Oscar-winning composer Michel Legrand dies aged 86

Oscar-winning composer Michel Legrand, who worked with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis and Barbra Streisand, has died aged 86.
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Skyrim Composer ‘Not Currently Involved’ With The Elder Scrolls 6

Jeremy Soule, composer for such titles as Skyrim, Oblivion, and Morrowind, has not yet been asked by Bethesda to return for The Elder Scrolls VI.

As reported by VG247, Soule announced this news on Facebook, where he confirmed that he is “currently not involved with TES VI” following questions from many of his fans.

“As so many of my fans have asked… While I’ve not said much about this out of courtesy to Bethesda,” Soule wrote. “I would never turn my back on TES, and I believe that my involvement would hinge on a creative decision on their part and where they want to take the franchise. To confirm, I am currently not involved with TES VI.”

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The Composer Who Owns Christmas

Choirs around the world sing John Rutter’s works, but their tuneful accessibility has kept him from a place in the pantheon of serious composers.
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D’oh! Simpsons composer fired after 27 years

The composer who recorded music for The Simpsons each week says he has been fired after 27 years on the show.
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‘Composer’ Scored as First China-Kazakhstan Co-Production (EXCLUSIVE)

Music drama, “Composer” has been set as the first film to shoot using a newly signed co-production treaty between China and Kazakhstan. The treaty was signed in Astana, Kazakhstan on Thursday by Chinese President Xi Jinping and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. A start of shooting ceremony was attended by the Chinese SAPPRFT minister Nie Chenxi… Read more »

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French composer detained in Moscow in plagiarism row

French musician Didier Marouani speaks at a news conference in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Didier Marouani and his Russian lawyer were detained late on Tuesday and spent a night in a Moscow police station after a Russian pop star accused them of extorting 1 million euros from him in a plagiarism row. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)MOSCOW (AP) — A French musician and his Russian lawyer spent a night in a Moscow police station after a Russian pop star accused them of extorting 1 million euros from him in a plagiarism row.



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At 11, composer about to premiere first full opera

At 11, composer about to premiere first full operaAlma Deutscher is a composer, virtuoso pianist and concert violinist who wrote her first sonata five years ago and whose first full opera will have its world premiere next month. Which is special only …



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Scoring Big With Prolific Young Film Composer Giona Ostinelli

Like many, I can get obsessive about film music. But long gone are Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Henry Mancini, even John Barry and the astounding Jerry Goldsmith. We just lost the often excellent James Horner. Meanwhile, John Williams is kinda busy with some little Disney project with lightsabers in it. And upstarts like Anne Dudley, Danny Elfman, Herbie Hancock and Hans Zimmer have become established elders. Thus do I scan the horizon for fresh talent.

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Giona Ostinelli

Currently my ear has landed upon Giona Ostinelli, a Swiss composer working in Hollywood, a mere 29 years old but with an impressive 25 feature films to his credit, plus assorted short films (over 30 during just nine months studying at USC!) and new-media projects. You can hear Giona’s work this week in POD, a horror shocker by director Mickey Keating, opening in 10 cities and via VOD. While PODPOD on VOD, that’s catchy — showcases Giona’s gift for eerie tension-building, it wasn’t until I visited his studio that the delightful diversity of the young composer’s palette was revealed. He began by screening and playing his upbeat, aw-shucks, orchestral opening for Arnold Grossman’s The Boat Builder (starring Christopher Lloyd) — and I was like, wait, you’re the same guy? You’re not about just one screechy-spooky note?

“With POD, for the ending, I wrote this piece for a choir,” explains Giona of his efficient 2 1/2-week process of scoring the horror, “and Mickey didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t know either, because I got to the end of the movie, and I was sick and tired of hearing my sounds, I wanted something different! So I said, ‘how about a choir?’ I sent it to Mickey, I said, ‘Mickey, you’re allowed to hate me for what I’ve done with the ending — because it’s totally different from the rest.’ So I sent it to him, and he was like, ‘that’s an awesome surprise!’ He didn’t expect it, and it worked great.”


