The surprise of the year in terms of soundtrack releases is an original score album of music from The Rifleman — the beloved 1958-63 Western drama starring Chuck Connors and Johnny Crawford. Composer Herschel Burke Gilbert had always intended to release an album, as far back as 1960, but never quite got around to it. His son John Gilbert, who inherited and now runs the composer’s classical label Laurel Records, has just released a 2-CD set of music composed for, and used in, the classic TV series. This story explains how it all came about and why it took nearly six decades to see the light of day.
One of the most startling developments in the burgeoning field of film-music instruction is the “Hans Zimmer Teaches Film Scoring” online primer now available from San Francisco-based MasterClass (which has recently offered videos of Aaron Sorkin teaching screenwriting, Steve Martin teaching comedy, Kevin Spacey teaching acting, etc.). It’s a series of 31 lessons, totaling over four hours, in which Zimmer discusses how he does his work and offers examples from his most famous scores. The Oscar- and Grammy winner launched it at an event on Wednesday in West Hollywood; he talked about his reasons for doing this and a bit about his own mentor, British composer Stanley Myers, in this new interview.
Yes, those final moments of Sunday’s Oscarcast were bizarre and won’t soon be forgotten. But, that aside, there were a lot of great musical moments in the broadcast and we recount them all here — the wins by the La La Land team for score and song, the performances of all five nominated songs, the beautiful “In Memoriam” performance, and more. Plus a rundown of Saturday’s always-entertaining Society of Composers & Lyricists champagne reception for Oscar music nominees.
Each year at this time I rummage through 12 months of CDs to chronicle the best of the year in “classic film music” — that is, the expanded reissues, the newly recorded scores, and in some special cases the first releases of great old scores that always deserved an album but never got one. There are 20 entries, all listed here, but this year there were so many excellent releases that I added an “honorable mention” section at the bottom with more of my favorites that didn’t quite make the main list. Intrada and La-La Land were this year’s top labels (that is, with the most entries) but there are worthy contributions here from Kritzerland, Quartet, Varese Sarabande, Play-Time, Universal France and Dragon’s Domain. Check them out.
I thought that Johann Johannsson’s music for Arrival was one of this year’s most interesting and creative film scores — yet the use of Max Richter’s 12-year-old classical piece “On the Nature of Daylight” (which bookends the film) was startling in terms of its stylistic differences. So it came as no surprise that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ music-branch executive committee disqualified the entire score from consideration in this year’s Oscar race. Having interviewed both Johannsson and Richter about their music earlier in the awards season, I thought it might be instructive to hear what each had to say about the use of this “temp music” in the final version of Arrival. I also talked, on background, to members of the committee who made this decision.
Oscar- and Emmy-winning composer Michael Giacchino conducted selections from his music for the TV series Lost over two nights last week at the Ford Theatre in Los Angeles. “Tonight is for you guys,” he told the crowd of Lost fans — who had flown from all over the world to attend (Friday night’s concert sold out so quickly that the producers added a second concert, Thursday night). Series producer Carlton Cuse co-hosted the event, which also featured a fun Q&A with composer and producer before the three-hour concert (whose musicians, Giacchino noted, consisted mostly of the same performers who played on the 121 episodes of the ABC series). The crowd was wildly enthusiastic and gave Giacchino and the musicians standing ovations both nights. Here is a review of Thursday’s concert.
John Williams conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic during three weekend concerts at the Hollywood Bowl. It was, as always, hugely entertaining, with the maestro doing considerable Star Wars music and introducing a new suite of music from The BFG. Then in just a few days, he’ll be honored on Turner Classic Movies with a night of his movies plus two terrific American Film Institute specials: a commercial-free version of the Life Achievement Award dinner from earlier this year, and his conversation with Steven Spielberg that first aired in 2011. Here is a look at both events.
Every year it’s my privilege to interview many of the composers nominated for Emmys in the key music categories. The occasion is usually the creation of Variety‘s full-page chart devoted to brief descriptions of the music in all five categories. But this year I’m doing more, beginning with a story utilizing what I heard from all six nominees in the category of Music Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic Score) — music from Bates Motel, Chef’s Table, Limitless, Minority Report, Mr. Robot and Penny Dreadful. It’s always fun to hear what these hugely talented composers have to say about their diverse assignments.
The obsession that some Game of Thrones fans have with Ramin Djawadi’s music took even the composer by surprise. (The numbers associated with the various YouTube versions of the theme — from serious ones on violin or cello to wacky ones for cat, floppy disc, wine glasses and more — are simply astounding.) Now, however, fans of the HBO series who must wait another year for new episodes can get their fix with a live concert version that will tour North America in early 2017. I attended the press conference at which Live Nation announced the plans, and composer Djawadi talked about the phenomenon.
The Television Academy likes to spread the wealth, as seen in this year’s crop of nominations in Emmy’s five musical categories: music for series, music for longform TV (miniseries or movies), music direction, title themes, and original songs. Nearly half of all the nominees are first-timers to the party, and that’s always nice to see. (Fans of the music for ultra-popular shows like Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Downton Abbey and others were disappointed when those scores failed to receive a nod, although all have been past nominees or winners.) And the song category has special zing this year: Alan Menken could become an EGOT and Diane Warren has achieved something no previous songwriter has. Here’s a rundown and quick analysis. I’ll be visiting each of these scores later during Emmy season for Variety.