Latest Articles

This year’s Oscar race for song and score

Monday, March 13th, 2023 at 10:59 am

The Oscar nominations for 2022 were announced on January 24, and four of the five best score nominations went to previous winners or nominees. I spent some time analyzing the races, and here is a pair of Variety stories that look in depth at the five song and five score nominations with a few words… Read More

John Williams talks “Fabelmans,” “Indy 5”

Friday, February 24th, 2023 at 10:52 am

At 91, composer John Williams is still so busy that it’s hard to pin him down for an interview. But I was able to do that on Thursday morning and on Friday Variety posted the story. He talks about reuniting with director Steven Spielberg for The Fabelmans, loosely based on the filmmaker’s childhood; about eight… Read More

Gerald Fried of “Roots” and “Star Trek” fame dies

Saturday, February 18th, 2023 at 11:15 am

Gerald Fried was the first composer I ever interviewed, back in 1974. I had been a huge fan of his work on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and he gave me a wonderful half-hour. He went on to collect an Emmy for the landmark miniseries Roots and even greater fame for his iconic Star Trek battle… Read More

Hildur Guðnadóttir profile

Monday, January 9th, 2023 at 11:30 am

Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, who took the business by storm a couple of years ago — earning an Emmy for Chernobyl and an Oscar for Joker — was back in town recently to discuss her music for Tar and Women Talking. It was a rare opportunity for me to write a cover story for Variety,… Read More

New John Williams theme for college football

Friday, January 6th, 2023 at 9:50 am

Ninety-year-old John Williams, who has hinted that his music for Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans and the forthcoming Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny will be his last for films, still can’t seem to slow down. In December, he recorded a new three-and-a-half minute piece for ESPN’s coverage of the College Football Playoff National Championship,… Read More

Women composers in film; popularity of TV themes

Sunday, January 1st, 2023 at 9:27 am

Once in a while my editors at Variety will commission an essay on a topic of current interest. They asked for two in December, and I found both fascinating: A long piece looking at the progress, or lack thereof, that women composers have been making in film and TV music; and a second, somewhat lighter… Read More

Best of 2022 in Classic Film Soundtracks

Thursday, December 29th, 2022 at 7:09 pm

The rest of the music world may have gone digital, but the record labels that cater to movie-music fans continue to produce first-rate soundtrack albums (actual physical product!) that focus on classic scores or previously unreleased ones. And many contain detailed liner notes that go into greater depth about the music than has ever been… Read More

The 2022 Oscar Shortlist

Wednesday, December 21st, 2022 at 12:08 pm

A few years ago, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ music branch — the approximately 400 composers, songwriters and music editors who decide the Oscar nomination slate for songs and scores — returned to an old practice: the “shortlist,” a way of winnowing down the vast number entered (this year, 147 scores and… Read More

Composers up for awards this season

Wednesday, December 7th, 2022 at 12:03 pm

Every year, mostly in November and December, Variety asks me to see a nonstop barrage of new movies and interview their composers. This year’s crop included Justin Hurwitz for Babylon, Marcelo Zarvos for Emancipation, Chanda Dancy for Devotion, Nicholas Britell for She Said, Ludwig Goransson for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Hildur Guonadottir for Tar, Terence… Read More

Grammys finally add a video game music category!

Tuesday, November 15th, 2022 at 12:16 pm

This year the Recording Academy finally added a category for game music soundtracks. It’s a far more important issue in the composer community than ever before, considering the vast number of games being played and the high quality of music now being composed for them, by some of the most talented people in the industry…. Read More

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In Person

  • Book signing Thursday, March 23!

    March 18, 2023 at 9:01 am

    I will be at Hollywood’s number-one bookstore for film and TV, Larry Edmunds Bookshop, at 7 p.m. Thursday, 6644 Hollywood Boulevard. I will be in conversation with old friend and fellow author Steven C. Smith (Music by Max Steiner) and then signing my latest book, Music for Prime Time. Hope everyone in the Los Angeles area will come out to say hello and buy my magnum opus!

  • With Sally Stevens at Vibrato

    March 13, 2023 at 1:11 pm

    Veteran singer and choral contractor Sally Stevens has written a book about her life (I Sang That: A Memoir From Hollywood) and, to celebrate, she organized an evening at Herb Alpert’s wonderful jazz club, Vibrato. She performed, presented some video montages of memorable moments in her career, and asked me to join her onstage for a 20-minute Q&A. It was great fun and the house was filled with supportive, enthusiastic friends and family.

