Summer 2008


I asked my predecessor, Ray Colcord to write an article for the Score some time back entitled, Why I Belong to the SCL. Ray in his articulate and insightful way enumerated his reasons and I thought that I might try my hand at elaborating some of my thoughts along the same line as I see it today.

Since I joined the SCL, about the time that this organization was transitioning from the CLGA, our numbers have grown considerably. We now count over 1,100 members and as I recall, you could fit our membership into a small cocktail room when I joined back in the mid eighties at the urging of my agents at the time, Al Bart and Stan Milander. Although this undoubtedly illustrates that the number of composers and songwriters working within our field are growing, I think more importantly it demonstrates that the spirit is alive to be part of an organization that is sympathetic to the needs of our unique profession.

Our membership has continued to grow and I am proud to be part of a group that not only welcomes inspired new talent like those members of our mentor program, but also includes new member and Oscar nominee, Javier Navarrete, one of the finest composers working today. Javier has recently moved to Los Angeles and has already used the resources of the SCL to help in his latest project.

High on my list as a reason to join our group is the camaraderie that I have tried to foster during my tenure with the SCL. This sense of community is nothing new. The gifted lyricist, Dennis Spiegel embraced me into the SCL when I first joined and continues to be our outspoken cheerleader. Jim Di Pasquale recently played me a wonderful song featuring Arthur Hamilton, and other members of the CLGA, extolling the virtues of our predecessor organization. Mark Snow expressed it well when he told a group of prospective members in New York, that the isolation that we naturally encounter in our profession is refreshingly counter-balanced with the activities and associations made through the SCL. Ours can certainly be a solitary profession, but being able to meet and inter-act with others in our line of work is a truly rewarding experience that you won’t find anywhere else. Not only have I made new friends, but through one SCL gathering, I met Alan Silva, who along with Steve Morrell, worked with me for eleven years on the series, 7th Heaven. This is not an uncommon story. I know many successful relationships have been nurtured through our organization.

Those members who have joined us at the Gold level or higher have had the opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of their peers with our Oscar and Emmy receptions. The majority of the nominees attend these gala events and it is the perfect opportunity to mix with friends and colleagues in a festive setting. It has always been my goal to instill an understanding that, although we often compete for the same work, we are part of a larger community that shares a passion and appreciation for our colleagues’ contributions. Our membership meetings are another excellent chance to be among our creative peers and we have been fortunate to gather at historic locations to share our experiences and accomplishments. I am particularly proud of the SCL Ambassador program as we continue to honor legendary figures in our profession every year at our holiday dinner. Recognizing individuals who, through their seminal contributions to our profession, have made it stronger and better has been a personal goal of mine as well.

I’m aware that there are times that one doesn’t have the luxury to come to SCL functions; in fact, we pride ourselves on representing the working artist. I can confidently say that the ultimate source of information about our profession continues to be our Score magazine. Lori Barth has been doing an outstanding job for over twenty years as Senior Editor and besides winning a Deems Taylor Award, the magazine has received accolades from our own members. Michael Giacchino, who we are so proud of this year, with his Grammy award and Oscar nomination, told me that even with his busy schedule, he reads every issue from cover-to-cover.

With the constant challenges that are occurring in our field, it is important to keep aware of those changes. One of the valuable resources we can provide are seminars that chart the movement in our profession. As I mentioned in the last issue of the Score, the talented panelists that explored potential challenges to our royalty stream in last summer’s seminar Where’s My Royalty? provided valuable insight into what we may expect over the next few years. This is only one example of dialogues that have featured SCL members and each one has provided important insight into many aspects of our profession.

The screening series has turned out to be one of the most valuable assets of a SCL membership. This last year alone we were able to not only view all of the Oscar nominated songs and scores, we also had the opportunity to gain the insight behind those and many other remarkable works by having today’s most talented songwriters and composers walk us through the creative process.

