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ScoreKeeper Reads Three New Film Music Books That Score!

Greetings! ScoreKeeper here feeling rather studious in the wake of absorbing pages upon pages of information from a trio of new books released earlier this year that might percolate the fancy of many film music enthusiasts. Film music is not a subject that publishers clamor and claw to compete for the latest and greatest new titles. I remember the day when you could count the entire catalog of film music related books still in publication on one hand. With interests in film music booming over the last two decades so too has film music related publications. During the past year, I've had in my possession three new books on film music that I have found to be quite exceptional. With Christmas and other gift-giving holidays rapidly approaching, I thought it would be appropriate to write a trio of book reports just like I used to do in school…(except this time I won't bullshit my way through them).

JOHN BARRY: THE MAN WITH THE MIDAS TOUCH by Geoff Leonard, Pete Walker, and Gareth Bramely Are you a fan of John Barry? Ok, stupid question. Well, if there is one thing the film music community sorely lacks are in-depth biographies of popular and admired film composers. There are a few titles at large and they're all riveting reads. Perhaps one of the most comprehensive and interesting composer biography to hit the shelves in recent memory is JOHN BARRY: THE MAN WITH THE MIDAS TOUCH written by Geoff Leonard, Pete Walker, and Gareth Bramley (you know with three authors it has to be good!). Leonard, Walker, and Bramley escort you on an amazing journey through the life of John Barry. It covers in great detail Barry's early years in music where he focused his musical energies on his own jazz group, The John Barry Seven, and takes you through each decade as he transforms not only film music but musical theater, jazz, and pop arranging as well. It even chronicles the most comprehensive account of who really composed the James Bond theme that I've ever encountered. It's chock full of photographs, reprints of performance programs, post production scripts, movie posters and other artifacts galore that guide you on your journey. It's written more like a textbook than a traditional biography which allows you to easily skip around targeting what interests you most. Not every film composer out there, even the very best, deserve to have such a tome written on their behalf. John Barry, however, is just such a person who has led a life interesting enough to reward those who dare take a peek.

THE REEL WORLD: SCORING FOR PICTURES by Jeff Rona This is the second edition of Rona's popular book targeting those interested in tackling the industry for themselves. THE REEL WORLD: SCORING FOR PICTURES has been considerably revised and expanded since the coveted first edition. Rona breaks up the book into several sections: The Creative Process, Technology, and Career. Within each section are multiple chapters outlining a variety of topics including how to set up your studio, developing your own style, tricks to optimize workflow, and how to make money, just to name a few. While there have been several attempts by other authors to crack the mysteries of the film music industry and revel them in layman terms for novices to understand, few have succeeded. Rona's book is second only to Fred Karlin's ON THE TRACK (which is my favorite book on film scoring ever written). While ON THE TRACK is very technical and can be a bit cumbersome and intimidating for those new to the field, Rona's book is very approachable and easily understood. What's doubly great about Rona's achievements is that you don't have to be a novice to gain ground with his book. Even seasoned veterans can learn from his stories, advice, and methods and employ them in their own practice. I particularly found his sequencing tips and workflow methodology to be of most benefit. This book is a must own for anybody currently working in the business regardless of their experience or level of professional education.

KEEPING SCORE by Tom Hoover I love interviews. It's the surest and most accessible way to gain insight into a particular film score. I've devoted a large portion of my writing for AICN to conducting interviews because I feel it's leagues better to hear it straight from the horse's mouth whenever possible. With KEEPING SCORE, Tom Hoover (founder and producer of has assembled one of the largest collections of film, television, and video game composer interviews I've ever come across. They're succinct yet informative and insightful. Tom asks the expected questions but also delves into some off-beat inquisitions just to keep it interesting. In this book you'll get interviews from: Film Composers Brian Tyler David Newman Andrew Lockington Marco Beltrami Geoff Zanelli Tyler Bates Alex Heffes Theodore Shapiro John Murphy Nicholas Hooper Mark Kilian Ramin Djawadi Bruce Broughton Craig Safan Television Composers Murray Gold James Dooley Christopher Lennertz Michael Levine John Ottman Nathan Barr Bear McCreary Stu Phillips Video Game Composers Marty O'Donnell Winifred Phillips Inon Zur Cris Velasco Jesper Kyd Jason Graves Kyle Eastwood Richard Wells Abel Korzeniowski Scott Glasgow Simon J. Hunter Assaf Rinde Boris Elkis Clinton Shorter

Whew!...That's a lot of interviews. The book is real straight forward. Questions are asked. Questions are answers…and there are many of both.

