Winter 2006


On October 10th over 200 composers and lyricists attended our annual membership meeting. The following are excerpts from my speech on that occasion.

Anyone who knows me at all understands my love of history. Last year we gathered in the historic Hollywood Roosevelt hotel in the Blossom Room where the first Academy Awards were held and this evening we are in another special place. Sadly, since our last membership meeting we have lost two structures that were integral to the evolution of music in Hollywood. The Gershwin House and the Ambassador Hotel were demolished over the last year. I fought along side several SCL members to no avail to save those special places. I believe that it is important to utilize and celebrate these great spaces while we can. So here we are at American Legion Post 43, opened in 1929. Upstairs a weekly radio show showcased The Big Bands and artists such as Louis Armstrong. Today it is still home to many musical extravaganzas. Recently The Rolling Stones and The Cure performed there.

This downstairs room and bar were the gathering places for the stars of the Golden Age. Humphrey Bogart and Walt Disney were members and on any given night Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth, Shirley Temple, Jane Mansfield or Marilyn Monroe might be seen here. Several scenes from The Shining were filmed in this room. I am pleased that Ray Colcord, Kurt Farquhar, Jan Kaczmarek, Danny Lux, Shirley Walker and Jack Wall are with us this evening. They represent a cross section of our business and are among the most successful composers working in our field today.

This has been a banner year for the Society of Composers and Lyricists. We now number over 900 members and we are still growing. With energetic board members such as membership chair, Sharon Farber and Benoit Grey, who spread the word of the SCL at Cannes this year, your organization is stronger than ever. Our website is continually evolving under the supervision of the talented Billy Martin. Your hard working Executive Director, Laura Dunn has been instrumental in planning activities that make this organization vital and informative. In the ever changing landscape of performing rights, our partners, ASCAP, BMI and SESAC are crucial to our well-being and should be recognized for their efforts on our behalf and for their support of this organization.

The year has been filled with interesting activities and I’m sure that many of you have enjoyed a number of these. Our holiday dinner celebrated three icons in our profession. Van Alexander and the Sherman Brothers joined Ray Evans, Earle Hagen, Ray Charles, and Vic Mizzy as SCL Ambassadors. Richard Sherman, who was recently celebrated in Houston with the UNICEF Gold Medallion of Honor for his fund raising efforts for children, delighted us with a performance of his greatest hits including Chim, Chim Cher-e and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Those of you who are Gold Members know what a great time we had at our Oscar and Emmy Reception. Dolly Parton started the Oscar reception off on a high note by working the room and getting everyone in a mood to celebrate. I did some hanging out with DJ Paul and the gang from 36 Mafia. Little did they know that they would be accepting the Academy Award the following night. We were fortunate to have all of the original score composers in attendance thanks to the work of Charles Bernstein and for the second year in a row our honorary lifetime member John Williams, attended the event. He also graciously agreed to allow Star Wars to be our newest Famous First, which we will be using for fund raising activities. He has personally signed copies of the title page that we will have available in the near future.

I am particularly proud that we have begun our activities in New York over the last year. I have had the opportunity to meet members and potential members there and must recognize the efforts of two individuals. Joel Beckerman and Mike Patterson have been so helpful in bringing prospective members to our events. These could not have happened without the generosity of ASCAP and the co-ordination of Nancy Knudsen and Sue Devine. In December, in close to sub-zero temperatures at the DGA, we screened a new print of Young Frankenstein, provided by Fox studios. It was my pleasure to do a question and answer with John Morris, and no more charming man has every graced our profession. A few months later, in more temperate weather in the seventies, we held a composer-to-composer with my Amherst College colleague, Mason Daring. He addressed a crowd at New York University with scenes from the John Sayles’ movies Roan Innish and Loan Star. This event came together with the aid of NYU’s Director of Film Scoring, Ron Sadoff.

This is an amazing time to be working in the business. Not only are there more opportunities, but the different outlets for your music are wider and more varied than any time in history. The new technology embraced by most of us has facilitated the execution of our compositions, but as you know, the new innovations are not without their risks—a two edged sword of sorts.

