Avalon: A 25th Anniversary Conversation with Barry Levinson and Randy Newman

Avalon is one of a handful of deeply personal films from my childhood. I remember watching it on VHS at my grandparents’ house in Del Rio, Texas. It became a kind of family tradition—every few years we’d pull it out and have a good cry. The fact that it’s a movie about family traditions, and generations, and the passage of time just makes it all the more poignant.

The somewhat downbeat heartbeat of the film is Randy Newman’s elegiac score—a masterpiece of waltzing ghosts, trumpet requiems for vanished childhoods and fallen ancestors, and the kind of soulful, melancholy solo piano writing that Newman does better than anyone else.

The Final Dialogue: Ridley Scott on Film Music

With The Martian coming out today—the best film Ridley Scott has made since Gladiator, and one of his best ever—I thought it timely to hear what the great auteur has to say about film music. I had the chance to interview Scott last winter in anticipation of Exodus: Gods and Kings… specifically about its score and the music for his films. I found his take illuminating. (Side note: Harry Gregson-Williams’ score for The Martian is aces.)

I Don’t Care What You Think: Philip Glass on his new memoir and a careless career

Philip Glass is awesome. I’m a relatively recent convert to his churning, repetitive, deeply hypnotic music, but I could listen to it all day. Some people hate Philip Glass. The guy in front of me at the world premiere of Glass’ concerto for two pianos (with the LA Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall) last Friday could not contain his irritation, and made sure we all saw how bored and annoyed he was with Glass’ insistent, bewitching exploration of the same four chords. I get it. But I repeat (and repeat and repeat and repeat): Philip Glass is awesome.

Jeff Beal’s House of Cards: Part III

Read parts I and II.

“There is no House of Cards, in my opinion, without Jeff Beal,” says Beau Willimon. “Just like there’s no House of Cards without Kevin Spacey or Robin Wright. He is one of the intrinsic, key elements to the show that makes it what it is.”

Jeff Beal’s House of Cards: Part II

Read Part I here.

The importance of Jeff Beal’s contribution to House of Cards can’t be understated. In any given episode you’ll notice that most of what’s generating a feeling of unease or conspiracy or urgency is actually the score. Without Beal’s music you would lose so much of the intensity, and critical layers of subtext or subversion.

“It’s the type of show where a lot of times you can’t show what’s really happening,” says Beal. “Because there are these agendas, there’s a subterfuge of stuff happening with people—whether it’s a manipulation or a power struggle or something like that—where a lot of times, because of the nature of the characters, we’re not always showing you that conflict.”