In closing, your membership has given us a collective power in numbers. Several SCL composers and songwriters have had the opportunity to meet with Congressional members and the Copyright office to explore how we will be compensated in the digital age. I can personally tell you that our position is being listened to and will seriously be taken into consideration as legislation is explored that could have a decided impact on our careers. That is largely due to the fact that we can point to a large constituency that will be watching these issues closely. Your membership can undoubtedly help effect changes in our profession.

Each of you, I hope, has found an intrinsic value in your SCL membership. As always, I encourage you to each be an Ambassador for our organization and enlist your friends and colleagues as we continue to grow our numbers. It will ultimately have a direct impact on how we are perceived as creators and as artists. In short our perception in the market place as a whole will be shaped by your participation.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXIII, Number Two, Summer 2008]


Spring 2008


At the date of this writing, issues are still being decided within our community that I am confident will be resolved by the time you receive this publication. It has been a difficult time for many of you and I am starting to receive calls from colleagues whose final episodes are on the horizon in episodic television and I know there are many others who have been impacted by the unsettling state of affairs for some time. I have heard nervousness from neighbors about their friends in industry related-areas who complain that the strike has compromised their businesses and question the needs of a few that may affect the security of many. This is an argument that we all have heard during the past few months. However sympathetic we may be to their plight, the demand that creators be compensated in an equitable fashion is a noble quest and a bond that must be forged by all of us in the creative community.

I commend our colleagues in the DGA for putting in place a deal that hopefully can lead to our industry getting back to work. At the same time, the writers have been waging a valiant fight under the capable leadership of our friend, Patic Verrone, president of the Writer’s Guild of America, West. We trust that any agreement brokered with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers will reflect the hardships that both sides, along with our entire industry have suffered over the past several months. It is also my hope, that if it hasn’t happened by this date, that their talks have a timely resolution that will yield significant gains in the areas that have been on the table since the onset of these negotiations. There is one thing for certain: whatever parameters are put into place in our sister guilds, particularly as they affect the internet, will have a decided impact on how our deals are structured as we move into a digital future of unpredictable and unseen dimension.

The understanding of the value of a copyright and the importance of preserving it is not an insignificant by-product of this current dilemma. The ease by which our work can not only be copied and shared, but also pirated is something that no one would have predicted, even a few years ago. The irony is that the larger issue should not be one that pits the studios against the creative guilds. The feuding parties have a much greater common goal to preserve their shared creation against global theft and therefore should be unified, creating their own alliance in mutual solidarity.

Within our own quarters, and not unrelated to the uncertain times of our industry in general, the act of determining how we are paid and who will be responsible for seeing that we are compensated fairly, is, to a great degree, unresolved at this moment. Attorney, and SCL honorary lifetime member, Jay Cooper and ASCAP board member Dean Kay* made it very clear at an SCL seminar last summer that it is important that we stay abreast of legislation that is in front of Congress. Our opponents are vigilant in stating their position. The more contact we can have with the Congress, particularly those on the Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property, and make them aware of our concern with the advances in technology and how they are impacting our livelihood, the better chance we have in seeing legislation sympathetic to our interests being enacted.

My personal hope is that our interests will fall under the domain of the performing rights societies. After nearly thirty years of working in the industry, I can say that the vision and guidance that these organizations have exemplified is unparalleled. As a young writer, I had no sense of the magnitude of the Buffalo Broadcasting vs. ASCAP decision in 1980-82, which reaffirmed the constitutionality of the blanket license on local television. At the time, it seemed to me to be another court battle, which applied to some limited area of our profession, removed from my day-to-day well being. Truth be told, the ruling in our favor, was not only significant to my well being, the blanket license preserved therein ended up providing the primary source of income from shows of mine such as Home Improvement and Roseanne, whose life after prime time has not been insignificant. Whatever challenges lay ahead, I am confident that ASCAP, BMI and SESAC will look for ways to protect our interests. They are also the leaders in intellectual property education at an early age. Programs that teach children the value of copyright have already been employed in out-reach education in classrooms throughout the country. ASCAP’s Donnie the Downloader program has been designed to educate American middle school students about music piracy and the real costs of downloading music illegally.

