Each year, for its summertime Music for Screens section, Variety asks me to prepare a chart listing every nominee in all six music categories including a brief description of the music itself, or something relevant to the nomination. It means a lot of TV watching in July and August! And often interviewing the composers, songwriters and music directors about what their jobs were and how they went about the task of writing or supervising the scores of each show. Editors always call it the Emmy “cheat sheet,” although I don’t know if that’s for the voters or the viewers…
The Television Academy announced its nominees for the 70th annual Emmy Awards on July 12. There are now six music categories in the prime-time race. My overview of the music nominees ran that morning in Variety, highlighting the possibility that an Emmy win for songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul could make them EGOTs (having won all four major show-biz awards). For an Aug. 13 story, I interviewed the nominees for Music Composition for a Series (including Game of Thrones, Jessica Jones, Once Upon a Time, SEAL Team, Star Wars Rebels and Westworld). And for an Aug. 14 story, I interviewed the nominees for Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie or Special (including Alias Grace, Black Mirror, Godless, March of the Penguins 2 and two different episodes of Electric Dreams).
If you’ve seen the latest Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible adventure, Fallout, there are two things you can’t miss: Cruise’s amazing stunts and Lorne Balfe’s musical score. Balfe utilizes Lalo Schifrin’s classic Mission themes in practically every scene. He wrote approximately four hours of music for the film and it took an entire month to record in London, as the composer told me for this Variety story about his nine-month odyssey to create the music with director Christopher McQuarrie (and a little help from Cruise). The Variety piece also includes a wonderful three-minute video shot during the London recordings.
Adam Taylor has just finished scoring the second season of the acclaimed, Emmy-winning Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale. I got to attend the final recording session for the season and was sworn to secrecy about the details of those last two episodes — but it was worth it to watch a 27-member string ensemble enhance the drama with their exquisite playing on the Warner Bros. recording stage. What was even more fascinating was interviewing both Taylor and, via email, star-producer Elisabeth Moss about the importance of music in the series. The story ran July 11 in Variety.
Those of you in Europe this summer may be lucky enough to experience “The World of Hans Zimmer,” a concert of Zimmer’s classic film themes performed by a large orchestra and choir conducted by his longtime associate Gavin Greenaway. The producers commissioned me to write a lengthy essay that, over 1,700 words, examines the composer’s career and impact on contemporary film music (from Gladiator and Inception to The Dark Knight and The DaVinci Code). It was an honor to share space in the program with Zimmer himself, whose opening piece explores his own experiences listening to, and ultimately writing for, a symphony orchestra. Information on the tour is available here.
Prolific, award-winning composer Michael Giacchino went in two directions at once this spring — boisterous fun for The Incredibles 2, dark and scary for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, films that are currently dominating the American box office. I visited the recording sessions for Incredibles and then talked to the composer about writing two big scores back-to-back for major film franchises. It was also an opportunity to discuss his latest concert work, celebrating the 60th anniversary of NASA, June 1 with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C.
This was maybe my favorite story so far this year. Composer Nathan Barr (The Americans) loves mechanical musical instruments from the early 20th century. So he went after the biggest one imaginable: a Wurlitzer organ from the silent-movie era. And not just any Wurlitzer: the one that, from 1928 to 1997, resided on the scoring stage at 20th Century-Fox (for which such legendary composers as Bernard Herrmann and Jerry Goldsmith wrote). Barr found it, brought it back to L.A., spent a fortune restoring it, and even built a new recording studio to house it. It’s an extraordinary story, published here in Variety, and I was thrilled to be the first to pass along the details. (Photos by Dan Goldwasser.)
It’s only a matter of weeks after Oscar season ends that Emmy season begins. I know, it’s hard to believe, but within the industry — especially the many publicists we deal with on a daily basis — the calendar year has become one long awards season. Still, Emmy season is a great way to catch up on the many fine shows that now grace the small screen, and in this first of a series of stories about Emmy-worthy work in music for television, we look at a handful of potential nominees in the series- and limited-series-scoring categories. In this second story, the role of music in current science-fiction series is examined. A third story looks at the music for four of the season’s top limited series, including Howards End and Patrick Melrose. And a fourth story looks at the odds of documentary scores, including The Vietnam War and Blue Planet II, attaining Emmy glory.
Composers John Powell and Germaine Franco took top honors at this week’s ASCAP Screen Music Awards. Powell won the Henry Mancini award for lifetime achievement as a film composer (for such scores as How to Train Your Dragon, The Bourne Identity and Solo: A Star Wars Story), while Franco (songwriter for Coco, currently scoring TV’s Vida) received the Shirley Walker award for contributing to “the diversity of film and television music.” Other honorees included Gordy Haab and Dave Porter; a full rundown of the evening is in my Variety story here.
Composer John Powell, the much-respected Oscar nominee for How to Train Your Dragon (and such other delightful animated scores as Happy Feet, Rio and Ferdinand), reviewed the entire Solo: A Star Wars Story experience with me for this Variety story, which ran the day before the film opened. It’s a fascinating odyssey that involves collaboration with John Williams (who penned “The Adventures of Han” theme used throughout Powell’s score), the creation of several new themes, and an unusual trip to Bulgaria to record a women’s choir for the score.