KEEPING SCORE: THE STATUS QUO EVOLVES
Composers haven’t traditionally been an inclusive bunch. Are the times changing?
Diversity, both social and cultural, has become inherent in all aspects of show business, and that includes film music. The various meanings of that term will be a topic for discussion at Variety’s inaugural Music for Screens Summit featuring a composer panel comprising Marco Beltrami (“A Quiet Place”), Terence Blanchard (“Blackkklansman”), Ramin Djawadi (“Game of Thrones”), Ludwig Goransson (“Black Panther”), Tom Holkenborg (“Mortal Engines”) and Pinar Toprak (“Captain Marvel”).
The composing world hasn’t traditionally been inclusive, but times are changing. The Turkish-born Toprak becomes the first woman to score a high-profile Marvel movie, and it happens to be about a female superhero.
“I don’t see gender in things,” says Toprak, who’s hard at work on “Captain Marvel,” due out March 8. “It’s just a great thing for a Turkish composer, with my background, getting to do what I love on such a big scale, that’s going to reach such a wide audience. That’s really the excitement for me.”
Toprak, who has also written the music for the mega-hit game “Fortnite,” will start the second season of TV’S “Krypton” when she finishes “Marvel” early next year.
For a composer, diversity also applies to the vast array of styles, approaches and tools that can be used in the profession these days. Dutch composer Tom Holkenborg, aka Junkie XL, has just finished working on two sci-fi extravaganzas: “Mortal Engines” from producer Peter Jackson and “Alita: Battle Angel” from producer James Cameron.
Holkenborg has often used both traditional orchestra and electronics, creating hybrid scores as on “Mad Max: Fury Road.” “What’s important is that there are human emotions at stake,” he says. “If you create a world that’s violent and futuristic, you sometimes forget where these emotions come from.
“Film music in the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s used to be a really serious craft,” he says. “If we’re not careful, that craft will disappear and we’ll make music only with computers. I think there’s a way to embrace the craft and at the same time inject it with all these new possibilities and move forward.”
There is diversity in the wide-ranging backgrounds of many of today’s top film composers. Swedish-born Goransson not only composed this year’s hit “Black Panther,” he’s also scored “Venom” and is back in the studio working on the next Childish Gambino album with his friend Donald Glover.
“I like to mix old school with new school,” Goransson says. His biggest challenge lately was scoring a seven-minute training montage in “Creed II.” “You used to put a song over these montages,” he says, citing the classic “Rocky” sequence featuring “Gonna Fly Now.” “It’s hard to score movies that way today. People don’t have the patience. Storytelling is different in the editing. … I needed to keep it cohe-