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Latest Articles

This year’s Emmy-nominated series composers

Monday, August 15th, 2016 at 10:45 am

Every year it’s my privilege to interview many of the composers nominated for Emmys in the key music categories. The occasion is usually the creation of Variety‘s full-page chart devoted to brief descriptions of the music in all five categories. But this year I’m doing more, beginning with a story utilizing what I heard from… Read More

John Williams on Olympic fanfares

Sunday, August 14th, 2016 at 10:34 am

I was lucky enough to attend composer John Williams’ 1992 re-recordings of his Olympics music, including his classic 1984 “Olympic Fanfare and Theme,” which prompted me to write this July 1992 piece for TV Update. (At the time, I was writing a nationally syndicated column about television.) I happened to stumble across the original piece… Read More

“Game of Thrones” in concert!

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016 at 3:51 pm

The obsession that some Game of Thrones fans have with Ramin Djawadi’s music took even the composer by surprise. (The numbers associated with the various YouTube versions of the theme — from serious ones on violin or cello to wacky ones for cat, floppy disc, wine glasses and more — are simply astounding.) Now, however,… Read More

Lalo Schifrin’s new guitar concerto

Sunday, July 31st, 2016 at 10:43 am

Mission: Impossible composer Lalo Schifrin says he’s given up scoring movies (maybe!) but, at 84, he is still writing potent music for the classical world. His new guitar concerto, his second for renowned soloist Angel Romero, will debut Tuesday night at the Hollywood Bowl (with Gustavo Dudamel conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic). In this piece… Read More

Marni Nixon, behind-scenes Hollywood vocalist, dies

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016 at 12:13 pm

It was so sad to hear of the death of Marni Nixon, a wonderful lady with whom I’d just recently conducted a long, on-camera career history (for the Film Music Foundation, to be posted online soon). I wrote this obituary for Variety that talks a bit about her three famous “ghost singing” gigs: for Deborah… Read More

2016 Emmy nominees in music

Friday, July 15th, 2016 at 3:23 pm

The Television Academy likes to spread the wealth, as seen in this year’s crop of nominations in Emmy’s five musical categories: music for series, music for longform TV (miniseries or movies), music direction, title themes, and original songs. Nearly half of all the nominees are first-timers to the party, and that’s always nice to see…. Read More

Thomas Newman scores “Finding Dory”

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016 at 8:44 am

Composer Thomas Newman — whose 13 Oscar nominations include scores for Pixar’s Finding Nemo and WALL-E — has returned to the Disney/Pixar fold for the sequel Finding Dory, which focuses on the sweet blue tang with short-term memory loss (again voiced by Ellen DeGeneres). This time Dory is determined to find her parents, an odyssey… Read More

John Williams to receive AFI lifetime honor

Thursday, June 9th, 2016 at 10:18 am

Tonight,  John Williams becomes the first composer to receive the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award in the 44-year history of the honor. In connection with the event, Variety asked me to interview the five-time Oscar winner about composing such iconic themes as Star Wars, Jaws, E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman and Harry… Read More

Paul Dooley profile for the Times

Sunday, June 5th, 2016 at 5:36 pm

You may not know the name, but you almost certainly know the face. Paul Dooley, who has played dozens of “dads” from Breaking Away to Sixteen Candles — and in several of my favorite Robert Altman films, including Wimpy in Popeye — is about to launch a one-man show (amusingly titled “Upright and Personal”) looking… Read More

Keeping weekly TV scores fresh

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016 at 5:25 pm

For this season’s Emmy contenders issue, the editors at Variety posed an interesting question: When TV series run two, three, four or more seasons, how do the composers treat their characters and story arcs? Is it best to ground them in familiar musical territory, or should the scores reflect the changing, often expanding, storylines? I… Read More

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In Person

  • Jeff Beal, Tom Selleck and “Jesse Stone”

    August 20, 2016 at 10:44 am JBwithBealSelleckJesseStone

    Thursday night at the Directors Guild of America, four collaborators on the Jesse Stone television movies joined me on stage after a screening of the latest Hallmark Channel movie, Jesse Stone: Lost in Paradise. The occasion was composer Jeff Beal’s Emmy nomination for Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie or Special, and it was a treat to hear star Tom Selleck, director Robert Harmon and writer-producer Michael Brandman extol Beal’s music as a key component of the storytelling in all nine Jesse Stone movies. I was delighted to act as moderator and to find out, first-hand, that actor-writer-producer Selleck was as interested in the contribution of music as everyone else on that stage.

