A trend in journalism is generally defined by three or more happenings in the same field. So when I discovered that James Newton Howard (The Hunger Games) had written a cello concerto, Danny Elfman (Alice in Wonderland) a violin concerto and George S. Clinton (the Austin Powers movies) another violin concerto, I thought “here’s a trend” and decided to write a story. In fact, I discovered at least half a dozen concert works by composers generally known for their film music are getting premieres in the next six months — and that more than a half-dozen others had debuted in the past year, with still more on the way. It’s not just John Williams, it’s Michael Giacchino and John Powell and Bruce Broughton and Jeff Beal and many others. Here is that story for Variety.
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.
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.)