Latest Articles

Ramin Djawadi: Eight seasons of “Game of Thrones”

Thursday, April 4th, 2019 at 5:25 pm

It seems like the whole world is gearing up for the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones, the fantasy series that returns to HBO on April 14. In anticipation of this, I interviewed Ramin Djawadi — who won his first Emmy last year for his music for the final episode of the seventh… Read More

Busy Benjamin Wallfisch

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019 at 8:36 am

Composer Benjamin Wallfisch — recently Grammy-nominated for his contributions to the Hidden Figures and Blade Runner 2049 soundtracks — has no fewer than three major projects being released in April: feature film scores for Shazam! (a big symphonic approach for the comic-book adaptation), Hellboy (a punk-infused score for the reboot) and Hostile Planet (a six-hour… Read More

Rankin-Bass composer Maury Laws, dead at 95

Monday, April 1st, 2019 at 2:45 pm

His music was an integral part of our young lives, a Christmas tradition in many households — watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town and so many other holiday specials: Maury Laws was the unsung musical genius behind them all. As musical director for Rankin-Bass, the animation company… Read More

Danny Elfman Scores “Dumbo”

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019 at 9:54 am

More than three decades later, composer Danny Elfman is still putting music to the films of Tim Burton. They’ve done everything from Batman to Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas to Alice in Wonderland. And now they’ve returned again to the Disney fold with a live-action remake of the 1941 classic Dumbo. Elfman’s musical journey… Read More

Concert music by film composers

Saturday, March 23rd, 2019 at 4:24 pm

A trend in journalism is generally defined by three or more happenings in the same field. So when I discovered that James Newton Howard (The Hunger Games) had written a cello concerto, Danny Elfman (Alice in Wonderland) a violin concerto and George S. Clinton (the Austin Powers movies) another violin concerto, I thought “here’s a… Read More

Pinar Toprak’s music for “Captain Marvel”

Tuesday, March 5th, 2019 at 10:32 am

Wow, two great Variety assignments in a row! First, writing about the year’s first stunning score, John Powell’s How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. And now, the chance to preview Pinar Toprak’s memorable music for Captain Marvel, which opens Friday. It’s a landmark moment not only because Toprak is the first woman to… Read More

John Powell’s “How to Train Your Dragon” music

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019 at 10:43 am

John Powell’s music for How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is the first genuinely great score of 2019. I found it a stunning, unexpectedly emotional experience, and so asked for time with both Powell and director Dean DeBlois to explore their process and learn about the creation of the music. This, of course,… Read More

Final Oscar stories for the 2018 awards

Monday, February 25th, 2019 at 8:21 am

The 91st Academy Awards are in the books at last. It was a joy to report on composer Ludwig Goransson’s victory in the original-score category, more than a year after I first called attention to his African-infused music for Black Panther in the pages of Variety. In the days leading up to the awards, we… Read More

The Oscar song brouhaha and its aftermath

Sunday, February 17th, 2019 at 1:30 pm

On January 24th, we at Variety received word that the Oscar producers had decided to perform only two of the five Best Song nominees on the show (Lady Gaga’s “Shallow” and Kendrick Lamar’s “All the Stars,” by the two most popular recording artists). Within an hour, I had three other solid sources confirming this, so… Read More

Oscar song and score category analysis

Thursday, February 14th, 2019 at 2:16 pm

One of my favorite annual Variety assignments involves analyzing the competition in the Best Song and Original Score categories as the Academy Awards campaign winds down and the voting begins. While Oscar pundits debate whether “Shallow” from A Star Is Born will win the song honors or be upset by one of the others, and… Read More

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In Person

  • Remembering Andre Previn

    March 7, 2019 at 8:27 am

    Composer Andre Previn, who died Feb. 28, was one of those amazing and underappreciated triple-threat musicians: renowned conductor of classical music, extraordinary jazz pianist, talented composer of Hollywood film scores. Although he left the movie business in 1966 (and later penned an amusing memoir of that era, No Minor Chords), returning only occasionally to conduct a score (notably Rollerball and Jesus Christ Superstar), he will always be remembered for his contributions, especially during the 1950s and ’60s. California radio station KWMR kindly asked me to talk about Previn, his four Oscar wins and his remarkable facility with both songs and scores. Thanks to host Sally Phillips for the opportunity; my segment begins at 33 minutes into this archived broadcast.

  • Talking Oscar songs on “Here and Now”

    February 22, 2019 at 3:01 pm

    Again this year, NPR’s newsmagazine Here and Now asked me to discuss this year’s Oscar-nominated songs. Host Jeremy Hobson and I enjoyed playing, and talking about, the surprisingly diverse crop. Here is a link to the segment, which aired on Feb. 22, just two days before the Academy Award telecast.

  • Ludwig Goransson on “Black Panther”

    February 15, 2019 at 5:16 pm

    Just a week before he won two Grammy Awards (one for Song of the Year, one for Original Score), I interviewed Swedish composer Ludwig Goransson about his acclaimed, Oscar-nominated score for the Marvel blockbuster Black Panther. We shot it for Michael Coleman’s SoundWorks Collection at Goransson’s studio and incorporates on-location footage of him recording musicians in Africa. The day after the Grammy Awards, I discovered that Ludwig’s wins set a record for a musician working in two vastly different genres and wrote about it for Variety.

  • Marc Shaiman on “Mary Poppins Returns”

    February 14, 2019 at 5:31 pm

    Composer-songwriter Marc Shaiman earned his sixth and seventh Oscar nominations for music in the long-awaited Mary Poppins Returns: for original score, and original song (“The Place Where Lost Things Go” with his co-lyricist Scott Wittman). It was a long odyssey, involving months developing the storyline, writing and rewriting the songs, flying to London to rehearse with the actors, and finally recording the dramatic score. We discussed all of this in a video interview for SoundWorks Collection — interestingly, at Shaiman’s former Los Angeles studio where he had written the music and songs for his earlier Oscar nominees. (A few days later, I was able to interview both Marc and Scott at a SAG-AFTRA screening of the film in Beverly Hills.)

  • Nicholas Britell on “If Beale Street Could Talk”

    February 12, 2019 at 5:40 pm

    Composer Nicholas Britell earned his second Oscar nomination this year for the intimate, emotional score for If Beale Street Could Talk. This was his second film (after Moonlight) with director Barry Jenkins, who was a close collaborator on the music, Britell says in this video interview taped three weeks before the Oscars. Britell not only discusses the composing process, he performs one of the score’s main themes at the piano.

  • Lorne Balfe’s “Mission: Impossible” score

    December 14, 2018 at 7:28 pm

    It was a pleasure to quiz composer Lorne Balfe about his incredible, grand-scale score for Mission: Impossible — Fallout after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening Dec. 13 on the Paramount lot. Balfe entertained the audience with anecdotes about his collaboration with director Christopher McQuarrie and producer-star Tom Cruise; discussed the months-long gestation and writing process, which involved deconstructing the original Lalo Schifrin themes for adaptation into a completely new score; and talked about the London recordings, which required a massive orchestra and choir and may have been among the most expensive Paramount scores ever recorded.

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