Category Archives: From the Files

Alan Silvestri’s Harmonic Priorities

BMI asked me to profile Alan Silvestri during the summer of 2010. He was just about to start music for The A-Team, but I was anxious to talk about the role of technology in a film composer’s life, his wonderful Christmas carol for Andrea Bocelli — and the unique thing about Silvestri, which was the fact that he also owns a successful winery. (And those wines have won numerous industry awards.)

Rachel Portman, BMI honoree

Interviewing Rachel before the awards.

Interviewing Rachel before the awards.

My love affair with Rachel Portman’s music dates back to the 1990s with scores like Emma, The Joy Luck Club and The Cider House Rules. She is a thoughtful, intelligent and wonderfully melodic composer, and her 2010 win of BMI’s career achievement honor was a chance to write about her work. Here is an overview of that night’s festivities and here‘s my piece for BMI that gave me a chance to quote such director collaborators as Doug McGrath, Wayne Wang and Robert Benton. In addition, here is a piece I wrote in 2005 about her opera based on The Little Prince.

Allyn Ferguson dead at 85

Allyn Ferguson was like so many great TV composers: You knew his tunes but most folks didn’t know his name. Think of Charlie’s Angels, Barney Miller and all those Norman Rosemont-produced TV-movies based on classic literature. He was enormously talented, had been around forever, and had one of those wonderfully crusty exteriors. I liked him a lot. Here’s his obituary.

Wagner’s influence on film music

The L.A. Times asked for a piece linking Wagner’s 19th-century leitmotifs with today’s film music, notably that of Williams (in the Star Wars films) and Howard Shore (in the Lord of the Rings trilogy). It was an offbeat assignment that put me in touch with scholars who shared interesting perspectives.

Harry Gregson-Williams profile

In the summer of 2010, Harry Gregson-Williams had two new films coming out: Prince of Persia, which was a better score than a movie, and Shrek Forever After, the last of the big-screen Shrek films (and Harry’s sixth Shrek project for DreamWorks). It was a great excuse to revisit his entire career for the Los Angeles Times, including new interviews with several producer and director collaborators including Jerry Bruckheimer, Mike Newell, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Tony Scott.

Disney music at Disney Hall!

Here‘s a preview of an all-Disney-music concert that John Mauceri conducted at L.A.’s Disney Hall in 2009. This was a great opportunity to review some of the hits from the Disney canon as well as having the experts (Mauceri, Ross Care, Thomas Schumacher) chime in on the symphonic nature of many of the early Disney scores.

The Scores of Theodore Shapiro

This was my first chance to meet composer Teddy Shapiro, who negotiates the very delicate path of scoring movie comedy better than almost anyone. His work on films like The Devil Wears Prada, Tropic Thunder and Marley & Me fascinated me. This was published in the BMI magazine MusicWorld. He has since been kind enough to speak to my scoring-program classes at USC.

A big summer for Giacchino

JBGiacchinoBowlThe summer of 2009 was a big one for composer Michael Giacchino: He had already done Up (which would later win him an Academy Award) and Star Trek and he was still doing TV’s Lost. This was a profile for the L.A. Times. And here’s Michael and me some years later at the Hollywood Bowl.

Harry Gregson-Williams for Variety

This was another in our ongoing series (dubbed “Billion Dollar Composers,” a reference to how much money their movies have made). Interviewing Harry was a fascinating experience. He had a fabulous studio in Venice, Calif., at the time, and shared something of his work process while I bugged him about his life, his music and a few of his favorite scores. The main story is mostly about his creative side. The sidebars include one about his animated projects; an on-the-scene report about scoring The Wolverine at Fox; and a look at five career highlights.