It’s rare that a dramatic score for a television series becomes a full partner in the storytelling process. That’s one of the reasons I have so enjoyed Anne Dudley’s music for Poldark, the period drama currently playing on PBS’s Masterpiece series (which has already become a sensation in the UK after the BBC aired it earlier this year). Dudley, who was also responsible for the delightful music for another British TV classic, Jeeves & Wooster, talked with me about the Cornish folk-music roots of her score for Poldark — and why the violin plays such a key role.
We lost a beloved figure in the Hollywood music community on Sunday. Van Alexander, the bandleader and composer who (with singer Ella Fitzgerald) wrote the jazz classic “A-Tisket, A-Tasket”; who scored dozens of favorite 1960s sitcoms as well as several cult-classic films; and who wrote a seminal work on arranging for big bands that influenced dozens of arrangers in later years, died at the age of 100. I wrote an obituary for Variety that sums up his career, but I’d also like to point you to a story I wrote about his 100th birthday party just over two months ago that shows how strongly the community felt about him. Van was not only a fantastic musician, he was a sharp and very funny guy.
The 2014-2015 Emmy Award nominees were unveiled this morning. Emmy divides TV music into five categories: original music for a series, original music for a movie/miniseries/special, music direction, music and lyrics (the song category) and main-title theme music. This year’s crop is especially diverse — everything from Penny Dreadful to Transparent — but is equally notable for what wasn’t nominated (songs from Empire or Galavant, for example). Here is a complete rundown with a bit of perspective. (And if Bruce Broughton wins for Texas Rising, his will mark a record 11th Emmy win.) Winners will be announced Sept. 19.
If you grew up in the 1960s, you may well remember the brief but clever themes for the Marvel Super Heroes cartoons that featured Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk and Sub-Mariner. The animation was pretty cheap, admittedly, but as a Marvel Comics fan I watched them all religiously and, truth be told, I can still sing all five of those super-hero songs. I tracked down New York songwriter Jack Urbont, who gave me the surprising story of how he got the gig, where he recorded them, and how they have endured for almost 50 years in American pop culture.
Talk about a fun assignment: Last night, the Los Angeles Philharmonic played Alan Silvestri’s music for the 1985 film Back to the Future “live to picture,” with the estimable David Newman conducting. It was a near-sellout with more than 16,000 people attending, and the crowd cheered every iconic moment in the time-travel romp starring Michael J. Fox. I interviewed the composer about his memories of scoring Back to the Future — which was only his second opportunity to write for orchestra — and why he wrote another 20 minutes of music specifically for these live presentations.