Talking POD

Indeed, viewing POD — which is not unlike a meaner, scarier, extended X-Files episode (two siblings check on their brother in a secluded Maine house: and what they find ain’t pretty) — one does not sit around thinking “choir” — and right away, that’s the aura of Giona: an innovator. He seems to have “surprise” coded into his DNA. I ask about scoring horror — does the director impose certain obligatory stings and so forth?

“He always invites me to his place,” says Giona of Mickey, “to his editing bay, and then he shows me the film. He’s like, ‘Here’s my idea, roughly, how it is — just take it, and surprise me!’ So I was working on it, and he has these flashbacks, and I was like, ‘Why don’t we try to do something cool?’ I know that sound design is going to cover that, to a certain extent — but when I watch a film, and I see that type of thing, I would like it to be pressing! (Giona makes a disturbing mouth noise) So I was like, why not take the chance and do it?”

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Mickey Keating and Giona Ostinelli

This attitude serves Giona well — he takes the chance and does it — and he and I enthuse over our love of Dave Grusin’s winning score for The Goonies: which, it turns out, inspired us both to rush headlong toward the arts. Heh.

“I remember, when I was a kid, saying, ‘I want to do this!'” gushes Giona. “I started playing drums when I was five, piano when I was almost nine, doing choir when I was 16, playing in many bands — metal bands, rock bands, blues bands, jazz trio — you can see in the types of films I do, I always do different genres. (laughs) I always wanted to do film music, but growing up in Switzerland, it’s not a career choice. In Switzerland you either become a banker, a lawyer, or a doctor.”

Or Jung, I add (though that job application proves fairly stringent).

“Or a watchmaker!” adds Giona’s concert-pianist partner — and we all grin knowingly: watches — how 20th-century!

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I elicit a laugh from Giona by imitating the beloved Danny Elfman style (conveniently: “Oompa-Loompa, Oompa-Loompa…”), and he admits he’s a big soundtrack buff, raving up Thomas Newman: “His sounds are so amazing,” he says, emphasizing Saving Mr. Banks, “but for some reason, I love tons of his scores, but that one! Thomas Newman, you listen to him, it’s very simple, and it sounds great. Then you go to Hans Zimmer, he has 200 tracks, it sounds great — a completely different style.”

Giona is practically gasping as he enthuses: “I like listening to scores, and I buy so many! How did they get this sound?!”


Giona Ostinelli’s Soundcloud

On cue, Mickey shows up to join his composer (see videos for the guys in action), and the two rave up their partnership on POD but also Ritual (2013) and the forthcoming Darling (2015). “We’ve known each other for so long,” says the world-weary 25-year-old, “that the whole process is really creative. I feel like so much of the process of working with composers and editors, there’s this learning curve. But me and Giona can just riff back and forth.”

“And also, the cool thing about Mickey,” adds Giona, “not many people do this, but working with Mickey is like family. It’s always the same editor, same sound designer, same cinematographer, and we all know each other. It’s so cool! You feel part of a family, and you’re not afraid to experiment.”

“Yeah, it’s great,” agrees Mickey. “And I mean, it really helps create a process. It doesn’t seem so formal. The movies are all sort of hand-made and home-grown, and that’s what’s exciting about them.”


Talking Darling

“I’m finishing Darling, and Mickey’s finishing editing Carnage Park,” chimes in Giona, contrasting both the visuals and sounds of the former (lensed in New York), and the latter (lensed in the California desert).

“What’s great about it is they’re such different films,” adds Mickey. “Darling‘s so weird, but classical and ambient, and Carnage Park‘s like a Peckinpah western with the sensibilities of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and stuff. So they’re all different subgenres of horror, and it’s so cool to be able to have somebody who can just do it all!” Mickey gestures to his friend, Giona.

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“I’m sure that if I wouldn’t try to push myself,” sums up Giona, “to do drama, to do comedies, dark comedies, trying to do a romantic film or Christmas film–“

Two Christmas films,” I remind him.

“–two Christmas films. If I wouldn’t try to push myself, and go to places that I’m afraid of, that I’m not comfortable in, then I wouldn’t be so good even in the horror genre. But because I always try to explore as much as possible, then everything becomes useful.”

POD is now playing in select theaters, and on VOD.

