Given the number of first-rate documentary scores this year, a number of people have posed this interesting question to me: Could a documentary score win an Oscar? Could one even be nominated? (In fact, it’s only happened once, in 1975.) I interviewed a number of people about it and, in this story for one of Variety‘s awards-centric Extra Editions, offered an overview of three of this year’s best: Jeff Beal’s music for Boston (about the Boston Marathon), Philip Glass’ music for Jane (about scientist Jane Goodall), and Alex Heffes’ score for Earth: One Amazing Day (a great BBC film about a day in the life of the planet).
I love putting together Variety‘s annual chart examining all the nominees in Emmy’s various music categories, because it gives me a chance to talk with the composers about the musical and dramatic challenges they face. I assembled some of the best quotes from the six nominees in Emmy’s “music composition for a limited series, movie or special” category into a story for this week’s edition. Interviewed: James Newton Howard (All the Way), Martin Phipps (War & Peace), Victor Reyes (The Night Manager), Jeff Beal (Jesse Stone: Lost in Paradise), David Lawrence (Descendants) and Jeff Russo (Fargo) — all super-talented composers who deserve their nominations. And here is a story chronicling all of the Emmy winners (announced Sept. 10).
Thursday night at the Directors Guild of America, four collaborators on the Jesse Stone television movies joined me on stage after a screening of the latest Hallmark Channel movie, Jesse Stone: Lost in Paradise. The occasion was composer Jeff Beal’s Emmy nomination for Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie or Special, and it was a treat to hear star Tom Selleck, director Robert Harmon and writer-producer Michael Brandman extol Beal’s music as a key component of the storytelling in all nine Jesse Stone movies. I was delighted to act as moderator and to find out, first-hand, that actor-writer-producer Selleck was as interested in the contribution of music as everyone else on that stage.
For this season’s Emmy contenders issue, the editors at Variety posed an interesting question: When TV series run two, three, four or more seasons, how do the composers treat their characters and story arcs? Is it best to ground them in familiar musical territory, or should the scores reflect the changing, often expanding, storylines? I interviewed a wide range of composers to find out how they handled the challenge: Bear McCreary (Outlander), Blake Neely (The Flash), Joey Newman (The Middle), Jeff Beal (House of Cards), Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones), John Lunn (Downton Abbey) and Sean Callery (Homeland).
The past week has seen the unofficial launch of “awards season” with the presentation of five Emmys in the music categories (topped by composer Jeff Beal receiving the statue for his third season of House of Cards) and the American Society of Arrangers and Composers (ASMAC) presenting its Golden Score awards to deserving recipients John Debney (The Passion of the Christ) and Conrad Pope (Tim’s Vermeer). My story about the Emmys is here, and about the surprise-filled, music-filled ASMAC bash here.
One of my most challenging, but also fascinating, annual Variety assignments is looking at every nominee in all five Emmy music categories and finding something informative to say about each. (For example, Jeff Beal’s Hebraic-flavored theme for The Dovekeepers used a soprano, a duduk and Middle Eastern percussion). We then assemble a chart examining all 30 (including such details as their Emmy record, how many past wins or whether they’re a first-time nominee). And the chart is featured at the Society of Composers & Lyricists’ annual Emmy reception, which is a source of pride for us at Variety. It never looks as good in the online version. Here’s what it looks like in print.
You know Jeff Beal’s music from such shows as Rome and Monk, but lately he’s gained even greater fame for his music from the Kevin Spacey political series House of Cards (earning three Emmy nominations for that series alone). He’s just finished scoring the third season of the binge-worthy Netflix series, and this story examines just how he’s been doing it — including some very complimentary words from producer Beau Willimon. (There wasn’t room in the story, but I can also highly recommend his music for the upcoming CBS miniseries The Dovekeepers.)
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.)