This past weekend I joined composer Howard Shore onstage at Heinz Hall for a unique concert experience with the Pittsburgh Symphony. Between pieces conducted by Ludwig Wicki, Howard and I talked about his career; his collaboration with such celebrated directors as Martin Scorsese, Peter Jackson and David Cronenberg; and how The Lord of the Rings changed his life. The concerts included the world premiere of his The Hobbit: Four Movements for Symphony Orchestra, a 30-minute distillation of many of the themes and motifs from his scores for Jackson’s recent Hobbit trilogy of films. Along the way we got to hear such classic Shores scores as The Fly, Ed Wood (with original theremin soloist Lydia Kavina), The Silence of the Lambs, Hugo and (of course) music from Lord of the Rings. Here is a review, which nicely summarizes the proceedings. (Photo courtesy @ShelaghSings)
Bob Drasnin was one of the last of the great composers of the classic era of TV that spanned the 1950s through the 1980s. He scored everything from The Twilight Zone and Playhouse 90 to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Mission: Impossible. I was proud to have included excepts from all of his U.N.C.L.E. music on the albums I produced for FSM a few years ago. In his later years he was a teacher and mentor to dozens if not hundreds of film-scoring students… and he was a nice guy with great, often very funny, stories about his years in the trenches. Here is the obituary I wrote for Variety; and here is a longer, more detailed appreciation of his work.
Howard Shore finally bids adieu to Middle-earth with his music for the sixth and final film in Peter Jackson’s series of adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien novels. His estimated 14 hours of music for The Lord of the Rings trilogy, plus another seven or so for the Hobbit trilogy, may constitute some kind of record for a single composer at work on a film series… certainly one that required nearly 100 musicians and another 100 or so singers on each film. I interviewed Shore about this, and about how director Jackson and writer Tolkien have changed his life since he began this odyssey 14 years ago.
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.
When I was producing the first Man From U.N.C.L.E. album, I was unaware that its fourth-season composer had passed away. I really loved Dick Shores’ music, not only for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. but also for The Wild Wild West, It Takes a Thief, Hawaii Five-0 and other series of the 1960s and ’70s. I met him in 1991 and had a fun time at his house. I was astonished that there were no obituaries and his death had seemingly gone unnoticed. I decided at that point to write a long chronicle of his life and career, which begins here, continues here and concludes here. His daughter and her family were wonderfully cooperative and supplied some of the photos that accompany these pieces. I took the color shot that tops the final piece.
Not so much a book as a journal: The July/October 2013 issue of The Cue Sheet, the quarterly publication of The Film Music Society. Utilizing nearly four dozen never-before-seen photographs, this 64-page booklet goes behind the scenes to tell the previously untold story of the greatest film-music concert in history, Sept. 25, 1963 at the Hollywood Bowl.
That night Elmer Bernstein, John Green, Bernard Herrmann, Henry Mancini, Alfred Newman, Alex North, David Raksin, Miklos Rozsa, Dimitri Tiomkin and Franz Waxman conducted their own scores — with Percy Faith conducting Max Steiner and Nelson Riddle conducting a medley of TV themes, plus guest artists Jack Benny, Mahalia Jackson and Andy Williams. It was the largest-scale public project ever attempted by the Composers and Lyricists Guild of America. (Amateur photographers Raksin, composer of Laura, and Alexander Courage, later the composer of Star Trek, documented the rehearsals.) In addition to the photographs, images of the posters, tickets, even parking passes and newspaper clippings of the reviews, accompany my 9,000-word chronicle of this once-in-a-lifetime event (and its April 1964 sequel, with fewer participants, that was taped for later TV showings).
Editor Marilee Bradford — who originally discovered Raksin’s previously unseen Polaroids — did a stunning job of preparing the photos and laying out the issue. Here’s an overview and a link showing how to order it.
This is one of many writing projects that I’ve done for The Film Music Society of which I’m very proud. (Another is my 52-page biography of Revue/Universal music director Stanley Wilson, published in 2001 and shown here in the hands of Quincy Jones, Wilson’s 1960s scoring protege.)