IFMCA members attend celebration of female composers in Los Angeles

wwsposterIFMCA members Jon Broxton, Craig Lysy, Kaya Savas and Daniel Schweiger recently attended The Women Who Score: Soundtracks Live, a concert celebrating the work of female film composers.

The concert took place on Friday, August 19, 2016 on the Grand Performances Stage at California Plaza in downtown Los Angeles. The concert was produced by Marilee Bradford, who is well known for her work with The Film Music Society, in association with Thomas Mikusz and Chandler Poling of White Bear PR. The concert’s artistic director was Laura Karpman of The Alliance for Women Film Composers.

According to recent statistics, female film composers only scored 2% of the 250 top-grossing films at the US box office in 2015, and the highest-grossing film of all time scored by a woman is 2012’s The Vow, by Rachel Portman, which is 443rd on the list. The Alliance for Women Film Composers is seeking to address that imbalance by working toward greater participation by women in music.

The concert showcased the music of 21 female composers and musicians, and featured an eclectic blend of styles and approaches ranging from contemporary orchestral music to choral pieces, jazz, funk, and world music blends. Juilliard-trained composer and conductor Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum conducted a 55-piece orchestra and a 30-voice choir, as well as various guest soloists and vocalists in front of a 2,000-person strong audience.

The concert was structured as six distinct movements – “The Protectors,” “The Seekers,” “The Heroes,” “The Icons,” “The Rebels,” and “The Dreamers” – each of which was introduced by a leading female entertainment industry executive or artist, including CEO of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Dawn Hudson, Executive Vice-President of Marvel Studios Victoria Alonso, Los Angeles-based artist Margaret Garcia, and performing artist Butterscotch. The entire evening was dedicated to the memory of composer Shirley Walker (1945-2006), a pioneer of female film composing, who scored major titles such as Memoirs of an Invisible Man, Final Destination, and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, whose powerhouse choral overture opened the concert.

Highlights of the first half of evening included the beautiful chamber piece “Plymouth Chorale” from the upcoming film Manchester-by-the-Sea by Lesley Barber, the soulful song “Safely Home” written and performed by composer and pianist Kathryn Bostic, the jazz-infused music from the TV series In the Heat of the Night by Nan Schwartz, and the dream-like ambient string textures from the documentary feature Stockholm Pennsylvania by conductor Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum.

The orchestral suite of music from the TV series Bones by Julia Newmann brought the house down with its stylish blend of verdant emotional strings, upbeat jazz, and 1970s-inspired funk rock. Legendary pianist Mike Lang brought his effortlessly sensitive touch to a number of pieces, including IFMCA-nominated composer Rachel Portman’s The Cider House Rules, while erhu virtuoso Karen Han gave a taste of the orient to composer Germaine Franco’s raucous, action-packed music for the “immersive reality ride” based on the hit animated film Kung Fu Panda 3. The performance of composer Jessica Curry’s IFMCA-nominated game score Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture featured stunningly realized soprano solo vocals, and composer Lolita Ritmanis conducted a suite of her own powerful scores for several of the Warner Brothers animated super hero movies.

The second half of the concert opened with Miriam Cutler’s wonderful Gershwin-inspired music for the 2012 documentary feature Ethel, and continued with performances such as Starr Parodi’s warm and tender The Festival of the Masters, Heather McIntosh’s intense classical cello score for Compliance, and Wendy Blackstone’s wonderful Herrmannesque finale from the film Love Walked In, a festival of creepy-beautiful string writing, elegant piano textures, and fine chorus.

Israeli-born composer Sharon Farber wowed the crowd with a suite of music from three of her scores – Children of the Fall, When Nietzsche Wept, and The Dove – the latter of which featured spectacular performances by soloists Navid Kandelousi and Sirvan Manhoubi. Composer and performer Lili Haydn undertook the unique double act of singing and playing the violin simultaneously on a performance of a track from her studio album Places Between Places, and then continued to provide the violin solos on a track from Bulgarian composer Penka Kouneva’s soaring, majestic, celebratory concept album The Woman Astronaut.

Legendary composer and songwriter Diane Warren took to the piano herself to perform the searing, emotional song “Til It Happens To You” from the documentary The Hunting Ground, which she co-wrote with Lady Gaga and which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2015. The concert concluded with a performance of the rousing, powerful, Deep South-inspired music from the acclaimed TV show Underground, with composer Laura Karpman and guest vocalists Raphael Saadiq, Butterscotch, Carmen Twillie and Taura Stinson.

