Category Archives: Television Music

The death of Patrick Williams

The Hollywood community was stunned last week by the death of Grammy- and Emmy-winning composer Patrick Williams. Not only among the most talented composer-arrangers of his generation, “Pat” Williams was one of the nicest guys in the business, one of the all-time great big-band leaders and a strong supporter of music education — a rare combination. I was lucky to get to know him over the past 30 years and it’s been hard to say goodbye. I wrote a fact-filled obituary for Variety and a slightly different version for the AFM’s Overture, but I also wrote an appreciation of the man and his music that I think conveys a bit more of who he was and why we all loved him.

Music in “The Handmaid’s Tale”

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.

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.