Another way that we can be proactive as the environment changes is to work with our agents and attorneys to determine if any language advantageous to preserving our rights can be inserted into the boiler- plate contracts that all of us have signed throughout our careers. Quite simply put, if our contracts don’t say we’re getting paid for it, we’re not. Perhaps as downloading, streaming, mobisodes, etc. are being dealt with industry wide, we as composers and songwriters can take advantage of this period to incorporate some changes of our own. In the beginning, it may be on a case-by-case basis, but eventually these types of efforts could lead to strides beneficial to our interests on a grander scale. There is no doubt that this will be an uphill battle, as even the most successful among our ranks are making little ground in some of these areas.

Our past-president, Jim di Pasquale, among others in the SCL, was instrumental in mounting a quest for recognition in front of the National Labor Relations Board in 1984. If successful, it would have helped in recapturing some of the ground lost during a strike and lengthy and disruptive lawsuit during the seventies. Although we were denied recognition at that time, another alternative to dealing with some of the challenges we have today may be to re-look at the collective bargaining issue that eluded us back then. The current labor negotiations will ultimately play a factor in the potential success of such a campaign, but members within our organization have regularly monitored the feasibility of unionization and will continue to do so, now and in the future.

Troubling as these times may be, I look optimistically towards a future that will provide even greater outlets for our music and song. I believe that although this is an age of technology that allows easier access to our work, the time is also fertile to present a platform that re-affirms that without our creative output, these devices and their facile use would be meaningless pieces of hardware. This is a message that needs to be presented, articulated and argued and it is our responsibility to play a part in the educational process; making sure that message is delivered loud and clear.

*Dean Kay offers an informative daily service called The Dean’s List. He provides links to articles from all over the world that pertain to copyright, new technology and music. He will be happy to add you to his morning reviews. Just go to and follow the website to the Dean’s List to be added to his e-mail updates. I would also strongly suggest downloading the seminar Where’s My Royalty? Past-President, Ray Colcord assembled experts, Christopher Amenita, Ted Cohen, Jay Cooper, Jeffrey Graubart, and Dean Kay to talk on many of the matters pertinent to our survival. Go to the SCL Store, Downloads-Members Only area on page 4 items 8029A&B.


Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXIII, Number One, Spring 2008]


Winter 2007


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]


Fall 2007


As I return from across the Atlantic, I am happy to report that our profession is alive and well and nowhere more revered and heralded than in the hearts and souls of our European colleagues. For the third year our organization has been a sponsor of the Film Music Pavilion at the Cannes Film Festival. In this endeavor, we have joined with our sister organizations in Europe, whose alliance The Federation of Film and Audiovisual Composers of Europe (FFACE) is responsible for creating this pavilion, which is dedicated to extolling the virtues of our craft.

At the urging of FFACE president, Bernard Grimaldi and the Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund Administrator, Dennis Dreith and with the blessing of the Board of Directors, I provided for the first time, a physical presence for the SCL. Although skeptical at first as to how my attendance could add to our organization’s cachet, what soon became apparent was the significant place our country stands in the eyes of the European community, not only as a leader, past and present in film music, but with Hollywood as the undisputed center of the film world, my presence added a physical connection, reaffirming the SCL’s leadership role in representing our community.

In my five days there, the majority of my time was spent at the Pavilion, which had numerous highlights. The first day, SCL advisory member, Howard Shore spent time there discussing his multi-faceted career with those in attendance. He had been engaged in a panel the day before, and the afternoon provided an excellent opportunity to hear his thoughts on film music. Howard has always been concerned in advancing our profession, and among the many things that came out of our discussion was his interest in moves that could further enhance our bargaining position within the industry.