The IFMCA is honored to be able to support these outstanding female composers, and celebrate their work. The IFMCA has a history of recognizing the work of female film composers; Turkish-born composer Pinar Toprak received back-to-back IFMCA awards in 2010 for The Lightkeepers and in 2011 for The Wind Gods, and the association has nominated scores by female composers such as Sarah Class, Jane Antonia Cornish, Lisa Gerrard, Victoria Kelly, Mica Levi, Zeltia Montes, Eímear Noone, Winifred Phillips, Sarah Schachner, Maribeth Solomon, Debbie Wiseman, and Rachel Zeffira, as well as the aforementioned Jessica Curry and Rachel Portman.

With thanks to Ray Costa and Chandler Poling. Photographs courtesy of Omri Lahav, Craig Lysy, Gino Mifsud, Kaya Savas. Click on the thumbnails below for larger images:

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IFMCA, World Soundtrack Awards, collaborate on 2016 WSA Public Choice Award

wsaThe International Film Music Critics Association is delighted to announce a new partnership with Film Fest Gent and the World Soundtrack Awards.

This year, for the first time, members of the IFMCA were asked to create the shortlist for the 2016 WSA Public Choice Award, the winner of which will be revealed at the 16th World Soundtrack Awards Gala, taking place in Ghent, Belgium, on the October 19th.

Members of the IFMCA voted for the best scores written for films released between 1 July 2015 and 30 June 2016, and the following 30 scores were chosen as representing the most outstanding work created during that period:

  • 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, Bear McCreary
  • ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS, Danny Elfman
  • BRIDGE OF SPIES, Thomas Newman
  • CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, Henry Jackman
  • CAROL, Carter Burwell
  • CREED, Ludwig Göransson
  • CRIMSON PEAK, Fernando Velázquez
  • EDDIE THE EAGLE, Matthew Margeson
  • ELLE, Anne Dudley
  • EN MAI, FAIS CE QU’IL TE PLAÎT, Ennio Morricone
  • GODS OF EGYPT, Marco Beltrami
  • THE HATEFUL EIGHT, Ennio Morricone
  • HIGH RISE, Clint Mansell
  • A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING, Johnny Klimek and Tom Tykwer
  • IN THE HEART OF THE SEA, Roque Baños
  • JÄRVEN TARINA [TALE OF A LAKE], Panu Aaltio
  • THE JUNGLE BOOK, John Debney
  • THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., Daniel Pemberton
  • MISCONDUCT, Federico Jusid
  • MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION, Joe Kraemer
  • THE NEON DEMON, Cliff Martinez
  • THE NICE GUYS, John Ottman and David Buckley
  • NOW YOU SEE ME 2, Brian Tyler
  • PAN, John Powell
  • THE REVENANT, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto, and Bryce Dessner
  • SICARIO, Jóhann Jóhannsson
  • STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, John Williams
  • STEVE JOBS, Daniel Pemberton
  • THE WALK, Alan Silvestri
  • X-MEN: APOCALYPSE, John Ottman

All members of the public may vote for the WSA Public Choice Award via the website at http://www.worldsoundtrackawards.com/en/awards. The deadline for voting is September 9th, 2016.

The World Soundtrack Awards are presented annually to mark and celebrate outstanding achievements in scoring music for motion pictures. It is part of the annual Film Fest Gent, which has been held in the city of Ghent, Belgium, since 2000, and this year takes place between October 11th and October 21st.

Introducing the Critic: Olivier Desbrosses

Olivier DesbrossesTell us a little about your background, both personally and professionally (in terms of film music). How did you first discover film music?

Movies have always been present in my family. In his youth, before I was born, my father used to run a film club. Later, when I was a kid, he used to volunteer every weekend as a projectionist in the movie theater of the small town where we lived. So I have very early cinema-related memories: I remember fondly the super-heated projection booth, the sound of the projector and the smell of the hot (and sometimes burning) film roll… Moreover, there was always music at home, because my mother is very fond of classical music. Rummaging through her records, I found quite interesting stuff, like the 45rpm release of Miklos Rozsa’s Ben-Hur, or a best of Ennio Morricone’s westerns. Meanwhile, I was increasingly paying attention to music in movies, both in feature films and on TV. And then Star Wars happened, which made me purchase my first movie soundtrack. After this important discovery, I became passionate about sci-fi: I was reading and watching everything related to it, and I started to buy the soundtracks of every sci-fi movie that I got to see (and even of movies that I didn’t see). So, almost at the same time as John Williams, I discovered Jerry Goldsmith with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The more I listened to the work of these composers, the more I wanted to know and hear everything. Very often, while watching movies on TV, I used to record the audio track from the TV speaker on a small tape recorder. Soon, I stopped limiting myself to a single genre of movies and I broadened my horizon to everything else, and to many other composers. And as I was becoming interested in many different types of music, the list grew quickly!

