Louis Kaufman and the Sound of Hollywood’s Golden Age

While you may not recognize his name, chances are good that you have heard American violinist Louis Kaufman (1905-1994). Kaufman has been called “possibly the most recorded musical artist of the twentieth century.” In addition to making around 125 classical recordings, his rich, chocolatey sound is etched into as many as 500 film soundtracks. His singing tone, with its generous use of portamento and fast, shimmering vibrato, is the distinct sound we …

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Music of Oscar-Winning Composer, Hildur Guðnadóttir

At the recent Oscars, the Academy Award for Best Original Score went to the 2019 psychological thriller, Joker. The score’s composer is the Icelandic cellist, Hildur Guðnadóttir (b. 1982). She has a growing list of film and television score credits, including Stefano Sollima’s Sicario: Day of the Soldado (2018), Trapped (an Icelandic television mystery series), and Chernobyl, a series produced by HBO and Sky TV. After listening to some of the film music, I was inspired to investigate a few excerpts …

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John Williams’ “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”: A Cinematic Tone Poem

John Williams’ haunting, ethereal score is integral to the drama of Steven Spielberg’s 1977 science fiction film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In fact, much of the score was written before filming began. In a reversal of the normal process, Spielberg set parts of the film to Williams’ music. The film blends mystery, terror, and childlike wonder. One of its dominant themes involves the human need to connect and find deeper meaning. It is the music …

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Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile”: Anne Akiko Meyers

Smile, composed by Charlie Chaplin as the love theme for his 1936 film, Modern Times, was inspired by the soaring, romantic melodies of Puccini’s Tosca. Here is an excerpt from the film with the music in its original form. Lyrics were later written by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons and the song became a standard. It was first recorded in 1954 by Nat King Cole. Later, it was performed by artists including Barbra Streisand, Josh Groban, and Michael Jackson. Violinist Anne Akiko …

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Bernstein at 100: “On the Waterfront”

The 1954 American crime drama, On the Waterfront, starring Marlon Brando, is set amid the union violence and corruption of longshoreman working on the docks of the Hoboken, New Jersey waterfront. The film, directed by Elia Kazan and written by Budd Schulberg, was ranked the eighth-greatest movie of all time by the American film institute. It was Leonard Bernstein’s only foray into the world of Hollywood film scoring. Bernstein found the collaborative nature of film scoring frustrating artistically. …

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The 2018 Oscars: Nominees for Best Original Score

The 90th Academy Awards ceremony was held last Sunday. French composer Alexandre Desplat’s music for The Shape of Water was awarded Best Original score. Here are excerpts from the five scores nominated for this category for 2018: “The Shape of Water” (Alexandre Desplat) Arpeggios rise and fall in continuous waves of sound in Desplat’s music for the opening scene of The Shape of Water. The composer discusses the music for this love story between a mute …

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Remembering Jóhann Jóhannsson

The Icelandic-born composer, Jóhann Jóhannsson, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly over the weekend in Berlin. He was 48. Jóhannsson was the Oscar-nominated composer of such films as Arrival, Sicario, and The Theory of Everything. His scores frequently enter a dark, ambient sound world, augmenting the colors of the orchestra with the sounds of electronic music. This excerpt from Jóhannsson’s rejected score for the film, Blade Runner 2049, ventures into the world of microtonality- nonconventional tuning in which …

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