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
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
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
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
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
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
I don’t often get to write about one of my favorite jazz artists: Vince Guaraldi, once famed for his Grammy-winning “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” but now best known for his scores for more than a dozen animated Peanuts specials of the late 1960s and early 1970s. His Charlie Brown Christmas album is said… Read More
Werewolf by Night, which debuted on Disney+ in October, was among the best-reviewed Marvel projects in ages. It really was fun, and the surprise to many was the identity of the director: Michael Giacchino, Oscar- (Up), Emmy- (Lost) and Grammy-winning (Ratatouille) composer. He talked about the experience with me (he scored it, too!) for this… Read More
One of the great thrills of this year was being asked to pen the notes for The Sound of 007 In Concert program, an all-star event held Oct. 4 at London’s Royal Albert Hall. David Arnold, composer of five James Bond film scores including Tomorrow Never Dies and Casino Royale, produced the evening (which later… Read More
Some of today’s most compelling scores are on television, and for science-fiction and fantasy projects. This year’s crop was especially interesting, and I explored several of them in stories for Variety: Bear McCreary talked about his grand-scale music for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power; Amie Doherty and Ramin Djawadi discussed their… Read More
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 https://forscores.com/.
- 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.
- November 30, 2022 at 2:09 pm
For Variety‘s annual Music for Screens summit, online again this year, I interviewed five leading practitioners of the craft of film scoring: Terence Blanchard (The Woman King), Rob Simonsen (The Whale), Chanda Dancy (Devotion), Nicholas Britell (She Said) and Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch (Living), all of whom are being talked about for 2022 awards. The event was sponsored by BMI and the video is here.
- October 14, 2022 at 1:43 pm
On October 13, the Warner Bros. recording stage was the site for a remarkable event: Henry Mancini’s family (notably daughters Monica and Felice, plus Monica’s producer husband Gregg Field) arranged for a new recording of Mancini’s classic TV theme Peter Gunn. Invited to play were John Williams (who played piano on the 1958 original), Herbie Hancock (also on keyboards), Arturo Sandoval (trumpet) and Quincy Jones (longtime friend of the Mancinis) as conductor. The recording will later be heard, and seen, in a documentary aimed at the Mancini Centennial in 2024. I was thrilled to attend and wrote it about it for Variety.
- October 5, 2022 at 9:54 am
The Sound of 007 is a 90-minute documentary on the history of music in the James Bond franchise. Filmmaker Mat Whitecross enlisted me early on as a consultant and on-camera commentator based largely on my book, The Music of James Bond. Over several months I probably did six or seven hours of recording with him, providing background on Monty Norman, John Barry and many of the other composers and songwriters who have contributed music to the series over the past 60 years. I pop up once in a while in the final film, which had the blessing and cooperation of the Broccoli family and Eon Productions. It debuted around the world at the same time on World James Bond Day, Oct. 5, 2022.
- September 23, 2022 at 11:46 am
The Production Music Association invites me every year to interview a major composer at its annual Production Music Conference. This year’s was at the Omni Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, and my guest was Emmy-winning composer Laura Karpman, who had recently finished Ms. Marvel and was beginning work on her next feature film, The Marvels. It was a wide-ranging discussion that included not only her music but also her role as an advocate for marginalized composers (as co-founder of the Alliance for Women Film Composers and as a governor of the Motion Picture Academy). Earlier that month I reported on the amazing rise in the use of production music in broadcast and cable programming.