Latest Articles

A “Rifleman” soundtrack — nearly six decades later!

Thursday, April 27th, 2017 at 6:37 am

The surprise of the year in terms of soundtrack releases is an original score album of music from The Rifleman — the beloved 1958-63 Western drama starring Chuck Connors and Johnny Crawford. Composer Herschel Burke Gilbert had always intended to release an album, as far back as 1960, but never quite got around to it…. Read More

Blake Neely, superhero composer

Thursday, April 13th, 2017 at 1:39 pm

For the main story in this week’s Music for Screens section in Variety, I profiled Blake Neely, who composes, supervises and/or produces approximately four hours of music every week for such DC Comics shows as Arrow, The Flash and Supergirl; the Archie Comics revamp Riverdale; and the thriller Blindspot. He’s also got a documentary coming… Read More

Music in “Julie’s Greenroom”

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017 at 5:07 pm

Coming under the category of “boy, do we need it now” is the new children’s series demystifying the arts, Julie’s Greenroom on Netflix. It’s the creation of Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton and each half-hour episode explores a different facet of the theater, from writing and acting to costumes and music. There… Read More

Henry Mancini legacy celebrated at The Wallis

Monday, April 3rd, 2017 at 6:36 am

The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts is a relatively new theater in the heart of Beverly Hills. The family of the late, Oscar-winning composer Henry Mancini assembled an incredible lineup of talent as a fundraiser for the nonprofit organization on Saturday, April 1, and we were thrilled to be invited to cover it… Read More

Hans Zimmer, film-scoring professor!

Saturday, March 18th, 2017 at 1:31 pm

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

Menken’s Third Shot at “Beauty and the Beast”

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017 at 10:38 am

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

Music in NBC’s “This Is Us”

Thursday, March 9th, 2017 at 6:50 am

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

New studios at Abbey Road

Monday, March 6th, 2017 at 7:59 pm

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

Oscar music roundup

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017 at 3:16 pm

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

New breed of Oscar-nominated composers, songwriters

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017 at 7:50 am

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

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In Person

  • Women composers at ASCAP Expo!

    April 15, 2017 at 7:22 am

    It was a pleasure to moderate a panel at Friday’s ASCAP “I Create Music” Expo at the Loews Hollywood Hotel. The topic was “Women in Film Music” and the panelists included composers Lesley Barber (Manchester by the Sea), Stephanie Economou (The Zookeeper’s Wife), Carly Paradis (Line of Duty) and Pinar Toprak (The Lightkeepers). ASCAP’s Rachel Perkins also introduced Lolita Ritmanis of the Alliance for Women Film Composers and Tracy McKnight of Women in Film, who kicked off the discussion about the expanding profile of female composers for film, TV and games. It was a stimulating hour with these thoughtful, remarkable women and I was honored to be on stage with them.

  • Marni Nixon career interview

    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.

  • On NPR’s “Here and Now”

    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.

  • Video interviews with Oscar-nominated composers

    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.

  • Interviewing Michael Giacchino on “Rogue One”

    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).

  • Interviewing Burt Bacharach for “Po”

    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.

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