As Howard shared his concert appearances with us, it became apparent that a significant bi-product of his busy schedule is the elevation of our profession, along with the heightening of our prestige as film composers in the musical world as a whole. Our illustrious founding members such as David Raksin and former Composers and Lyricists Guild president, Elmer Bernstein would be proud to see the recent increase in the number of festivals that are showcasing our members’ work. Our great friend, Basil Poledouris conducted a festival orchestra at Ubeda, Spain last summer and Bruce Broughton, John Debney and Alan Silvestri, among many others are having suites performed throughout Europe.

One of the primary goals of the pavilion is to raise the awareness of the craft of film music. I took part in a round table discussion about how FFACE is reaching out to the composer community in their respective countries to raise the stature of our profession. Members from England, Switzerland, Germany, Spain and France have been active in education, much as a number of our SCL members have taught within our collegiate environment. FFACE has set up a task force to interface with the best universities in encouraging more programs to deal specifically with the discipline of film music. I indicated that we would be receptive to sharing some of our experiences in this area for our common good; programs not only for the film composer and songwriter, but equally important for the emerging film maker as well.

I had the opportunity to visit and interact with two colleagues from Norway. I was impressed that their organization was comprised of over five hundred members, although not all specifically involved with film music. One of these composers was active in a performing group of musicians whose ensemble utilized instruments made of ice; certainly the most unique form of musical delivery I encountered.

Chris Smith from England’s British Academy of Composers and Songwriters and I had an extended dialogue on intellectual property. In discussing the differences between our respective countries, I was reminded of the superior position that the European writers have found themselves in regarding copyright ownership. Whereas in the U.S., we as composers and songwriters have operated under the “work for hire” contract as independent contractors, with the studio or company being the author of record, our European counterparts have retained authorship over the years and in the majority of cases even retain publishing rights to their work as well. Regrettably, our American prototype is becoming more common in Europe and our colleagues are joining together through FFACE to try to protect the status quo and have been effective in many cases in thwarting this dissipation of rights. Fortunately the European model of receiving royalties for movie performances is still in effect and as Americans, we reap these benefits when our works are performed overseas. I also had the opportunity to speak to several of our colleagues about the dangers inherent in down loading and streaming. All felt that our collective interest could be served by recognizing that these are all issues that we as a global community can join together to find solutions for.

On Thursday, our U.S. contingency, which included Phil Ayling and Jen Kuhn from the Recording Musicians Association, and the ever eloquent, Dennis Dreith, presented an over-view of our respective organizations, which included a video presented by the RMA chronicling the evolution of a cue, using a composition from Hook by James Newton Howard as the example. I was given the opportunity to introduce those in attendance to the SCL and our presentations were followed by a question and answer session.

Perhaps the most memorable moment was walking the stairs as a collective body of composers. This red carpet event was made possible through the efforts of Stephen Melchiori and the Union of Film Music Composers (UCMF) from France. The procession was led by Ennio Morricone and included a majority of composers in attendance at Cannes. Following a screening of one of the contenders, We Own the Night, the maestro was celebrated at a black tie dinner. Maestro Morricone and I had the opportunity to visit that evening, as well as at a lunch in his honor the next day, hosted by the UCMF and their president, Gilles Tinayre. At a round table discussion, once again at the Pavilion, the Maestro spoke at length about his concern that composers be properly compensated for their work, and he talked specifically about the distribution of royalties on blank media sales. This is a revenue stream that American composers have not been participating in. SCL Board member, Garry Schyman has been hoping to rectify this situation and perhaps now is a good time to re-visit this issue. Maestro Morricone indicated several times of his pleasure at being honored at our Oscar reception with the SCL Lifetime member accreditation.

Following Cannes, I had the opportunity to attend a recording session in Madrid, where Alberto Iglesias was recording guitar tracks for the forthcoming Marc Forster film, The Kite Runner. Coincidently, I ended up on the plane ride back to the U.S. with him and was happy to hear that he is recording the orchestral tracks here at Warner Brothers with our great musicians. Later in the week, I had lunch with Javier Navarette in Barcelona, as he graciously took time during the last few days of writing the score for Jean-Jacque Annaud’s Sa majeste Minor, which is recording on the outskirts of that beautiful city. Both composers have expressed that one of the highlights of their respective Oscar nominations has been our SCL reception and having the opportunity to meet with their colleagues in an elegant setting, where our noble profession was the common thread.