Photos courtesy of Giona Ostinelli unless noted

Videos by Gregory

Giona Ostinelli Official Site

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Mary Rodgers, ‘Freaky Friday’ Author And Broadway Composer, Dies At 83

NEW YORK (AP) — Mary Rodgers, the daughter of Broadway icon Richard Rodgers who found her own fame as composer of the 1959 musical “Once Upon a Mattress” and as the author of the body-shifting book “Freaky Friday,” has died. She was 83.

Rodgers died Thursday at her home in Manhattan after a long illness, her son Alec Guettel said. Rodgers’ hit “Once Upon a Mattress,” a musical adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson fable “The Princess and the Pea,” made a star of Carol Burnett. A Broadway revival in 1996 starred Sarah Jessica Parker. Her other shows include “From A to Z,” a revue featuring her songs, and two other short-lived shows: “Hot Spot” and “The Madwoman of Central Park West,” a one-person musical starring Phyllis Newman.

She was also a children’s book author who scored big with “Freaky Friday,” in which a mother and daughter trade bodies. The book was twice adapted into a Disney movie, most recently in 2003 starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan. Her other books include “A Billion for Boris,” ”Summer Switch” and “The Rotten Book.”

The daughter of “South Pacific” and “Flower Drum Song” composer Richard Rodgers and Dorothy Rodgers, Mary Rodgers was also the mother of a musical theater composer, Adam Guettel, a Tony Award winner for “The Light in the Piazza.”

She had been married to Henry Guettel, former executive director of the Theatre Development Fund, who died last year. She is survived by her sister, Linda Rodgers Emory, and five children.
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Musical Theater Composer Joe Kinosian and Murder for Two at New World Stages in New York

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Having just turned 30 last fall and about the same time hit his 10th anniversary as New Yorker, the busy musical theater composer, writer and actor Joe Kinosian should feel a satisfying sense of arrival. All those years of hard work and bright dreams this past year culminated in his and his writing partner Kellen Blair’s show, Murder For Two (the CD of which is available on iTunes and in stores), arriving to great acclaim here in New York following its wildly successful premiere at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

Murder For Two is a deeply silly and entertaining evening, with smart, fast, funny songs and a story that follows an ambitious young police officer as he attempts to unravel the Agatha Christie-style murder of a famous, if also famously reviled, New England mystery novelist. It seems like everyone at his birthday party on the night in question had reason to want him face down in the onion dip, including the nine member boys choir bizarrely brought in as the entertainment for the evening. But perhaps that turned out to be of a piece as six of the wee choristers themselves had earlier met a comically tragic end, eulogized by the three survivors in their number “A Lot Woise,” a delightfully specific “list song” explanation of why though of tender years, they don’t bat an eye at merely one fresh corpse, even though:


Stuff like this could be depraving us, it’s a little late for saving us,
Cause we’ve seen a lot woise.

We seen a chump who held his breath for longer than an hour once,
Saw my granny in the shower once, and we’ve seen a lot woise!

We seen a baby being born one day, we seen a fat guy eating corn one day,
We saw a boat while watching porn one day, we’ve seen a lot woise.

Did I mentioned that all the suspects are portrayed by just one actor? A role, or should I say a baker’s dozen of roles, that Joe created for the Chicago run, and whose many imaginary shoes he has recently stepped into again at New York City’s New World Stages replacing Jeff Blumenkrantz, himself an actor-pianist-composer, who embodied The Suspects starting when the show arrived for its Off-Broadway run presented by Second Stage uptown. Oh yeah, and both actors play all the piano accompaniment during the entire show, not infrequently seeming to leap into the air to replace their counterpart at the keyboard and seamlessly, jauntily play right on without missing a beat.

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COMPOSER JOE KINOSIAN, in front, at the piano with his castmate, BRETT RYBACK, in MURDER FOR TWO at NEW WORLD STAGES — Photo by Joan Marcus

Kinosian and Blair clearly must have sent each other into similarly balletic paroxysms as they developed the broad outlines of the show, including whodunit, one fateful day at a series of coffeehouse work sessions. When asked about his inspirations as he developed the musical tone and styles of Murder For Two — especially, notes Kinosian, the “four-handed” parts where both performers are playing the keyboard at the same — he doesn’t miss a beat: “Oh, the Marx Brothers, for sure.” He reverently recounts their musical madness, often of great sophistication or reference actually, in some of their classic films such as 1937’s A Day At The Races where Harpo sits down to give Rachmaninoff’s “C# Minor Prelude” and “plays it so hard that at the end the piano is reduced to rubble.”

