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May 19, 2006
Gregson-Williams, Hagen Feted by BMI
Top Composers Span Generations by Jon Burlingame

BMI Awards 2006
Film composer Harry Gregson-Williams received the Richard Kirk Award for Outstanding Career Achievement, and Earle Hagen the Classic Contribution Award, at the annual film and television awards ceremony of Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) held Wednesday night, May 17, at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. Nearly 700 attended the event.

Gregson-Williams, 44, was honored as "a composer for the 21st century, that is, he combines classical training with contemporary thinking," in the words of BMI president and CEO Del Bryant. "He is as conversant with pop and rock as he is with the traditional orchestra. He merges a respect for the moving image with an understanding of musical drama, and he takes it all with a grain of salt."

Harry Gregson-Williams

Harry Gregson-Williams

Gregson-Williams is best-known for his grand-scale music for last year's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Kingdom of Heaven, and such earlier scores as Spy Game, Man on Fire, Shrek and Shrek 2, Team America: World Police, Domino and Chicken Run.

Among the filmmakers saluting Gregson-Williams via video were Joel Schumacher ("he understands the film from inside out"), Jeffrey Katzenberg ("one of the more original voices in music today"), Tony Scott ("unpredictable, brilliant and a little scary"), Andrew Adamson ("he literally works 24 hours a day, and because of that he finds the soul of a movie") and mentor Hans Zimmer ("he's got heart, depth and a very romantic soul").

In brief acceptance remarks, Gregson-Williams said he "double- and triple-checked to see if they had the right Williams" and that he would "endeavor to be worth" the honor. He echoed Igor Stravinsky's famous 1961 line that "my music is best understood by children and animals."

Earle Hagen

Earle Hagen

Hagen, 86, quipped that his honor might be retitled the "Last Man Standing" award, as he is the only one left of five TV and film composers who bucked the status quo by leaving rival performing-rights organization ASCAP in 1955 and joining BMI (the others were Herbert Spencer, Hugo Friedhofer, Cyril Mockridge and Lionel Newman).

Doreen Ringer Ross, Vice President of film/TV relations for BMI, called Hagen "a brilliant, successful composer and gifted teacher" and said that he had "contributed so much to our culture, our community and our business."

The award was presented by jazz saxophonist Dave Koz, who was one of Hagen's first BMI workshop students. Having composed the standard "Harlem Nocturne" alone, he said, should have qualified him for a lifetime honor. He called Hagen "a great nurturer, a great mentor and a great friend."

A montage of classic Hagen television themes was shown, including Make Room for Daddy, The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, I Spy, That Girl, The Mod Squad and Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer. Also shown were photos Hagen's BMI workshop where dozens of young composers were taught the ins and outs of scoring for films and TV.

Hagen described his long career as a gradual evolution from player to arranger to orchestrator to composer, conductor and eventually author and teacher. And, he said, "I want to tell you, if I had my musical life to live over again, I wouldn't change a damn thing."

Dozens of leading composers attended the ceremonies. Among the attendees honored for their work in film last year were Gustavo Santaolalla (Brokeback Mountain), David Newman (Monster-in-Law), Alex Wurman (March of the Penguins), Christopher Young (The Exorcism of Emily Rose), Clint Mansell (Sahara), Trevor Rabin (Coach Carter), Mark Mothersbaugh (Herbie Fully Loaded), George S. Clinton (Big Momma's House 2), Rolfe Kent (Wedding Crashers), Nathan Barr (The Dukes of Hazzard), Theodore Shapiro (Fun With Dick and Jane) and John Ottman (Fantastic Four).

Television composers honored included Steve Jablonsky (Desperate Housewives), Peter Manning Robinson (Without a Trace), Kevin Kiner (CSI: Miami), Brian Kirk (NCIS), Larry Groupe (Commander-in-Chief), Bill Brown (CSI: New York), Charlie Clouser (Numb3rs), Danny Pelfrey (Strong Medicine), Mothersbaugh (Big Love), and the trio of Eric Allaman, Dain Blair and Tony Phillips (Extreme Makeover: Home Edition).

A special moment during the evening was the appearance of Beach Boys icon Brian Wilson, who was honored for the use of his golden oldie "God Only Knows," as the theme for HBO's Big Love. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

©2006 Jon Burlingame

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