The Film Music Pavilion was an unquestionable success and what became apparent to all of us was the similarities in issues that all of us have in common. As well as this most recent experience, I am fortunate to have met with representatives from composer organizations from Canada, Australia and New Zealand over the past year. As we move ahead into uncertain times, I feel that we will be closer to finding solutions to difficult challenges and raising the awareness and appreciation of our craft by uniting with the great talents throughout the world.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXII, Number Three, Fall 2007]


Summer 2007


During my tenure as president of our society, I have attempted to work with our talented Executive Director, Laura Dunn, and our distinguished board and advisory members to create an environment that nurtures a pride in what we do, generates a respect for our fellow composers and lyricists and certainly as important, promotes an over-all sense of community.

You will be happy to know that the reach and influence of our organization is expanding and is indicative of the global environment that our business is positioning itself in. By the time that you receive this issue of the Score, the SCL will have presented yet another informative seminar in New York. With the help of ASCAP and NYU, we are offering a program that will not only introduce our organization to up and coming composers and lyricist at one of New York’s most prestigious music schools, but will continue to integrate our mission among our colleagues who are already having successful careers on the East Coast. I want to extend my thanks to Joel Beckerman, Sue Devine, Mike Patterson, and Ron Sadoff for making this event possible.

Also by this time, I will have represented the SCL as we joined with composers and lyricists all over the world in celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival. Our organization was once again a sponsor of the Pavilion of Film Music that celebrates the art of music in film. This year appears to be a pivotal time to be joining with other groups of creators and engaging in dialogue as to what we can do to make sure that our interests are being heard in the global market place. An alliance of European composer organizations, FFACE, was formed within the last year, and their president, Bernard Grimaldi recently visited with us in Los Angeles and attended SCL events.

In April, I met with SCL Gold Member, Pierre-Daniel Rheault, president of the Board of Directors of SOCAN and Jean-Christian Cere, the director general of the Societe Professionelle des Auteurs et des Compositeus du Quebec. We discussed many common objectives facing our respective organizations. They envision an alliance similar to FFACE here in North America, and we will be having more discussions about the practicality and effectiveness of such a collaboration.

This issue of the Score has informed articles relating to a number of the evolving technological changes that will be critical to how our works will compensated in this new landscape. It is imperative that each of us stays abreast of changes that will affect our livelihood. The SCL has planned an in depth look at some of these challenges in the form of a panel discussion, and by this time, we will have already provided our membership with critical information by some of the experts in the field.

No more important members of our community exist than our performing rights organizations. Every day, the way that we are paid as composers and lyricists becomes more complicated. With the Internet, streaming and downloading, it has never been more important than today to align ourselves as creators with organizations that look out for our rights. ASCAP. BMI and SESAC are forever vigilant in their protection of copyright and our creative output. Composers and lyricists have seen untold benefits as a result of their effective defense of our rights in court, such as in the Buffalo Broadcasting litigation, and without their constant voice in Washington, our rights would be in serious peril.

In December, Doreen Ringer-Ross and BMI hosted a round table discussion that featured an in depth look at some of the issues that have arisen over the past year. Richard Conlan and Alison Smith provided valuable insight into the way that their organization is grappling with challenges that are germane to our well-being. It was attended by some of the most successful SCL writers and it is BMI’s intent that these sorts of briefings will be held on a regular basis. Not only did the afternoon provide an insight into the complexities facing our industry, but also it added to a genuine feeling of camaraderie between fellow writers.

I have had a similar offer from, President /COO Pat Collins from SEASAC. Dennis Brown, head of the SCL performing rights committee is making plans to meet with Pat Collins, Pat Rogers and their experts in New Media to discuss their efforts on our behalf.

