap the nominees but look at the races in historical terms. Four of the five nominees in each music category (song and score) are first-timers to the competition. And in the score category, most of the composers didn’t go the traditional route of simply… Read More
British experimental-pop musician Mica Levi is only the fourth woman to be nominated for “original score” at the Academy Awards. Her music for Jackie, bold and even startling as applied by director Pablo Larrain, has won attention throughout this awards season. I interviewed her while she was on tour with her band in Europe, and… Read More
Perhaps the most interesting of my post-Oscar-nomination assignments: The editors at Variety posed this question: Will the success of La La Land result in studios — which have been reluctant to green-light musicals without a built-in audience — starting to take risks again on original concepts that happen to include actors breaking into song? I… Read More
Here, in two succinct stories with bullet points, are the basics of all 10 nominees in the Oscar “best song” and “best original score” categories for 2016. Variety annually asks me to discuss each nominee, listing their past Oscar record (and this year, it’s mostly newcomers) plus the general vibe of the music, and a… Read More
An astonishing number of major pop and rock artists are now contributing songs to documentaries. This year, nearly a fifth of all the songs entered for Oscar consideration came from non-fiction films, and some of those were written and/or performed by among the biggest names in music. For the lead story in this week’s special… Read More
- March 23, 2017 at 7:10 am
Last year, I was privileged to spend an afternoon interviewing Marni Nixon, the now well-known “ghost singer” whose Hollywood career included being the behind-the-scenes vocalist for Deborah Kerr in The King and I, Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady and Natalie Wood in West Side Story. We covered those, and much more of her life and career, over nearly two hours. That interview has now been posted on the Film Music Foundation website. She was delightful. She passed away just four months later (here is my obituary for Variety). Also on the site: a new interview with composer Rachel Portman, not done by me but based on several pages of questions I prepared for that interview.
- February 22, 2017 at 7:22 am
On Tuesday, I chatted with Jeremy Hobson on NPR’s daily newsmagazine Here & Now about this year’s Oscar song nominees. We got to play all five — two from the musical La La Land, one from Moana, the big Justin Timberlake hit from Trolls, and the Sting song from the documentary Jim: The James Foley Story — and discuss the pros and cons of 6,600 Academy voters trying to choose a “best song” from among five worthy nominees. Here is the link to that 11-minute piece.
- February 17, 2017 at 7:41 am
Justin Hurwitz talks about composing the songs and score for La La Land; Dustin O’Halloran discusses the complexities of writing the music for Lion with another composer on the other side of the world; and Nicholas Britell explains how a hip-hop technique informed his piano-and-violin score for Moonlight. SoundWorks Collection offered a rare opportunity to go in-depth with each of these Oscar-nominated composers, talking about the unique challenges of each film and even playing their key themes at the piano. Here is the Hurwitz video, shot in a unique North Hollywood location; here is O’Halloran, in his Los Angeles studio; and here is Britell, talking and performing in L.A.’s legendary Nightbird studio. The series is called “Road to the Oscars,” and I was delighted to be its host.
- December 19, 2016 at 7:16 am
I have interviewed composer Michael Giacchino for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and, most often, for Variety. Yesterday was a rare instance of me doing so in a public forum. Giacchino (whose 2016 films already included Star Trek Beyond, Zootopia and Doctor Strange) joined me onstage at the Linwood Dunn theater in Hollywood for a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. As always, he was candid and funny, talking about the rushed schedule, finding the right John Williams-style sound for the film, and his plans for next year (which include Spider Man: Homecoming and War for the Planet of the Apes).
- December 1, 2016 at 12:51 pm
It was a distinct honor to be asked to interview legendary songwriter Burt Bacharach Wednesday night before a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening of the new film Po, about a single father struggling to raise his autistic son. Joining me onstage was director John Asher, who himself has an autistic son — and whose accidental meeting of Bacharach on a plane a few months ago led the three-time Oscar winner (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Arthur) to decide not just to write a song for Po but to score the entire film. Bacharach told the tragic story of his own daughter Nikki, born prematurely in 1966 and who was only diagnosed late in life as autistic; she committed suicide in 2007. I’ll be writing in more depth about Bacharach and his score later this month for Variety.
- November 22, 2016 at 10:01 am
John Debney is one of Hollywood’s finest composers and a really super guy to boot. I’ve known him for more than 20 years and his output contains many wonderful scores (as diverse as The Passion of the Christ and The Princess Diaries, not to mention Elf and Dreamer). On Monday I was pleased to moderate a discussion about the music of Disney’s The Jungle Book with Debney, original Jungle Book songwriter Richard Sherman, and director Jon Favreau. Debney and Sherman told surprising and funny stories about Debney’s youth, hanging around the Disney lot (his dad worked there) and meeting the famous Sherman Brothers in the mid-1960s. Favreau’s own comments demonstrated a genuine appreciation for Debney’s artistry. The Society of Composers & Lyricists audience was warm and welcoming.