  • Discussing Oscar songs on NPR

    February 27, 2023 at 2:49 pm

    The fun people at Boston’s NPR station WBUR invited me on their “Hear and Now” program again this year to discuss the five nominated songs at this year’s Oscar ceremony. It was a chance to talk about Lady Gaga (“Hold My Hand”), Rihanna (“Lift Me Up”), David Byrne and Mitski (“This Is a Life”), Sofia Carson (“Applause”) and the team behind the songs in “RRR” (“Naatu Naatu”). Here is a link to listen to the 10-minute segment.

  • New book signing!

    February 27, 2023 at 11:48 am

    I am happy to announce that not only is my new book soon to be available, but we are actually doing an in-person signing at the ideal venue: Larry Edmunds Bookshop in Hollywood. Final details are still to be worked out, but the date will be Thursday, March 23. Look forward to seeing you at 6644 Hollywood Boulevard that evening.

  • Music for “Andor”

    January 18, 2023 at 7:09 am

    I have to watch a lot of media for my job, and very often there isn’t time to watch multiple hours of television before having to interview a composer about their work. But in the case of Andor, the latest addition to the Star Wars universe, I was hooked and did in fact watch all 12 hours of the compelling backstory of Cassian Andor (played by Diego Luna). I interviewed composer Nicholas Britell for two Variety pieces — one announcing his involvement, the other discussing his approach to this unusually novelistic saga — and finally interviewed both Britell and showrunner Tony Gilroy about their years-long collaboration on the project for an SCL event.

  • A Spielberg-Williams interview for Cinematheque

    January 13, 2023 at 11:03 am

    The American Cinematheque sponsored a two-hour live Q&A with Steven Spielberg and John Williams, talking about their 50-year collaboration, on Jan. 12 at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills. It was a once-in-a-lifetime event and I was honored to be the moderator. I was also effectively the co-producer, as I chose all 12 clips (from Jaws and E.T. to Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List) and prepared all of the questions — everything from how they met to their work process and their thoughts about the use of music in cinema. It was hugely successful (the cast of The Fabelmans even attended) and a thrill for me to be on stage with this extraordinary duo. Two excellent summaries of the evening: Chris Willman’s, for Variety; and Scott Feinberg’s, for The Hollywood Reporter. And an eight-minute video condensation of highlights.

  • Q&As with composers and songwriters

    December 20, 2022 at 2:17 pm

    It’s been a wild couple of months doing almost constant live Q&As with composers and songwriters for the current crop of Oscar hopefuls. For the Society of Composers & Lyricists alone there have been nearly a dozen. Some of the more memorable ones have been Tar with composer Hildur Guonadottir and director Todd Field; White Noise with Danny Elfman; Pinocchio with composer Alexandre Desplat and director Guillermo del Toro; The Banshees of Inisherin with Carter Burwell; Glass Onion with Nathan Johnson; A Man Called Otto with composer Thomas Newman and producer-songwriter Rita Wilson; and Spirited with songwriters Benj Pasek, Justin Paul and Khiyon Hursey.

  • “For Scores” Podcasts

    December 15, 2022 at 10:16 am

    This year’s season of podcasts was shortened due to COVID, but we did manage to do six, many of them remotely (thanks to the wonderful engineers and staff at the legendary Village recording studios in West L.A.): David Newman and Matt Sullivan for their work on West Side Story; Natalie Holt on both Loki and Obi-Wan Kenobi; Laura Karpman on Ms. Marvel; Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard on Pinocchio; and Alan Menken on Disenchanted. This is a Disney Music Group production (available wherever you get your podcasts) and you can find our updated list at

  • Steiner documentary debuts on TCM

    December 5, 2022 at 7:30 pm

    Filmmaker Diana Friedberg realized a long-held ambition to produce a documentary on the pioneering film composer Max Steiner. I was delighted to be part of a team of writers and musicians who helped shed light on this fascinating Viennese master, and the film’s debut on TCM is cause for celebration among all of us who care about this music. I am on camera as well as Steiner biographer Steven C. Smith, conductor William Stromberg, orchestrator and music historian John W. Morgan (who actually knew Max!) and archivist James D’Arc, among others. The film is called Max Steiner: Maestro of Movie Music.

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