I remember arriving in Los Angeles—a few too many years ago than I care to remember—after having graduated from an academically driven music program at Amherst College. Although my over-all experience there was one of the highlights of my early life, the music department’s curriculum had no inclusion of film music, and certainly no nod to any music with pop sensibilities. When I referenced my respect for the music of Burt Bacharach it was countered with, “I’m not familiar with that group.” Later when I expressed my appreciation for Grofe’s Grand Canyon Suite, my professor arrogantly dismissed it as “movie music without the movie.” After leaving western Massachusetts’s answer to Dorothy Parker’s Algonquin Round Table, it was through the encouragement of Stan Milander, my agent, that I joined the Society of Composers and Lyricists a few years later and truly found a home. Although the numbers were small in comparison to the nine hundred plus that we boast today, it was a unique experience to mix with my colleagues in events like we are able to enjoy as members of this organization. Having the opportunity to hear the professional insight of SCL Advisory Board Member, Patrick Williams, along with the talented panel comprised of Christophe Beck, George S. Clinton, Lolita Ritmanis and Stanley A. Smith, like two hundred of us did at our annual membership meeting recently, is a singular experience; and it is only one benefit of belonging to this great organization.
This is the fifth year that I have served as president of your society and it has been one filled with many interesting activities. Laura Dunn has done an outstanding job of putting together screenings of some of the most celebrated scores of the year. All of the Oscar nominees in the Score category were showcased at informative question and answer sessions, giving great insight into the creative process behind their music.
We hosted our long running Holiday dinner last December, and along with a festive evening in a beautiful setting, we honored two members of our community without whose contributions our profession would be less than it is. Brilliant composer and songwriter, David Shire, who had recently scored the thriller, Zodiac, and Johnny Mandel, who has provided countless inspirational scores, arrangements, and songs over the years, were celebrated by their colleagues as the latest SCL Ambassadors.
Our Oscar reception, held in February at the home of John and Bonnie Cacavas, was a resounding success. At that event, we bestowed an honorary lifetime membership on Ennio Morricone with all of the score nominees and most of the song nominees in attendance, thanks to Charles Bernstein and Arthur Hamilton. For those of you who join the SCL at the Gold Membership level or higher, this event is one of the highlights of every year and we are going forward to host another one next February. Special thanks are in order for Lori Barth. Not only is she integral to the success of this reception as well as the marvelous holiday dinner, her tireless efforts in her role as senior editor of the Score continue to make this publication one of the crowning jewels of our organization.
The SCL was a sponsor of the Film Music Pavilion at the 60th Anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival. I represented our organization and solidified our relations with our European counterparts, including the members of the recently formed organization, FFACE, lead by our colleague, Bernard Grimaldi. There were a number of discussions pertaining to the perception of film music and the way we are educating, not only the public, but also the entry level composers and songwriters as well. Also, the larger issue of protection of rights was explored. I was able to meet and discuss these issues with both Ennio Morricone and SCL advisory board member, Howard Shore, as well as meet composer members from Spain, England, France, Germany, Switzerland and Norway. A few weeks later, SCL members were featured at a film music festival in Ubeda, Spain. A few in attendance to perform their music were Bruce Broughton, John Debney and David Arnold.
Over the year we hosted a number of events where our members could join together and celebrate film music, including a concert at Disney Hall, featuring our honorary lifetime member, John Williams. I should mention that we have a beautiful signed page from Star Wars available on our website as a Famous First. John also entertained us at a sold-out evening at the Hollywood Bowl, which was one of three fascinating nights held there this summer for SCL members.
Our members continue to be a driving force in Game Music, and we are proud to have Billy Martin, Russell Brower, and Garry Schyman on our board of directors. I was pleased to hear that a number of our members are having their music performed at the impressive concerts that are being staged around the country featuring this genre. Through all of these concerts featuring our work we are continuing to increase not only the love and appreciation for our craft, but raise the awareness of its importance as an art form unto itself.
In August, our Gold members joined with Governors Ray Colcord, Ian Fraser and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences to honor the Emmy nominees, which included many SCL colleagues. This is a wonderful way to celebrate our craft in television, and we are proud of our composers and songwriters who have excelled in this field.
Throughout the year we have held a number of informative seminars. Dennis Brown and Garry Schyman were responsible for putting two together, the most recent being, Creating Music Without Creating Lawsuits. Issues discussed were: copyright infringement, fair use, and the creation of parodies. When you are asked to create music to sound like existing music, just how close can you get without creating a legal headache? On the panel were copyright expert, Lon Sobel, forensic musicologist Danny Gould, and writers Julie & Steve Bernstein.