  • With Howard Shore and the Pittsburgh Symphony

    June 28, 2016 at 12:00 pm photo by @ShelaghSings

    This past weekend I joined composer Howard Shore onstage at Heinz Hall for a unique concert experience with the Pittsburgh Symphony. Between pieces conducted by Ludwig Wicki, Howard and I talked about his career; his collaboration with such celebrated directors as Martin Scorsese, Peter Jackson and David Cronenberg; and how The Lord of the Rings changed his life. The concerts included the world premiere of his The Hobbit: Four Movements for Symphony Orchestra, a 30-minute distillation of many of the themes and motifs from his scores for Jackson’s recent Hobbit trilogy of films. Along the way we got to hear such classic Shores scores as The Fly, Ed Wood (with original theremin soloist Lydia Kavina), The Silence of the Lambs, Hugo and (of course) music from Lord of the Rings. Here is a review, which nicely summarizes the proceedings. (Photo courtesy @ShelaghSings)

  • The editor is also the composer!

    May 25, 2016 at 7:09 am JBwithOttmanSWC2016

    John Ottman, who is as skilled an editor as he is a composer, has filled both jobs again (as well as being a co-producer) on the action-packed, visual-effects-filled X-Men: Apocalypse, which opens this weekend. In this fascinating interview for SoundWorks Collection, Ottman talks about his triple-threat role, how complex the job was, whether he thinks about music while he’s cutting the film, and much, much more. This was his third X-Men film (after X2 and Days of Future Past) and his 10th project with director Bryan Singer.

  • Interviewing composers at the BMI awards

    May 13, 2016 at 6:08 pm Interviewing James Newton Howard

    Composer James Newton Howard (The Sixth Sense, The Hunger Games, pictured here) was honored with the BMI Icon award at Wednesday night’s annual film/TV honors of Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), while David Newman received its Classic Contribution Award for his work conducting classic film music in concert halls around the world. I was on the red carpet again this year, conducting no fewer than 25 on-camera interviews with composers for film and TV. BMI is posting them on YouTube; here is Howard, here is Newman. And here is my story about the evening.

  • Hosting the Elmer Bernstein series in Santa Barbara

    May 10, 2016 at 12:08 pm GranadaEBseries16-17

    Last night I wrapped up my first season as host of the Elmer Bernstein Memorial Film Series at the historic Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara, California. We screened The Age of Innocence, Martin Scorsese’s 1993 adaptation of the Edith Wharton novel that contains one of Bernstein’s richest and most memorable scores. The composer’s daughter, Emilie Bernstein, who orchestrated the music and was present at the recording sessions, joined me on stage for a lively Q&A on the scoring process. Granada management also announced next season’s lineup, eight more Bernstein classics including The Man With the Golden Arm, The Ten Commandments and National Lampoon’s Animal House. It’s a joy to introduce these great films from Bernstein’s 50-year career in the movies, and I hope those of you in the neighborhood will join us beginning in August (see dates on the poster).

  • Career interview with composer John Scott

    May 8, 2016 at 10:32 am JohnScottinterviewFMF2016

    John Scott — the great British composer of such memorable scores as Antony and Cleopatra; Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes; The Final Countdown, and many more — is the subject of a career-spanning interview posted by the Film Music Foundation. I was privileged to conduct it when Scott (who divides his time between London and Los Angeles) was here in L.A. recently. The Emmy-winning composer speaks thoughtfully and articulately about his time as a flutist/saxophonist on the London scene in the 1950s, becoming a composer in the 1960s, his many collaborations with film directors and TV producers (including Jacques Cousteau, doing many of the Cousteau documentaries of the 1980s) and much more. He is simply a delightful gentleman.

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