The practice of downloading is hitting all areas of our business. SAG, the WGA and the DGA are faced with many of the same issues that are concerning most of you. I have sent letters to ASCAP, BMI and SESAC urging them to keep us informed on what is going on behind the scenes to protect our rights. The issue of whether these downloads which incorporate your performances in television series such as Michael Giacchino’s Lost are regarded as performances, similar to your music on network or cable or whether they are going to be considered mechanicals, such as music on a CD, is germane to how we will be paid. We will be keeping a close eye as these new delivery mediums evolve.

This organization grew out of two dynamic groups that preceded ours. A group of concerned composers started the Screen Composers Association in 1945. Dimitri Tiompkin and Bernard Herman joined with David Raksin and Alfred Newman along with many other talented gentlemen to create a group whose emphasis was on the protection of rights, specifically for the film composer. In the early 1950s, Leith Stevens here in LA and Arthur Schwartz in New York created the next permutation, which was called the Composers Guild of America, which later invited the lyricists to join and became the CLGA. This group continued until the seventies and was successful in procuring collective bargaining, which yielded minimums and health benefits. Unfortunately a strike and a long-standing lawsuit resulted in the Studios refusing to bargain with us and the group disbanded in 1978.

Several of your colleagues that are leaders in the SCL today started this organization in the early 1980s. Most especially, Jim di Pasqual, past president of this group, deserves a debt of gratitude for his efforts in a quest for recognition by the Nation Labor Relations Board in 1984. Although we were denied certification, this organization has grown to be the premier group in the area of music and lyrics for television, film and most recently, games.

And what is the face of the SCL? It is John Guth, a talented composer who was one of our 2005 interns, and has given tirelessly to this organization in the same way that Gerard Marino, whose career is now flourishing in the area of Game music did before him. It is my friend, Jan Kaczmarek, who not only won the Academy Award for Finding Neverland, but who is building a fabulous institute for artists in his native Poland, Jan did such a wonderful interview for our award winning Score, now celebrating its 20th Anniversary, so ably steered by Lori Barth, a celebrated lyricist in her own right. The SCL is Charles Fox, Stu Phillips, Lee Holdridge and Bruce Broughton, whose work I so much admired as I was honing my craft, as I still do today. It is Arthur Hamilton and Harriett Schock who have given the world such great songs such as Cry Me a River and Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady.

The SCL includes so many of our creative partners as well. It is Jay Cooper, who was not only celebrated this year as Century City’s Entertainment Attorney of the Year, but who has given this organization his time and expertise because he believes so much in what we do. It is Gary Herbig and the wonderful Los Angeles musicians that we couldn’t do without. Their talents have taken our scores to new heights and they continue to contribute invaluably to our creative output.

The SCL is also Alan Silvestri and Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber, who rejoined this organization at the Platinum level because they believe in what we do. They joined other Oscar nominees such as and Glenn Ballard, from one of my favorite cities, Natchez, Mississippi, who has given us so many memorable songs. It is our current interns, Christy Crowl, Robert ToTeras and Ulf Anneken, who comes to us from Germany and whose look of wonderment and excitement and sparkle in his eye speaks for all of you who are about to embark on this great path that was laid out by so many accomplished SCL composers before you such as Michael Kaman, Elmer Bernstein and Jerry Goldsmith.

The Society of Composers and Lyricists is all of you, too numerous to mention in the confines of an article, but each with your own unique voice that will ultimately be heard. I have been proud to be your president for the last four years. It has given me an opportunity to meet and learn from so many of you. Although there are challenges up ahead, as long as we can stay united as a community, as long as we can keep from undercutting our colleagues, and most importantly keep the preservation of this noble profession that we represent as our highest goal, we will continue to grow and in turn, will give the world our gift of wonderful music and song.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXI, Number Four, Winter 2006]


Fall 2006


Music is truly the universal language. Whether a composer resides here in Los Angeles, or elsewhere around the world, we communicate in this common vernacular that sets ours apart from other professions. Although the seamless transference of our ideas from one global location to another makes our craft the most international of trades, sometimes we are myopic when it comes to recognizing this fact. One can either be too caught up in his or her own private world or naive to what other cultures have to offer. This is both good and bad and the paradoxes need to be explored.

