Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson, widely considered among the most interesting of the current generation of film composers, died in February at the age of 48. But the Oscar-nominated composer of The Theory of Everything, Arrival and Sicario had completed more work before his death. His final score, for Mandy — Panos Cosmatos’ wild horror-revenge thriller starring Nicolas Cage — is a dark, massive, industrial-metal sound that matches the grim, violent, sometimes insane milieu of the film. I interviewed the director, his manager Tim Husom, and his agent Kevin Korn, about this last work and about the new foundation in the late composer’s name.
I couldn’t wait to see First Man — in part because manned spaceflight was my obsession all through the 1960s and I have very vivid memories of watching Neil Armstrong set foot upon the lunar surface on July 20, 1969, and also because I was fascinated by how director Damien Chazelle and composer Justin Hurwitz would top their Oscar-winning work on La La Land in 2016. I spent time on the recording stage as Hurwitz conducted all of the key musical sequences and then interviewed him in his studio (complete with Moog synthesizer, theremin and vintage Echoplex machine), followed by a phone conversation with Chazelle. The results, published in Variety, are here.
This weekend John Williams, the most famous composer in Hollywood history, celebrated his 40th anniversary conducting at the Hollywood Bowl. His very first concert leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Bowl was on July 28, 1978, subbing for an ailing Arthur Fiedler, who had been scheduled to conduct a pair of “Pops at the Bowl” concerts that weekend. Since then, the much-honored dean of American film composers has returned to the Bowl on dozens of occasions, conducting not only his own music but that of other composers, most of whom were active in Hollywood at one time or another. The program included not only Williams compositions but also those of a friend and mentor, Leonard Bernstein (whose centennial is also being celebrated this year). Steven Spielberg served as host; David Newman conducted the first half. Here is my review for Variety.