The feeling of camaraderie was never more evident than in April when several panels featured SCL composers and lyricists at ASCAP’s I Create Music Expo in Hollywood. I was pleased to see the good will being expressed by three of my favorite composers: Patrick Doyle, Brian Tyler and Marco Beltrami. Although we all compete on a certain level for the same jobs, a mutual respect has always been a hallmark of our profession.

Regrettably, I know that this harmony can be fragile unless all of us work together and keep this accord as a high priority. One of my first president’s messages was entitled 2004 Year of the Musician. In the body of that article, I paid testimony to one of the most significant groups in our community who comprise an extraordinary talent pool here in Los Angeles. In fact, as I have stated numerous times, I owe my career in a large part to the superb contributions that these fabulous musicians have made to my scores. Recently however, I have seen such animosity between rival factions within their ranks that it threatens to unravel this valuable sector. The irony for me is that I have friends on each side of the issues and their respective points have merit beyond the contentiousness that often clouds the bigger issues.

Speaking personally for a moment as a composer and not as the president of this organization, I find one of the unfortunate by-products of all of this discord is allowing groups to emerge that would profit at the expense of their own colleagues. One such group is the LA Buy-out Orchestra, euphemistically monikered as New Era Scoring. We have heard for years that some of the complaints of certain production companies revolve around the special re-use payments that musicians receive for their work when it is used in other mediums; new money, by the way, that is coming into the company that is generated by the exploitation of the musician’s work in other areas that weren’t originally contracted for. It is important to remember that these additional payments were negotiated through collective bargaining and through the hard work of our friends, and many times to the detriment of other deal points that were given up in trade.

New Era’s business model begins a dangerous precedent here in Los Angeles. If they succeed, the negative ramifications to our community could be far reaching. In the future, if given the option, what would be the motivation for producing companies to become signatories and make the re-use payments they are responsible for? I dare say if we were to turn the tables within our own discipline and if a sub-set of composers and lyricists were to emerge that would give up royalties and offer buy-outs to producing entities in order to generate work, our livelihood would be irreparably compromised. It is my hope, that despite their differences, our remarkable instrumental contingency can come to some consensus that will work toward their desired goals, and not at the expense of their fellow musicians.

Our community is built up of a number of integral components, all involving talented and creative individuals. Some factions of this group are creators and others look out for our interests as creators, but we are, in fact, one community. The more that we recognize the essence of this concept, embrace it, and do what we can to protect it, the sooner we will be able to move forward and work together for our common good.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXII, Number Two, Summer 2007]


Spring 2007


I attended a screening with many of you recently of the film Volver, featuring an intriguing score by Alberto Iglesias. Although compositionally he did an excellent job of moving the plot forward and enhancing the drama of the picture, I found myself relating to the music on an entirely separate level. It took me awhile to recognize that what I was reacting to was the individualism of Alberto’s musical voice. I wrote a few months back about how each composer or lyricist brings his or her regional influences into play, and that was certainly apparent in his work here, but I would like to look a little closer into how, by bringing our unique voice into the mix, we can enhance our profession at the same time.

With the advent of temp tracks, our craft took a step backward in my mind. Although these tracks serve a purpose, namely reaffirming that a movie is truly nothing without our music, it is doing a strong disservice to the film at the same time. I don’t know if Alberto had to contend with a temp track here, but my suspicion is that he didn’t.

Philip Glass spoke candidly about temp tracks at our SCL screening of Notes on a Scandal. Although he doesn’t deny their necessity, he is particularly troubled when a project that he is doing is temped with his own music. He remarked that he is always very frank with directors and producers in informing them that the score they are about to get is going to be inferior to the temp, as the music they are now enamored with, the temp as it were, embodies the last thirty years of his finest work and there is no way that they can expect him to deliver a comparable score in a finite period of time.