Growing up in Oklahoma, my creative vision was a product of the environment I grew up in. Now that is not to say that all the listening to Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, or even the Beatles wasn’t assimilated into my palette, however it was only when I was afforded the opportunity to travel to Europe when I was sixteen that my horizons were truly expanded. Spending the summer in the south of France, I heard for the first time some of the exotic influences of the Algerian culture, particularly in vocal nuances and scales, and was struck at how these elements blended so unconsciously into the music that was uniquely French. Although all of this music was profoundly unfamiliar, it soon became a part of my greater knowledge and I soon found that my communication through music provided an outlet of expression that made me comfortable, even though I was thousands of miles away from my home.

In the same fashion, our own contributions as a composer or lyricist know no international boundaries and how wonderful that is. This year’s Oscar nominees came from such diverse locales as Italy, Spain, Argentina and the United States. We were proud to host a screening with Argentina’s Gustavo Santaolalla of Brokeback Mountain, a few months before he won the Academy Award for best original score. Uruguayan songwriter Jorge Drexler’s evocative song, Al Otro Lado Del Rio from The Motorcycle Diaries was feted at the awards the prior year and the SCL was fortunate to have Jorge as our guest at our Oscar reception and were treated to a discourse from him regarding the song and its evolution. Tan Dunn was our guest a few years previously, and he also was victorious on Oscar night.

Keeping with this train of thought, part of what makes our profession special is the range of influences that different locales and cultures bring. Each composer’s score or songwriter’s song is imbued with his or her unique talent and that is always, to a certain degree, a product of their geographical environment. I had the pleasure of interviewing last year’s Oscar winner, Polish composer, Jan A.P. Kaczmarek for the Score recently. Jan listed a range of influences, including maestro Ennio Morricone’s music, but Jan’s output certainly is most importantly a product of his singular environment although it clearly benefits from his larger vision, which in fact has been sculpted by those he admires.

Jan is building an institute in Western Poland near Germany. It’s called the Rozbitek Institute and will be a meeting place for artists from all over the world. In the same way that Sundance has brought together filmmakers from around the globe, Rozbitek will celebrate music and its creators in a similar fashion. The exchange of ideas and influences will undoubtedly expand our collective artistic scope and add to the over-all appreciation of our craft.

A number of prominent composers have made the study of indigenous music part of their life’s mission. Nowhere was that more evident than in the life and work of Bela Bartok. The gifted Hungarian composer, who was so accurately chronicled by one of my teachers, Halsey Stevens, was driven by a thirst of knowledge to document the native Hungarian folk music before it became extinct. His concert work was a testimonial to his tireless efforts to historically record these unique folk songs, as were his intricate piano pieces that many of us played. His oeuvre clearly reflected his passion for this music.

In the same way that it is appropriate and certainly desired to incorporate our own cultural nuances into our work, it is equally admirable to be able to call upon what we have learned from other composers to add to our larger creativity. Certainly the inclusion of exotic instruments has become common practice in our profession, particularly when we are called upon to create a time and place in our scores. The Society of Composers and Lyricists has made a point of presenting a series of seminars entitled Exotic Flavors: A Practical Guide for Writing for Exotic Instruments. Karen Han demonstrated the Erhu at our gathering in May. In the same way that Claude Monet and his fellow impressionists were influenced by the Japanese woodcuts of Ando Hiroshige, Claude Debussy was enamored with the scales and tonalities of Japanese music. Nowhere was Debussy’s fascination with another tradition more evident than in his symphonic homage to Spain, Iberia. Having a grasp of other cultures will undoubtedly widen your palette, but your unmistakable personality is bound to shine through.