Meanwhile, I continued to listen to anything I could find on LP, and Elmer Bernstein, John Barry, Ennio Morricone, John Carpenter, Philippe Sarde, Georges Delerue, Maurice Jarre, and then Basil Poledouris, James Horner and many others entered my collection. I devoured articles devoted to music in many magazines, and even subscribed to the Soundtrack! Magazine, even though I could barely understand any English (which led me to progress quickly!). It was also at that point that I decided to work in the movie business, and I left my hometown to conquer Paris, only 17 years-old, and join a film school to learn all about editing and directing. I followed my course, directed some short films, and occupied every imaginable position on a movie set, whether for videos, short movies and even one or two feature films, before changing my career path, mainly for financial reasons. At the same time, I started to write movie reviews for a fanzine, always paying special attention to the music. A short experience that would nevertheless have a significant impact on the following years.

How did you begin your online magazine? Tell us a little about its history, and what you do now in terms of film music journalism.

In the late 90s, I was involved for a time into a movie magazine called Mad Movies, as a film critic but also writing about film music. Then in 1999, I had the opportunity to meet Michael Kamen, who came to France for a concert of his music. This first interview is for me very important for several reasons, not only because Kamen was a wonderful and passionate man, but also because on that day, I met Florent Groult, who would become a decade later the co-founder of UnderScores. From 2005, I started to travel to film music festivals, including the one in Ubeda, Spain, during which I met many enthusiasts, amateurs and professionals, and interviewed numerous composers, including an epic interview with Basil Poledouris shortly before his death. Florent and I were already considering to create a film music magazine, but at that time printed magazines began to falter and every film music-related magazine started to disappear one after another.

Nevertheless, we continued to talk about it, and as I was a big consumer of web content, the idea of ​​creating an online magazine started to take shape. This format also allowed it to exist without the need to be financially profitable. So I learned the basics of HTML and PHP, created the site from scratch, and in September 2008, we launched UnderScores, a webzine dedicated to screen music in all its diversity. By chance, the only French existing webzine at that time, Traxzone, ceased to exist just prior to our launch, involuntarily helping us to attract their readers on UnderScores and its forum. This adventure began almost eight years ago, and UnderScores is now the most visited website dedicated to film music of the French speaking world. The website core team usually amounts to a dozen, assisted by many more occasional contributors, and I’ve been the editor-in-chief since the beginning. I also had the opportunity to give lectures on film music, contribute to TV and radio shows, and be part of the jury of the Jerry Goldsmith Awards for several years.

What, in your opinion, are the things that are necessary for a film score to be successful?

A good score gives the film an extra voice, almost like an additional character, and enriches it on every level: aesthetic, emotional, narrative. Music can plays an active part of the fabric of the film, or be a counterpoint to the visual elements. It gives birth to various emotions without ever forcing the audience, without twisting the arms of the viewer. A good score doesn’t work as audio wallpaper, whose primary function is to decorate the picture without disturbing, not ever to be noticed. A good score is not necessarily ubiquitous, it simply comes when necessary. Finally, for the audience, it’s the melody that will make the whole thing memorable, and allow it to exist outside of the film. It is the peculiarity of great scores: they transcend the film for which they were created to live an independent life, and eventually enter the collective consciousness.

What is your opinion of the film music industry as it stands today, especially in France?

The ways film scores are created have changed a lot during the last two decades. Most of the time, directors use music in their film because they do not want to take the risk to do without it, but they do it while never asking themselves if it contributes to the success of the film. Their interest in music itself is limited: it’s only expected to be discreet, without any distinct personality. Only a few filmmakers use the score as a separate voice. Moreover, the technology has evolved, and because of digital editing, it is uncommon for composers to see a locked version of the film before starting to compose. The music must now be malleable in order to be more easily cut and reassembled according the editing changes of the movie. Composers must constantly adapt to a film that keeps changing rhythm, and it is difficult to craft a highly sophisticated score in these conditions.

