John Williams and Steven Spielberg working on the score for E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982). Pure magic.
At its worst, it’s just noise in the background. At its best, it can carry a movie and trigger a violently emotional response from the audience. Film music has been a constant part of my life since my teens when I started buying CD soundtracks. One of my first was Howard Shore’s The Silence of the Lambs (1991). Jerry Goldsmith’s The Omen (1976) is still a frightening masterpiece; I remember listening to “Ave Satani” with some trepidation in my boyhood room.
In the past few years I’ve been creating and updating my own Spotify lists of composers. It’s been an opportunity to explore their scores and pick favorite pieces, old ones and newly discovered. In this blog entry I’ll list the composers and embed my Spotify playlists – which will continue to be updated, especially those belonging to composers who are still active. Enjoy.
Born in Britain in 1962. Composer of multiple James Bond scores. My favorite is Casino Royale (2006), especially his insane “Miami International” track.
1933-2011, born in Britain. Won five Oscars for the scores of Born Free (also Best Original Song), The Lion in Winter, Out of Africa and Dances With Wolves. My favorite: His 007 scores.
Born in the U.S. in 1966. My favorite: Scream (1996).
1922-2004, born in the U.S. Won Oscar for Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967). My favorite: The Magnificent Seven (1960).
Born in the U.S. in 1962. Frequent collaborator: Spike Lee. My favorite: Mo’ Better Blues (1991).
Born in the U.S. in 1954. Frequent collaborator: the Coen brothers. My favorite: True Grit (2010).
Born in the U.S. in 1948. My favorite: Halloween (1978).
Born in the U.S. in 1956. My favorite: The Passion of the Christ (2004).
1925-1992, born in France. Won Oscar for A Little Romance (1980). Frequent collaborator: François Truffaut. My favorite: Rich and Famous (1981).
Born in West Germany in 1974. My favorite: the varied and extensive music he has written for Game of Thrones.
Born in Italy in 1941. Frequent collaborator: Brian De Palma. My favorite: Body Double (1984).
Born in Britain in 1953. Frequent collaborator: Kenneth Branagh. My favorite: Sense and Sensibility (1995).
Born in the U.S. in 1953. Frequent collaborator: Tim Burton. My favorite: Batman (1989).
1929-2004, born in the U.S. Won Oscar for The Omen (1976), which is also my favorite.
Born in Britain in 1961. My favorite: The Martian (2015).
James Newton Howard
Born in the U.S. in 1951. Frequent collaborator: M. Night Shyamalan. My favorite: Signs (2002).
Born in Spain in 1955. Frequent collaborator: Pedro Almodóvar. My favorite: the theme for Broken Embraces (2009).
1969-2018, born in Iceland. Frequent collaborator: Denis Villeneuve. My favorite: The Theory of Everything (2015).
Born in South Africa in 1949. My favorite: The Last of the Mohicans (1992).
Erich Wolfgang Korngold
1897-1957, born in Austria-Hungary. Won two Oscars for Anthony Adverse and The Adventures of Robin Hood (the latter is also my favorite).
1932-2019, born in France. Frequent collaborator: Jacques Demy. Won three Oscars, two for Original Score (Summer of ’42, Yentl) and Original Song (“The Windmills of Your Mind”, which is also my favorite piece).
1924-1994, born in the U.S. Frequent collaborator: Blake Edwards. Won four Oscars, for the scores of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Victor/Victoria, and Best Original Song (“Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, “Days of Wine and Roses”). My favorite: his diverse scores for the Pink Panther movies.
Born in Italy in 1963. Won Oscar for Atonement (2007), which is also my favorite.
1900-1970, born in the U.S. Won nine Oscars, for Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Tin Pan Alley, The Song of Bernadette, Mother Wore Tights, With a Song in My Heart, Call Me Madam, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, The King and I and Camelot. My favorite: Wuthering Heights (1939).
Born in the U.S. in 1955. Frequent collaborator: Sam Mendes. My favorite: Road to Perdition (2002).
1910-1991, born in the U.S. My favorite: A Streetcar Named Desire (1951).
Born in the U.S. in 1964. Frequent collaborator: Bryan Singer. My favorite: his theme for Non-Stop (2014).
Born in Britain in 1960. Won Oscar for Emma (1996). My favorite (everybody’s favorite): The theme for The Cider House Rules (1999).
Born in Argentina in 1932. My favorite: Dirty Harry (1971).
Born in Canada in 1946. Frequent collaborators: David Cronenberg and Peter Jackson. Won three Oscars for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (also Best Original Song). My favorite: The Silence of the Lambs (1991).
Born in the U.S. in 1950. Frequent collaborator: Robert Zemeckis. My favorite: The Abyss (1989).
1888-1971, born in Austria-Hungary. Frequent collaborators: John Ford, Michael Curtiz, William Wyler. Won three Oscars for The Informer, Now, Voyager and Since You Went Away. My favorite: Gone With the Wind (1939).
1894-1979, born in Russia. Frequent collaborator: Frank Capra. Won four Oscars, three for scoring High Noon, The High and the Mighty and The Old Man and the Sea, one for Original Song (“The Ballad of High Noon”). My favorite: The Guns of Navarone (1961).
Born in the U.S. in 1972. My favorite: Iron Man 3 (2010).
Born in Greece in 1943. Won Oscar for Chariots of Fire (1981). My favorite: Blade Runner (1982).
1906-1967, born in Germany. Won two Oscars, for Sunset Blvd. (which is also my favorite) and A Place in the Sun.
Born in the U.S. in 1932. Frequent collaborators: Steven Spielberg and Oliver Stone. Won five Oscars for the scores of Fiddler on the Roof, Jaws, Star Wars, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and Schindler’s List. My favorite: I’m supposed to name just one?
Born in Lebanon in 1949. Won Oscar for The English Patient (1996), which is also my favorite.