The Union des Compositeurs de Musique de Film, a group of French composers, not unlike the Society of Composers and Lyricists, has created the International Film-Music Pavilion at the Cannes Film Festival. They have partnered with a number of composer groups from around the world to celebrate the art of film music. Their program has included a letter from the SCL extolling the virtues of our organization and we hope to become even more involved as this pavilion continues to evolve over the course of time. Our friend, Dennis Dreith has regularly attended the Cannes Festival in his role as administrator of the Film Musicians Secondary Market Fund, and your talented board member, Benoit Grey spent a good deal of time making contacts and spreading the word about our organization at this year’s festival.

I have met a number of times with officers from the Guild of Canadian Film Composers. They have their own society that has been successful with certain types of collective bargaining and from time to time have had issues that are similar to ours. My friends Ashley Irwin and Bruce Rowland from Australia have participated in SCL seminars and have brought their international perspective to our group, as has film and concert composer and SCL board member, Sharon Farber from Israel. Numerous participants in the SCL mentor program have traveled here from around the globe, and we probably learn as much from them as they are able to take from our program.

Finally, composers and lyricists from around the world have similar objectives. In interacting with our colleagues we will better our conditions, widen our perspective and perhaps most importantly, learn from each other which will not only enrich our music, but will in turn increase our value to the business as a whole.

Errata: I was still absorbed in the Gershwin house’s demise in our last issue. Of course the seminal book of Lyrics referenced in my last article was written by Oscar Hammerstein III, and not by Ira Gershwin. My apologizes.

 Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXI, Number Three, Fall 2006]


Summer 2006


Former SCL President, and composer extraordinaire, Bruce Broughton and I met recently in Beverly Hills. Bruce has been active in walking the halls of Congress and getting to know some of the key players that can prove to be indispensable to our community should legislation become a last resort in protecting our rights. Our conversation covered a myriad of topics, and his insights are always enlightening and to the point. As we discussed the state of our society it became apparent that taking pride in what we do is the first step in addressing the complicated issues that are currently confronting us. This sense of confidence that we are, in fact, unique and we do provide a service that no one else can, creates a granite foundation that will serve us well in these uncertain times.

As we face the next phase of our evolution as an organization we will be faced with many challenges, some old and some new. Historically we have fought for recognition as a group of composers that have interests that are unique to our specific craft. This is often an elusive persona and can be confusing to even those that know us best. Until recently, a number of my own family members referred to me as a songwriter in social situations. I’ve done the best to instill in them the notion that, although I do write songs, the way that I have made my living for the last twenty-seven years is as a composer and my output is referred to as cues and underscore.

This becomes important and transcends simply a semantic or nomenclatorial issue when it comes to creating our own identity among those who can be great partners as we move forward into the coming decades and the new technologies contained therein. Among the newest matters that will need to be resolved concern how we will be compensated for our performances embodied in the shows that are available as video downloads on iTunes. Our performing rights organizations will contend, and rightly so, that these are public performances, and therefore should be no different than cable broadcasts and paid accordingly at a negotiated rate. However, the issue becomes more complex should these performances be equated to a CD download, which is not considered a performance and would fall beyond the scope of the PROs. These issues and other similar topics are challenges that those who began the Screen Composers Association in 1945 could not have imagined. Accordingly, we are obliged to create our own identity in the event that legislation becomes the only viable solution to some of these concerns.

I spoke to Congressman Adam Schiff at the ASCAP “I Create Music” conference recently about the SCL. I told him that as an organization we would like to begin a dialogue with his office and help educate him as to our particular needs. At another meeting where Congressman Schiff was in attendance, our friends at ASCAP arranged for a group of us to meet last fall with congressional members Howard Berman and Linda Sanchez. Hal David hosted a separate gathering for Senator Ted Kennedy last December that Bruce and I also attended. It is important that our community receive the recognition it deserves should it become necessary to call upon these individuals at some point to champion our cause. In the future, you may be asked to support receptions for candidates who are instrumental in protecting our interest in Congress. I would also encourage all of you to donate to the legislative fund sponsored by your PRO, as I have personally done for the last twenty years.

