Category Archives: Television Music

Universal mines its back catalog for classics

One of Hollywood’s greatest studios has launched a long-range program to find, preserve and release some of its previously unreleased film scores. It’s called the “Universal Pictures Film Music Heritage Collection” and launches this week with the first-ever release of the music from Colossus: The Forbin Project. Scores by Henry Mancini, Ennio Morricone, Lalo Schifrin and other top composers will follow. It’s an exciting proposition for us film music fans, and I was pleased to break this story in the pages of Variety.

This year’s Emmy music races

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.

Powell, Franco honored at ASCAP screen awards

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.

John Williams accepts top BMI award

Composer John Williams has won practically every award possible in his long and distinguished career — Oscars, Emmys, Grammys, even the Kennedy Center Honor and the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award. So Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), one of the nation’s leading performing-rights societies — which had already given him its top honor in 1999 — gave him an even higher honor by naming a new award after him. It was a particularly star-studded evening, as I tried to convey in this Variety story about the society’s annual Film, TV and Visual Media Awards in Beverly Hills.

Lalo Schifrin honored by SACEM

The great Argentinian composer Lalo Schifrin — creator of such classic film and TV themes as Mission: Impossible, Mannix, Cool Hand Luke, Bullitt, Dirty Harry and others — was honored by Steinway and SACEM the same evening in Beverly Hills. First, composer-pianist Jean-Michel Bernard performed many Schifrin tunes for a private audience in the Steinway piano showroom; then the home of French consul general Christophe Lemoine was the setting for a cocktail party and award presentation on behalf of SACEM, the French performing-rights society. Here is a review of the evening’s events.

Thriller 2

The success of Tadlow Music’s earlier album celebrating Jerry Goldsmith’s music for the TV series Thriller has prompted a sequel, and once again producer James Fitzpatrick turned to me for notes — another fun opportunity to provide musical and historical perspective to a major early credit in the composer’s filmography. This album (superbly reconstructed by orchestrator Leigh Phillips) includes another six scores from the 1960-62 series hosted by Boris Karloff, including one of my favorite scores (“God Grante That She Lye Stille”) and two that employ surprisingly modernist piano techniques for TV scores of that era (“Late Date,” “The Terror in Teakwood”).

Music in the new “Lost in Space”

Christopher Lennertz, veteran composer of Supernatural, Revolution and other series, has pulled off his greatest TV assignment to date: the Netflix reboot of the 1960s classic Lost in Space. He not only recorded with an orchestra in London’s Abbey Road studio, he incorporated John Williams’ original TV theme (actually, Williams’ second theme for the series, used in its 1967-68 season) as well. This Variety story explains how he went about writing eight hours of music in 10 weeks.

The music of “Krypton”

I’ve been fascinated by the backstory of Superman’s home world as long as I’ve been reading DC Comics (which I did, a lot, back in the 1960s). So I was understandably curious about the new series Krypton, which debuted last night on the SyFy channel — and about what kind of music might accompany it. Turkish composer Pinar Toprak is scoring the series (entirely in her home studio, for a largely synthesized sound) and even providing all the background music for the pubs that Superman’s grandfather Seg-El frequents. Here is the Variety story I wrote about Toprak, who producer Cameron Welsh considers “a rising star” among Hollywood composers.

Russo invokes Courage for “Discovery” finale

Composer Jeff Russo showing JB his arrangement of the original Trek theme during a scoring session for the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY in Los Angeles, Ca. Photo Cr: Lisette M. Azar/CBS © 2017 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

On January 15, I was invited to the recording session for episode 15 of Star Trek: Discovery, the season finale of the CBS series. It was all very mysterious. All we were told was that something special would happen and that we could not give anything away until after the show aired on February 11. It turned out that the Discovery would encounter the USS Enterprise in the closing minutes of the show; that composer Jeff Russo would, appropriately, invoke Alexander Courage’s original Star Trek fanfare; but even more importantly, Russo was going to conduct 74 musicians in a fresh new version of Courage’s famous Trek theme (complete with wordless soprano solo, beautifully performed by singer Ayana Haviv) that would play under the show’s end credits. Here is that story, published in Variety the next day.

Dominic Frontiere dead at 86

We got the sad news about Dominic Frontiere’s death through an offbeat source: a paid death notice that appeared in the Los Angeles Times. It took an entire day (including calling every funeral home in the Santa Fe area) to confirm the news, and in that time I assembled an obituary that covered the high points of his long career. Frontiere composed several classic themes of 1960s TV — including The Outer Limits, 12 O’Clock High, The Flying Nun, Branded, The Invaders, and The Rat Patrol — as well as such memorable movie scores as Hang ‘Em High and The Stunt Man. He won an Emmy and a Golden Globe and even his forgotten shows had great themes (I especially love The Immortal, Search and his miniseries Washington: Behind Closed Doors). Here is the obituary I wrote for Variety.