For me, one of this year’s most enjoyable assignments involved spending time with Brazilian-born composer Heitor Pereira, whose delightful music for the animated movie Minions (and before that, the Despicable Me movies) helped to propel that film to box-office heights. Heitor is not just a world-class guitarist, he’s a fine arranger and producer as well (listen to Melody Gardot’s album The Absence, for example). What I found most fascinating was his thoughtful, deeply philosophical approach to making music of all genres. I wrote three stories: the main one follows his journey from Simply Red guitarist to film composer; a second one quotes some of his recent collaborators; and a third one looks ahead to films coming up.
I’ve known composer Laura Karpman for something like 20 years now. Her versatility is astonishing, shifting effortlessly from concert works (“Ask Your Mama”) to film/TV (Taken) to video games (EverQuest). Last year she, along with other distinguished composers, formed the Alliance for Women Film Composers and it’s starting to make a difference for its members. Variety asked me to profile Laura for this week’s “Music for Screens” issue.
One of my most challenging, but also fascinating, annual Variety assignments is looking at every nominee in all five Emmy music categories and finding something informative to say about each. (For example, Jeff Beal’s Hebraic-flavored theme for The Dovekeepers used a soprano, a duduk and Middle Eastern percussion). We then assemble a chart examining all 30 (including such details as their Emmy record, how many past wins or whether they’re a first-time nominee). And the chart is featured at the Society of Composers & Lyricists’ annual Emmy reception, which is a source of pride for us at Variety. It never looks as good in the online version. Here’s what it looks like in print.
Variety posed an interesting question: If you’re remaking a classic TV series, what role — if any — does the musical theme of that series play? Should you remind the audience of the series’ origins via its music? Is it key to a marketing plan? If the theme is not iconic, should it be jettisoned altogether in favor of a new musical approach? With The Man From U.N.C.L.E. having just opened, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation still playing strongly, and The Peanuts Movie on the horizon, I talked to the composers of all three films (Daniel Pemberton, Joe Kraemer, Christophe Beck, respectively) about the importance of music from the small-screen originals.
In this first video interview for SoundWorks Collection, I talk at length with composer Joseph Trapanese about scoring the summer hit Straight Outta Compton. Trapanese, who has previously collaborated with Daft Punk on Tron: Legacy and with M83 on Oblivion — as well as creating his own scores for films like Earth to Echo and Insurgent — talked about the dramatic needs of this film and what it was like to have Dr. Dre in his studio during the scoring process.
As many of you know, I have often written about music for spy films and TV. This story combines both. English composer Daniel Pemberton has scored Guy Ritchie’s new feature-film adaptation of the classic 1960s series The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which opens on Aug. 14. Pemberton finds a new musical signature for the movie by incorporating all kinds of classic ’60s spy sounds from harpsichord to cimbalom and mandolin. It’s great fun, so I interviewed Pemberton about his musical choices and the unusual recording techniques he employed. (There’s also a hint about precisely where fans will discover the original Jerry Goldsmith TV theme. But just a hint.)