Songwriters have been effective lobbyists by performing their songs in intimate congressional gatherings. SCL past president, Arthur Hamilton has conceived of an idea which he calls “Knowing the Score.” If this program were to be implemented, it would bring a concert of our film music to the attention of key legislators in a similar fashion. We have been the beneficiaries of the progress that songwriters have made in creative rights protection for our industry at large. Naturally, we have numerous common goals, but with the advent of downloading first-run television programs such as Lost and Desperate Housewives, our interests have become more aligned with the actor, director or writer. My predecessor, Ray Colcord is planning an SCL seminar on technology in the near future which will explore some of the specifics of these issues and look to some of the experts in the field who may have insights into how we can better protect ourselves against these changes, many occurring at lightening speed. These are issues that you should discuss with your attorneys and agents and make them aware of the changing contour of our business.

So how do we go about raising the awareness of our profession? As I said earlier, the first step is having a genuine pride in what we do, which is quite remarkable when you get right down to it. Millions of people are watching television shows that encompass our work each week. Moviegoers all over the world are listening to our scores. The game industry is growing by leaps and bounds and the composers associated with these games are becoming celebrities in their own right. BMI and SESAC have taken composers such as Mike Post and Jonathan Wolf to Washington over the years and it has proven effective in, not only celebrating our work, but also raising the awareness of what we do. The power that we bring to the table, whether it is Thomas Newman for any number of his amazing feature scores, Russ Landau for his work on Survivor, or your talented board members Billy Martin and Garry Schyman for numerous impressive game scores, is immense and all adds to the credibility of our profession.

Judging by conversations that I have had with the non-musical sector, you may be amazed at the kind of mystique that your contributions have. Although all of us would like to be on the podium receiving that Academy Award, don’t ever underestimate the value that your own creativity brings to your individual specialty. It is beyond my comprehension that I could have sustained a career since 1978 in a profession that not only brings me immense satisfaction– as much so now, as when I started– but as Elmer Bernstein so eloquently pointed out, can bring so much joy to so many people on a regular basis.

As I meet more and more colleagues, I can say that I am moved by being part of community that boasts Stu Phillips as a member, who has created some of the most memorable television and film music over the breath of his career or Neal Hefti, who continues to inspire young composers such as Steve Greves. My friend, Brain Curtin, along with every member of our mentor program, are just at the beginning of their contributions to our profession, and I am not only personally excited by that prospect, as an organization we are empowered by it. Finally, we need to continue to take pride in what we do, because as I have said before, the by-product will be exuding an image that will be worthy of the noble profession that we have chosen as our life’s work.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXI, Number Two, Summer 2006]


Spring 2006


As composers and lyricists we are called upon to wear many different hats, two of which are the creator and the entrepreneur. Frankly, the latter has less appeal to me. In fact, I have found that by being more concerned with the creative process and the joy of what I do, the financial rewards have taken care of themselves. Not to be cavalier, I wouldn’t suggest that you can succeed in this business without a certain degree of financial savvy, and by all means we should be compensated properly for what we do, but focusing on the creative, rather than the monetary remunerations, at least for me, is a more rewarding way to go through life.

I believe that we owe it to our profession to not only be conscientious, but also to be as inspired, as we can be. It makes us feel better about ourselves as composers and lyricists and in the long run enhances the worth of our contributions as artists and adds to the prestige of our craft. So what does that mean? Where do we as creators find inspiration and what does that really have to do with writing words and music?

Certainly the first place to start is by absorbing as much as we can that has been brilliantly executed by those who we admire. Jan Kaczmarek, who I have had the good fortune to interview later in this issue of The Score, cited the work of Ennio Morricone as inspirational to him. I had the opportunity to speak to Mr. Morricone a few years ago and asked him what his biggest piece of advice would be to the beginning composer. He said, without hesitation, “study the masters, absorb the three B’s: Bach, Beethoven and Brahms.” I believe this is good advice to any composer, regardless of his or her stage of progress.

In leading a question and answer following the screening of The Family Stone, I spoke to Michael Giacchino about composers that he admired. Michael stated that he was always interested in hearing the music of our own past president, Bruce Broughton. I was fortunate to spend a few afternoons early in my career with Bruce, and we have since become close friends. I remember him recommending the dissection of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, Dvorak’s New World Symphony, and the piano music of Chopin. This was valuable advice and I believe that it is as sound today as it was then.

