A Los Angeles Times assignment to interview all of the principals associated with the music of Motherless Brooklyn turned out to be irresistible. Director Edward Norton’s detective drama takes place in late 1950s New York, so he enlisted jazz legend Wynton Marsalis as consultant and arranger of the Harlem club standards seen and heard on screen; Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, whose sad song “Daily Battles” plays a key role in the storytelling; and film composer Daniel Pemberton, whose experiments with saxophone riffs, lyrical themes and modern-music sensibility tied it all together in the end.
Mission: Impossible composer Lalo Schifrin says he’s given up scoring movies (maybe!) but, at 84, he is still writing potent music for the classical world. His new guitar concerto, his second for renowned soloist Angel Romero, will debut Tuesday night at the Hollywood Bowl (with Gustavo Dudamel conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic). In this piece for the Los Angeles Times, I interviewed the five-time Grammy winner about his concerto, about writing for films vs. the concert hall, and about the enduring legacy of a 1966 TV theme that remains his most famous work. (I also talked to Romero, who laughed and said Schifrin’s guitar writing was “diabolical” — as in difficult.)
You may not know the name, but you almost certainly know the face. Paul Dooley, who has played dozens of “dads” from Breaking Away to Sixteen Candles — and in several of my favorite Robert Altman films, including Wimpy in Popeye — is about to launch a one-man show (amusingly titled “Upright and Personal”) looking back at his 64-year career as a character actor on stage, in films and on TV. It was a delight to spend time with Dooley for this Los Angeles Times profile; and to talk with his wife Winnie Holzman (creator of one of my favorite series, My So-Called Life) and fellow actor Dennis Christopher.
The upcoming L.A. stop on the national tour of Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage, a two-hour concert of Trek music commemorating the franchise’s 50th anniversary, offered an opportunity to examine the long history of Star Trek scores and the many composers who contributed along the way, from Alexander Courage to Jerry Goldsmith. Comments by veteran composers Gerald Fried, Dennis McCarthy and Jay Chattaway, along with concert conductor Justin Freer and even William Shatner himself, are included in this Sunday Los Angeles Times piece.
Classical KUSC’s Brian Lauritzen asked me to join him on stage at Disney Hall last night to help preview the L.A. Philharmonic concert that included Leonard Bernstein’s fabulous suite from On the Waterfront. We talked about the circumstances of Bernstein’s hiring and his remarkable grasp of writing dramatic music for film (his one and only attempt at it). James Gaffigan conducted, and it was a thrilling performance (the concert also included Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” and Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 3). Brushing up on my Waterfront lore (using the book chapter I wrote and the Criterion disc commentary I had done), I discovered that I had once written about this score for the Los Angeles Times! Here’s that piece.
The L.A. Times asked for a piece linking Wagner’s 19th-century leitmotifs with today’s film music, notably that of Williams (in the Star Wars films) and Howard Shore (in the Lord of the Rings trilogy). It was an offbeat assignment that put me in touch with scholars who shared interesting perspectives.
In the summer of 2010, Harry Gregson-Williams had two new films coming out: Prince of Persia, which was a better score than a movie, and Shrek Forever After, the last of the big-screen Shrek films (and Harry’s sixth Shrek project for DreamWorks). It was a great excuse to revisit his entire career for the Los Angeles Times, including new interviews with several producer and director collaborators including Jerry Bruckheimer, Mike Newell, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Tony Scott.
Here‘s a preview of an all-Disney-music concert that John Mauceri conducted at L.A.’s Disney Hall in 2009. This was a great opportunity to review some of the hits from the Disney canon as well as having the experts (Mauceri, Ross Care, Thomas Schumacher) chime in on the symphonic nature of many of the early Disney scores.
The summer of 2009 was a big one for composer Michael Giacchino: He had already done Up (which would later win him an Academy Award) and Star Trek and he was still doing TV’s Lost. This was a profile for the L.A. Times. And here’s Michael and me some years later at the Hollywood Bowl.
Upon the death of French composer Maurice Jarre, the Los Angeles Times asked me to write about his music and its impact, both on the films he scored and popular culture generally. Here‘s that piece. I liked Maurice very much, and it was a pleasure to tape a long video “oral history” of him for the Film Music Foundation.