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 in tone, about the current popularity of television themes — mostly on the streaming services — and how they seem to be more memorable lately.
One of the year’s most fun events was D23, the convention of all things Disney, and to commemorate the third anniversary of my For Scores podcast, we did a special “live” edition with Marvel composers Pinar Toprak (Captain Marvel), Tyler Bates (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Laura Karpman (Ms. Marvel) on stage at the Anaheim (Calif.) Convention Center. We talked about making music for Marvel movies and about the industry in general. If you’re unfamiliar with the podcast, please check it out at https://forscores.com/.
One of the most fun events of the year is the annual conference of the Production Music Association, which represents composers active in the production-music community. This year’s was at the Loew’s Hollywood Hotel and I was delighted to moderate the Q&A with guest composer Pinar Toprak, whose Captain Marvel score earlier this year wowed millions and instantly made her one of the top women in her field. She shared her extraordinary journey, from her childhood in Turkey to her sojourn in America, from Chicago to Berklee to Los Angeles. (L-R: PMA executive director Morgan McKnight, Pinar Toprak, JB)
Word is out: Disney Music Group took out this full-page ad in Variety‘s Music for Screens issue to announce its new podcast, “For Scores,” with me as host. The first four installments will drop on Friday, Aug. 23: Conversations with composers Alan Silvestri (on Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame), Pinar Toprak (Captain Marvel), Harry Gregson-Williams (on Disneynature’s Penguins and Disney’s upcoming Mulan) and Henry Jackman (on the Wreck-It-Ralph movies and Big Hero 6). We’re nearly finished with the next four installments — but Disney will make that announcement in time. I agreed to do this in part because the Disney empire now encompasses Marvel, Pixar, Lucasfilm and 20th Century-Fox, and the possibilities for fascinating conversations with top composers seem endless. More details are here, in Variety‘s news story; Billboard talked to Disney execs about it. Go here to listen!
Wow, two great Variety assignments in a row! First, writing about the year’s first stunning score, John Powell’s How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. And now, the chance to preview Pinar Toprak’s memorable music for Captain Marvel, which opens Friday. It’s a landmark moment not only because Toprak is the first woman to score a Marvel film, but its likely box-office success will shine new light on the unfortunate statistics about gender bias in film scoring. And the film’s huge opening weekend instantly made her the most successful female composer, box-office-wise, in American movie history. I used that statistic as a jumping-off point for a discussion of what this may mean for other women in film music.
Variety, which has been making a much greater effort to cover the Hollywood music scene this year, launched its inaugural Music for Screens Summit on Tuesday, October 30. I was privileged to moderate the score-composer panel, which I dared to declare the most diverse ever — Turkish-born Pinar Toprak (who is starting Captain Marvel), Dutch composer Tom Holkenborg (about to unveil Mortal Engines), Swedish-born Ludwig Goransson (Black Panther), German-Iranian Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones), African-American composer Terence Blanchard (BlacKkKlansman) and New Yorker Marco Beltrami (A Quiet Place). It was a wide-ranging discussion, covering everything from diversity issues to film — and, by extension, film scores — becoming part of the ongoing cultural conversation in America. Video of the entire session is here.
I am proud to say that I have been writing about female film composers for decades (from Shirley Walker to Rachel Portman to Anne Dudley to Lolita Ritmanis and many others along the way). I have waited for many years for a woman to score a big-budget franchise film, and now it’s finally happened. Pinar Toprak, the Istanbul-born, super-talented composer of TV’s Krypton, has been signed to compose the music for Captain Marvel, the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I was delighted to announce it in this Variety story.
It’s only a matter of weeks after Oscar season ends that Emmy season begins. I know, it’s hard to believe, but within the industry — especially the many publicists we deal with on a daily basis — the calendar year has become one long awards season. Still, Emmy season is a great way to catch up on the many fine shows that now grace the small screen, and in this first of a series of stories about Emmy-worthy work in music for television, we look at a handful of potential nominees in the series- and limited-series-scoring categories. In this second story, the role of music in current science-fiction series is examined. A third story looks at the music for four of the season’s top limited series, including Howards End and Patrick Melrose. And a fourth story looks at the odds of documentary scores, including The Vietnam War and Blue Planet II, attaining Emmy glory.
I’ve been fascinated by the backstory of Superman’s home world as long as I’ve been reading DC Comics (which I did, a lot, back in the 1960s). So I was understandably curious about the new series Krypton, which debuted last night on the SyFy channel — and about what kind of music might accompany it. Turkish composer Pinar Toprak is scoring the series (entirely in her home studio, for a largely synthesized sound) and even providing all the background music for the pubs that Superman’s grandfather Seg-El frequents. Here is the Variety story I wrote about Toprak, who producer Cameron Welsh considers “a rising star” among Hollywood composers.
It was a pleasure to moderate a panel at Friday’s ASCAP “I Create Music” Expo at the Loews Hollywood Hotel. The topic was “Women in Film Music” and the panelists included composers Lesley Barber (Manchester by the Sea), Stephanie Economou (The Zookeeper’s Wife), Carly Paradis (Line of Duty) and Pinar Toprak (The Lightkeepers). ASCAP’s Rachel Perkins also introduced Lolita Ritmanis of the Alliance for Women Film Composers and Tracy McKnight of Women in Film, who kicked off the discussion about the expanding profile of female composers for film, TV and games. It was a stimulating hour with these thoughtful, remarkable women and I was honored to be on stage with them.