Outside of big-budgeted movies, the money available to hire musicians for a film score is also reducing more and more. Orchestras and soloists are very often replaced by samples or an electronic approach. Moreover, for twenty years, the Zimmer school of composing gave the new generation of viewers (but also producers and directors) a taste for a generic musical style, even in France, where a few composers formed at Media Ventures/Remote Control are working today. However, even if we generally go firmly towards an impoverishment of music, some very talented composers become very visible by contrast, like Alexandre Desplat. But it is very difficult for a young talent to make his mark in a movie business asking more and more for wallpaper music. Luckily, in France, we are fortunate to have established talents like Desplat, Bruno Coulais, Philippe Rombi, Gabriel Yared, but also promising challengers: Eric Neveux, Pierre Adenot, Cyrille Aufort. And every year, we can discover new talents, not only from France, but also from all over the world, waiting to be revealed as soon as a film project gives them enough freedom to allow their creativity to express itself.

Who do you think are the best film music composers, historically and working today? What is it about their music that appeals to you?

It is not the place to list everyone, and it would be way too long! I would simply say that among the composers of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Miklós Rózsa and Bernard Herrmann are for me the most flamboyant. Jerry Goldsmith holds a very special place in the Silver Age through his boldness and versatility while John Williams made a near-perfect career without losing any inspiration on the way. Lalo Schifrin is the undisputed king of the groove, and that the irreplaceable voice of Ennio Morricone has resonated with uniqueness for over 50 years. Among the 80s generation, I particularly love the work of the late Michael Kamen and Basil Poledouris (and his monumental Conan the Barbarian), but also many other composers with strong musical personalities: Danny Elfman, Alan Silvestri, Christopher Young, Howard Shore, James Newton Howard, Patrick Doyle.

Beyond the legends that are still working today, Michael Giacchino and Marco Beltrami are the most outstanding composers of the new generation. Giacchino is able to link tradition and modernity by creating a very thematic music, technical but also very immediate, with a very personal and recognizable style, always in perfect harmony with the medium for which he composes, whether a game, movie or TV show. As for Beltrami, he’s a master at experimenting, taking risks and trying unexpected ways to give a unique personality to the movies. But there are many other composers of diverse origins who frequently offer exciting scores: Abel Korzeniowski, Roque Baños, Fernando Velázquez, Daniel Pemberton, Joe Kraemer, Panu Aaltio. In France, Desplat is incredibly productive and versatile. His music is remarkably elegant and that’s probably what also explains its success everywhere in the world. One can also mention those who are not necessarily into orchestral music, but expressed themselves through electronic music, for creative reasons: Daft Punk, Robin Coudert. Finally, there are also a lot of talents coming from TV (Bear McCreary, Murray Gold, Maurizio Malagnini) or video games (Austin Wintory, Jason Graves). Of course, this list is neither exhaustive nor static, and will hopefully evolve over tomorrow’s discoveries!

Read Olivier’s reviews at Underscores, like his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter at @HellboyLeRouge

Douglas Pipes receives IFMCA Award for Krampus

Douglas PipesComposer Douglas Pipes has been presented with the International Film Music Critics Association Awards for Best Original Score for a Comedy by IFMCA members Jon Broxton, Craig Lysy, and Kaya Savas, for his score for Krampus.

This is Pipes’s first IFMCA win, from his third nomination. He was previously nominated for Breakthrough Film Composer of the Year following his debut mainstream score, Monster House, in 2006, and was nominated for Best Original Score for a Horror/Thriller Film for Trick ‘r Treat in 2009. The other nominees in the category this year were The Lady in the Van by George Fenton; La Rançon de la Gloire by Michel Legrand; The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Thomas Newman; and Spy by Theodore Shapiro.

Krampus is a Christmas-themed comedy horror based on various supernatural legends prevalent in German-speaking areas of Austria and Switzerland about an ‘anti-Santa Claus’, a terrifying monster who visits children’s homes over the festive period, and carries the naughty off to hell. Directed by Michael Dougherty, the film stars Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, and Emjay Anthony, as members of an American family who accidentally summon the demon to their home during an especially stressful holiday.