I’ve heard many a colleague remark that they can readily discern what scene in a movie has been temped with what pre-existing score. This certainly runs counter to establishing one’s own voice, but the composer is always faced with the dilemma of who to satisfy. We are all aware of “temp love,” and most of us will be faced with the confounding situation at some point in our careers—if not on a continuum—of deciding whether to satisfy our own vision of what the music should be or whether the safer path of least resistance should be to “ape” the pre-existing music. It’s unfortunate that in many cases the musical vision of the picture is dictated by those less than qualified to be making that determination, such as picture editors or in the case of television, editing houses and the person creating the graphics in the case of main title themes. So in the midst of all of these purported experts making musical decisions on our projects, how do we create our voice and help keep the integrity of our profession as a bi-product?

If we are collaborating with a film maker who we have worked with in the past, then it would be highly likely that we could get involved with the project early enough to set the tone. A variant of this is to simply compose the music ahead of time and the temp naturally evolves into the score. That is the solution that was employed by composers Gustavo Santaolalla on Brokeback Mountain and Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek and Tom Tykwer in Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. That is the way that I did it in my first professional project, The Only Way Home. Recently, at our New York event at Columbia, director Steve Shainberg indicated that although it wasn’t done that way in Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus the next time that he works with Carter Burwell he plans to employ this technique. Carter, for one, avoids listening to any temp track, except as a last resort, and by that time, he adds, his involvement with the project is most likely headed towards an unfortunate resolution anyway.

Writing the music ahead of the film has its shortcomings as well. I believe that the one quality that sets the film composer apart from other creators of music is our ability to inherently know how the use of the tools of our craft can change the tone of a scene by the minutest articulation. I remember a couple of years ago during a long underscore cue, my programmer inadvertently substituted an A-flat for an A-natural. The note change worked perfectly fine in the underlying harmony, but I remember telling him that the flatted note would imply that the character was thinking one thought at the moment when actually he was thinking just the opposite. Naturally we know how different a dominant chord can color a scene in opposition to a major seventh, but if our music is not being crafted by us for each moment in a film we simply have no control over this nuance. This is not to say that there aren’t some unexpected surprises than can occur by someone other than us dictating the placement of our music. When I spoke with Jan A.P. Kaczmarek, he said that he embraced this serendipitous interchange from time to time. Nevertheless, I think that at the very heart of our craft are the decisions we make as to when to play what music where.

A fellow composer scoffed at me when I told him that I had custom crafted every cue that I had ever composed except for instances– relegated to situation comedy shows– where certain sequences were tracked with my music from previous episodes. My process is very basic, and in most cases quite visceral: I look at a scene, emotionally react to it and then compose it. This can be a five-minute sequence or a five second cue. It still contains that spark of inspiration dictated by what I’ve just experienced.

This, I believe, is tied into finding our own voice. In his self-effacing fashion, Philip Glass said that he spent the first twenty-five years of his career finding his voice and has been trying to lose it ever since. I would submit that his unique approach to composition– his voice, if you will–along with his well-defined skills, instilled in part by the years of study with Nadia Boulanger, are all part of what make him one of the most sought after composers working today.

That is not to say in finding our own voice there are not the pitfalls of paying homage to what we’ve done before, most often when it has been received with a certain modicum of success. I remember the growing pains associated with the first episodes of Home Improvement. Roseanne was still running and it was difficult not to infringe on some of the Roseanne elements in the later series. I even incorporated a bass harmonica in the opening theme and first episodes until I thought better of it.

Self-plagiarism aside, I think that finding our own voice can be instrumental in a long-lived career. Perhaps one of the great voices that evolved over an amazing career was Henry Mancini. His use of melody and orchestration left a body of work that is totally original yet each project had that creative spark that was his genius. I know that all of us will eventually come across our own distinct style; it’s part of the growing process. Once we find it, here’s to successfully handling the balancing act of acknowledging what you may be handed and still finding your unique identity as you move forward in your career.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXII, Number One, Spring 2007]


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]