Strange as it may sound, this story may have had the widest global repercussions of any story I’ve ever written for Variety. I learned that composer Alf Clausen, after scoring more than 550 episodes and winning two Emmys for his music, had been fired from The Simpsons after 27 years on the job. It was shocking, but after talking with Alf about it, we decided to go public on Aug. 30. I filed the story at 11:50 a.m., Variety posted it at 12:15, and within hours virtually every outlet in the world was repeating the news. It even made the front page of the BBC. Fox declined comment at the time, and was clearly unprepared for the worldwide outrage that would follow. Clausen is not only highly respected within the musical community, he earned nearly two dozen Emmy nominations for his work on that show alone — and is believed to hold the record for scoring the most episodes of a prime-time network series in television history.
This was among the few film- and TV-music nights at the Bowl this summer I was not involved with, even peripherally. So we got to go and just enjoy. Here’s a recap with a little more musical detail than you will find in most reviews of the weekend celebration.
I’ve participated in many concerts over the years, but few can compare with the extraordinary evening of television music we did at UCLA’s Royce Hall Wednesday night. I was honored to host, and to conduct on-stage interviews with the likes of John Lunn (Downton Abbey), Alf Clausen (The Simpsons), Sean Callery (Elementary), James S. Levine (American Horror Story) and Walter Murphy (Family Guy).
A sold-out audience got to hear music by all these composers, plus Jeff Beal (House of Cards), Bear McCreary (DaVinci’s Demons), Trevor Morris (The Borgias) and Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones). One of my favorite moments was introducing Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman (Nurse Jackie) and declaring that they are “leading the way for the next generation of women composers in Hollywood.“ Here is a rundown of the evening; here’s Variety’s story; and here’s another one from the TV Academy itself with more fun photos.
It’s been in the works for a year, but the pieces are now coming together and the Television Academy is going to stage its own concert of great music from current TV shows. (A few weeks after I broke this story, the Academy asked me to host the concert. I did.)
The Simpsons has set so many records that it’s becoming hard to keep track. One of those, a little-known one — maybe because I’m the only writer who has ever actually noticed — is that composer Alf Clausen’s 500 scores for the series constitutes a record for total original scores written by a single composer for any prime-time series in the history of American television. I’ve visited Alf’s recording sessions on a number of occasions. Here is a Variety story about him scoring the 500th episode; there’s one from 1998, when I witnessed the recording of the 200th episode; and here’s one from 2007, about scoring the 400th episode. The latter two offer a lot of detail about how the process works and why Alf has been so successful at it all these years.
This was a genuine labor of love. The U.S. Postal Service was about to issue a Mancini stamp, and there was to be a big ceremony downtown. So the Times asked me for a retrospective piece, yet one that would quote friends, family and give a sense of his impact on popular culture. This is one of my all-time favorite pieces for the L.A. Times.