James Newton Howard’s violin concerto: a film composer in the concert hall

Last Friday night I attended the world premiere of James Newton Howard’s concerto for violin and orchestra, performed by Pacific Symphony in Costa Mesa. I was excited to hear Howard’s writing removed from the constraints of film and inside a traditional concert form. His violin music for films like The Village and Defiance (the two scores that specifically prompted Pacific Symphony’s music director Carl St. Clair to commission the concerto) are gorgeous demonstrations of Howard’s imagination for the instrument, so there was ample reason for excitement at the thought of a whole concerto.

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.”

Jeff Beal’s House of Cards

One of the most striking things about House of Cards is its cinematic touch: the high production value and filmic gloss that gilds everything from the obvious (movie stars playing the leads) to the more subtle—like the score. Episode after episode, I’ve been continually floored by Jeff Beal’s elegant, sophisticated, and richly produced music. So when I walked into his lovely (but far from pretentious) Agoura Hills home last October, I was stunned to discover just what a small, literally do-it-yourself production his contribution to the show is.

Little Women: A 20th Anniversary Conversation with Thomas Newman and Gillian Armstrong – Part II

Read Part I.

Little Women soundtrack“Gillian always had a great sense of music,” says Newman. “Do you remember a movie she did called Mrs. Soffel? Mark Isham did the score, and it was an amazing use of music. It was clear to me that Gillian had developed ears and she was interested in new sounds and all that. I wanted to do Mrs. Soffel back in the day, and Little Women was like 11 years later. Gillian was always a director I had my eye on, just because I loved the way she used music.”