In June, past president, Ray Colcord moderated a panel entitled, Where’s My Royalty? (Composer & Songwriter Rights In The Digital Age.) The distinguished panel included Jay Cooper, Dean Kay, Jeffrey Graubart, Ted Cohen and Christopher Amenita.This is available as a download and I encourage you to review this informative seminar.
In August, Ilio hosted a product tour exclusively for our members. Demonstrated were a number of new instruments including those from a number of companies, including Spectrasonics, Synthogy and Applied Acoustic Systems. Later in the summer, our prolific board member, Stu Phillips, was showcased at AFI in an event featuring examples from his long running career, including handouts of a number of his most recognizable scores. We’ve been pleased to have Stu on the board of directors and that afternoon was a special one for all involved.
The SCL is getting things moving on the East Coast. I recently returned from New York, where our Advisory Board Member, Charlie Fox, was honored at a BMI/SCL sponsored luncheon at the BMI boardroom. Doreen Ringer-Ross and Linda Livingston were in town and among the highlights of the afternoon was an intimate performance by Charlie of his amazing catalogue of work, including Killing Me Softly. BMI President/CEO, Del Bryant, presented Charlie with citations recognizing seven million performance of that work. The luncheon was attended by many of BMI’s most celebrated writers as well as our good friends from BMI, Charlie Feldman and Alison Smith.
While I was there, Sue Devine and Nancy Knutsen at ASCAP, and Joel Beckerman arranged for a working session with some of New York’s top writers including Carter Burwell. Carter was featured at an ASCAP/SCL event in January, which was part of the Columbia Workshop, co-sponsored by Dennis Dreith and the Film Musicians Secondary Market. Those in attendance were presented an intriguing look at Cater’s score for Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus with the director, Steve Shainberg, moderated by Alex Steyermark.
In May, I moderated an SCL panel on Growing and Building your Film Music Career at NYU, which was part of the ASCAP film scoring workshop there, headed by Ron Sadoff and Mike Patterson. Featured were Mark Snow, Marcy Heisler, Rob Mounsey, Maria Scneider and Cheryl Foliart.
In August, BMI hosted a screening with the SCL of The Hottest State with the talented songwriter/composer, Jesse Harris at the DGA, New York and I was pleased to do a Q&A with Jesse as Chris Farrell had done the week before in Los Angeles.
This year has not been without its sadness. We have lost a number of special people. Recently Ralph Kessler, and earlier in the year, Basil Poledouris, SCL Ambassador, Ray Evans and board member, Harvey Cohen, to mention only a few. Poignantly, Shirley Walker made her last public appearance at our membership meeting last year and it was probably the last time many of us were able to visit with her. There is a wonderful tribute to Shirley in the last issue of our Score magazine.
The coming year has many things in store. We are well on the way to screening some of the years biggest films including the much anticipated, Enchanted, with Advisory Board Member, Alan Menken. The holiday dinner will once again feature the presentation of the SCL Ambassador Award.
Several of your board members have been working under the leadership of SCL second Vice-President, Mark Adler, in formulating the SCL Film Music Award. It will prove to be a great addition to the entertainment awards process and you will be hearing more about it shortly. Our mentor program is continuing to enlighten and inform and the caliber of the participants continues at a high level. I am pleased to see that many of these talented composers are starting to make their own mark in our profession.
The current climate in the entertainment field is presenting challenges to all of our creative partners, whether they are writers, actors, directors, musicians or recording artists. The latest dilemma, unfortunately, only one of many plaguing the way that we get paid in our profession, is the downloading of our music, and especially the downloading of television programs that contain our work; very often the next day, as in programs such as Lost and Desperate Housewives. Our board member, Garry Schyman has had discussions with Mary Beth Peters, The Registrar of Copyrights, helping her to understand that our needs are, in fact, quite distinct from those of the pop songwriter. Your past president, Bruce Broughton, through his efforts in Washington, is helping formulate legislation that could be critical in protecting our rights. Your loyalty to the Performing Rights Organizations will help mold as well as support the great efforts being put forth by them on your behalf. Perhaps most important is your encouragement to your colleagues to join the SCL, as we endeavor to make this the strongest organization it can possibly be through strength in numbers. As president of this organization, I will strive to make sure that our voice is heard loud and clear as we move forward into uncertain times.
Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXII, Number Four, Winter 2007]