I'll be honest. I'm not as voracious of a reader as I want to be. When I read, the book better be damn good. Lucky for me and the film music community, these three most definitely are!


Readers Talkback
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  • Nov. 5, 2009, 12:03 a.m. CST


    by GibsonUSA Returns

    He will provide the vocals while he kicks ass.

  • Nov. 5, 2009, 12:13 a.m. CST


    by supercowbell5THECOWBELLHASSPOKEN

  • Nov. 5, 2009, 3:29 a.m. CST

    Thanks ScoreKeeper

    by kwisatzhaderach

    Looks like that John Barry one is a must.

  • Nov. 5, 2009, 9:43 a.m. CST

    holy shit it's Jesper Kyd!

    by The_Crimson_King

    he's my favorite video game composer! his scores for the Hitman games are just as fun to listen to as it is to play the game

  • Nov. 5, 2009, 4:10 p.m. CST

    there needs to be a Ennio Morricone biography

    by TakingScorpiosCalls

    I'm mindboggled why there isn't one or at least have only found books on how to play his songs but not on the man himself.

  • Nov. 5, 2009, 5:19 p.m. CST

    Thanks you for this ScoreKeeper

    by Proman1984

    I always enjoy your passion and columns.

  • Nov. 5, 2009, 9:38 p.m. CST

    John Ottman as a tv composer?

    by D.Vader

    Instead of composer of awesome scores like The Usual Suspects? Pffft.

  • Nov. 5, 2009, 10:59 p.m. CST

    Murray Gold! Get in there!

    by Seph_J

    and yeh.... whats with John Ottman being listed as a TV composer? X2 was elevated above itself by his excellent theme.

  • Nov. 5, 2009, 11:12 p.m. CST


    by Cobbio

    Very cool, Scorekeeper. I'll try to buy "Keeping Score" for Christmas, then have someone in my family "give" it to me. Can't wait to read the interviews with Bear McCreary and Marco Beltrami, but I'm sure many of the other composers offer funky insights on their craft as well.<p> Question for you, though: I'd love to learn more about my favorite film composer, Thomas Newman. Any books you know of where he's given some airtime? Just wondering.<p> I give you an "A" on your book report this time, buddy. Even if there were a few smidgeons of bullshit thrown in.

  • Nov. 6, 2009, 4:41 p.m. CST


    by ScoreKeeper

    Ya, TN is one of my very favorite composers as well and there's really not too much out there that I know of where he gets his due "airtime." I was able to interview him last year (Google "scorekeeper" and "thomas newman") which was one of the highlights of my time here at AICN. One of my favorite interviews he gave was in the late nineties for the Society of Composers and Lyricists. It was recorded and giving out as a "freebie" for signing up with them. Don't know if that's still available but it was damn cool!

  • Nov. 6, 2009, 4:42 p.m. CST

    the list

    by ScoreKeeper

    Ya, my list labeling is screwed up. I was looking at two different sources. JO is listed in the "film" section in the book. Sorry about that.

  • Nov. 7, 2009, 12:57 a.m. CST


    by Cobbio

    Hehe. Sorry, Scorekeeper about the "bullshit thrown in" comment. I was actually using your own words from the article as reference points. Didn't mean to suggest you actually fudged anything.<p> As a fan of great film music, I always enjoy reading your reviews and interviews.<p> I read your interview with Thomas Newman last year, and I agree it was a great read. So thanks.<p> But I really am going to buy "Keeping Score" for Christmas, based on your recommendation, and enjoy the shit out of it.