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.
This list turned out to be such a massive undertaking that I had to divide the original blog post into two. Here are the last 25 composers, from Erich Wolfgang Korngold to Hans Zimmer. Here’s the first half of the list.
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 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.