Pipes’s score is a wonderful blend of Tchaikovsky-inspired classical music, thunderous orchestral action and horror pieces, tender lyricism full of longing and regret, and adaptations of popular Christmas carols, including a delicious reworking of the classic “Carol of the Bells” given new lyrics to suit its contemporary setting, and the nature of the beast. IFMCA member Mihnea Manduteanu said the score was “a lot of fun” and that the “suspense was thick and palpable,” and IFMCA member Daniel Schweiger describes the score as “boisterously rampaging … packed with Christmas evil as Paganistic percussion, malefic melody and twisted choruses plunge the characters into a terrifying Christmas twilight zone,” while IFMCA member Jon Broxton said that Pipes “crafted a truly outstanding score which takes all the familiar seasonal stereotypes – carols, choirs, sleigh bells – and subverted them with a barrage of orchestral bravado, stylish suspense and horror passages, and a great big humorous twinkle in his eye.”

A Los Angeles native, Pipes began scoring student and indie films in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but put his career on hold to further hone his composition and orchestration skills, subsequently attending California State University Northridge, Kingston University in London, and IRCAM in Paris. While studying film scoring at UCLA, Pipes met aspiring filmmaker Gil Kenan, who asked him to score his award-winning short film, The Lark, which directly led to him making his mainstream feature debut on Kenan’s Oscar-nominated animated feature Monster House. In addition to Trick ‘r Treat and Krampus, Pipes’s other recent credits include the indie comedy Little Paradise (2014), and the Lifetime movies If There Be Thorns and Seeds of Yesterday (both 2015). As well as his film work, Pipes provides arrangements and orchestrations for the rock band The Airborne Toxic Event, and in 2014 was commissioned by the Dallas Chamber Symphony Orchestra to write a brand new score for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1927 silent film The Lodger.

Click here to watch “The Composers Speak”, a 15-minute interview with Pipes accepting his IFMCA Award and talking about the score.

Click on the thumbnails for larger images:

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Joe Kraemer receives IFMCA Award for Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Joe KraemerComposer Joe Kraemer has been presented with the International Film Music Critics Association Award for Best Original Score for an Action/Adventure/Thriller by IFMCA members Jon Broxton, Craig Lysy, and Kaya Savas, for his score for Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.

This is Kraemer’s first win, from his first nomination. The other nominees in the category were Kingsman: The Secret Service by Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson; The Man from U.N.C.L.E. by Daniel Pemberton; The Revenant by Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto, and Bryce Dessner; and Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn by Robert Gulya.

Directed by Christopher McQuarrie, Rogue Nation is the fifth entry in the massively popular and successful Mission: Impossible film series. The film stars Tom Cruise as former IMF agent Ethan Hunt, who locks horns with a shadowy organization called The Syndicate, which is trying to trying to bring about a new world order through a series of increasingly deadly terrorist attacks; to combat the threat, Hunt calls on the help from several members of his old team (Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Ving Rhames), and joins forces with a British spy (Rebecca Ferguson), who may have secrets of her own.

Kraemer’s score builds on Lalo Schifrin’s classic themes from the original television show, but takes them in new and interesting directions, incorporating them into his spectacular action writing and exotic location-specific set pieces. A sinister new theme for the main antagonist, Solomon Lane, gives the score a shadowy undertone, while excerpts from Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma” from Turandot act as the score’s emotional core. IFMCA member James Southall called Kraemer’s music “intelligent, entertaining, and old school in the best way”. IFMCA member Kaya Savas called the score “the best one in the franchise so far,” IFMCA member Christian Clemmensen said the score marks a “return to the glory of Lalo Schifrin’s original music for the 1960’s television series … adapting its melodies and orchestrations brilliantly into easily the franchise’s best score to date,” and IFMCA member Jon Broxton called it “a truly outstanding score”.

Joe Kraemer was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1971. He studied at Berklee School of Music in Boston, and resolved to become a film composer; through mutual friends he met filmmakers Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie, which led to him scoring his first feature film, The Way of the Gun, in 2000, which McQuarrie directed. Kraemer spent most of the 2000s working on low-profile independent features and TV shows, including The Hitcher 2: I’ve Been Waiting (2003), House of the Dead 2 (2005), Room 6 (2006), Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead (2008), and the Showtime anthology series Femme Fatales (2011), before returning to prominence again in 2012 when he scored McQuarrie’s adaptation of Lee Child’s popular novels about military detective Jack Reacher, starring Tom Cruise.

Click here to watch “The Composers Speak”, a 20-minute interview with Kraemer accepting his IFMCA Award and talking about the score.

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