One of the most gifted composers that I know is Lee Holdridge. Not only has he contributed greatly to film music, but his concert work, in much the same way as Bruce Broughton’s, has added greatly to the repertoire. I remember sitting with Lee many years back. He was speaking enthusiastically about a technique that Peter Tchaikovsky employed in voicing an entire passage in octaves and unison. My great teacher, Albert Harris refered me to The Nutcracker Suite, also composed by Tchaikovsky. He was convinced that there was much to be gleaned from the study of the orchestration of these short gems. The third movement of another of his works, the Pathetique, although a childhood favorite of mine, remains to this day to be one of the true inspirational movements in symphonic music for me. One of the significant turning points in my career was composing a symphonic piece, Oklahoma Trilogy, which was a tribute to my boyhood home. Although there was no financial gain from its execution, it provided a showcase for a different side of my compositional output and it found itself in the right hands when the producers of Guns of Paradise were looking for composers.

Arthur Hamilton teaches a wonderful class on songwriting at UCLA. Besides being one of the great lyricists in his own right, I know that he still considers himself to be a student of song. He has introduced me to many finely crafted lyrics by Lorenz Hart and Ira Gershwin. Marilyn Bergman lists Ira’s book, “Lyrics on Several Occasions,” as an on-going inspiration for Alan and her.

When I was composing the music to the series, 8 Simple Rules, in order to find myself in the right place for a contemporary approach, I spent a great deal of time listening to the songs of John Reznick from the Goo Goo Dolls and John Odraznik from Five for Fighting, both exceptional talents. In this same vein, the work that writers such as Rob Thomas and John Mayer are doing is inspirational in its own right. No doubt, the great pop writers who came before them have inspired them as well.

Let’s consider for a moment the non-musical inspirations that are equally rewarding. Whether it is great literature, time with friends and family or profound religious beliefs, we can find inspiration in a number of disciplines that can enrich our lives and imbue our creative output with the “soul” if you will.

I have always felt a strong connection between the fine arts and music. Some of the most thought provoking and creatively stimulating time that I spend is appreciating the work of the artists I admire. Not only does it inspire me to breathe new life into my compositions, but it also provides me great solace while navigating the uncertainties of our profession.

Trying to imagine the time and place of a classic work of art and the execution and technique involved with the choice of palette, location and mood is not unlike deciding the arc, orchestration, and style of a song or music composition. Seeing the evolution of the landscape art form, beginning in the 1600s with the Dutch master, Jacob Van Ruisdael outside the city of Haarlem, with their castle ruins and bleaching grounds, which laid the groundwork for the Hudson River School artists such as Thomas Cole and Alfred Bierstadt to the California plein- air school, whose most celebrated proponent was Guy Rose, who in turn perfected his technique by studying Claude Monet in the northern French town of Giverny, is analogous to what we have seen in the natural progression of music.

In finding inspiration, I believe another thing that is of great importance is to find that place outside the studio where you, as a writer, and as a person can find the solitude to organize your thoughts. In my case, that place is the Arroyo Seco. In the late 1800s, Charles Lummis, established a community of artists and intellectuals which included numerous talented writers, fine artists and artisans. Many of their homes still exist today along the Arroyo Seco, which starts in the San Gabriel Mountains, runs through Pasadena and ultimately joins the Los Angeles River near Lummis’ house, El Alisal. Paths along this trail, although unfortunately touched by the hands of so-called progress, still are engulfed in historic coastal live oaks and sycamores, and ancient stone-work tells the history of a different era. I have done some of my best thinking while spending time there.

Finally, we are all looking for that next job or next contact, and out of necessity that must concern a certain part of our days. I guess the point I’m trying to make is to continue to enrich your lives by leaving time for those other pursuits, which may include studying your own craft. It will not only add more soul to your artistic output, but it will also add that fine balance that is necessary to cope with the periods of inactivity or depression that are a unfortunate bi-product of what we do.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXII, Number One, Spring 2006]