It’s obvious that Kinosian’s theatrical and musical sensibilities owe much to a quirkily broad range of beloved influences. He mentions four blissfully creative and formative years at Milwaukee’s High School of the Arts, but also musicians like the Argentine tango composer Astor Piazzolla and the king of the “Novelty Rag,” Zez Confrey, who memorably composed the Scott-Joplin-on-laughing-gas favorite “Kitten on the Keys.”

But, he says, “You gotta talk about my grandma,” who was “an unbelievably brilliant pianist who could play by ear in an incredibly complex way, making things sound like a million bucks.” He describes himself at the tender age of 6 being besotted with the Howard Ashman and Alan Menken musical Little Shop of Horrors and playing the opening doo-wop/Supremes-type musical number for his grandmother on the record player. She immediately played it back at the piano, but in an impromptu Glenn Miller-esque arrangement of her own invention, “filtered through her 1940s sensibility.”

His admiration and love for this woman whose own creative opportunities might in some ways have been foreshortened by circumstance and the times she lived in, only deepens his appreciation for what was so lovingly inculcated in him by her example that “was inspiring and made me really want to do well.”

Kinosian, tall, lean, at ease even on an appallingly bright green sofa in the lobby outside Murder For Two’s theater one evening before his performance, has a quick, appreciative laugh and a devilish schoolboy twinkle in his eye. Murder For Two, for which he shares book-writing credit with Blair, who penned the lyrics, provides ample opportunity for naughty wit, particularly in that in his role as “The Suspects,” he actually plays more females than males.

But his sensibility is not merely all broad strokes and gag lines as each character is delineated with razor-sharp precision and idiosyncratic gusto. This makes keeping track transparently easy and fun for the audience as he switches roles often mid-sentence, if not mid-air on the way back for another turn at the keyboard. All the thousand tics and tacts of each of his characterizations also reveal some of the care and concern Blair and he have taken in the writing process to keep the kooky characters tethered to realities of human character and foible.

During our conversation, he mentioned offhand having just finished reading psychologist Alan Downs’ 2005 primer on internalized homophobia, The Velvet Rage, and wanting to speak with all due care about issues of gender and identity that, he said gently, we sometimes rush through. When asked what about gay culture he might like to change if he could, he says that we should all “go after the people we’re attracted to” in our pursuit of romance, “but try not to be so judgmental” toward each other as gay men.

With no needful contradiction, he embraces as well the special gay perspective of “hilarious honesty,” as he puts it. Those witty barbs so casually tossed off from barstools in tacky Midwestern gay bars, for example, can curdle into mere bitchiness in a flash. But in Kinosian’s understanding, such protective bristlings are at least partially outgrowths of the coping skills of awkward, klutzy boys who would grow up to become creative gay men, but who were reared in well-meaning communities of regretfully incomplete complete understanding of difference and the niceties of original cast recordings.

Kinosian sips his mug of tea and the production stage manager walks by giving him a subtle but unmistakable look which he knows means “it’s now half an hour before curtain, so please wind this interview up and get backstage and into costume.”

Given our conversation about art and identity, mentors and mannerisms, it occurs to me to ask Kinosian who one of his gay heroes is. I wonder will it be sophisticated Sondheim or sad Richard Rodgers, maybe someone of kaleidoscopic aspects like Leonard Bernstein.

“Well,” he says, holding back a smile, “I don’t know if I love all of Paul Lynde’s oeuvre, but I do love him in Bye, Bye, Birdie.” Kinosian is a particularly vocal and warm partisan of the genius of Charles Strouse, the composer of the musical and then film, in which Lynde, somewhat incredulously in retrospect, reprised his Broadway turn as a parent who tries mightily to insist that his children adhere to safely traditional values and customs. “I’m a peace-loving man, Doris!” Kinosian has Lynde’s strangled bark of a laugh, which he calls “lethal,” down pat.

Lucky for theatregoers this year with Murder For Two and hopefully for many years to come, Kinosian’s grandmother taught her talented offspring a more expansive and embracing tune.
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