February 27, 2012
The Artist and The Muppets Score Oscar Music Gold
Awards top off a weekend of celebration for music nominees by Jon Burlingame
It was another international night for Oscar music, as a French composer and a New Zealand songwriter took musical honors Sunday night at the 84th annual Academy Awards.
Bource's win followed an unusual introduction in which the composers' names were not said aloud – rather, their names appeared on screen while excerpts from their music underscored montages of moving film images and musical symbols. Bource was especially gracious, acknowledging his fellow nominees not just with mentions during his acceptance speech but actually stopping to embrace them or shake hands en route to the podium. (Fellow nominees John Williams, Howard Shore and Alberto Iglesias were all sitting on the aisle.)
Bource called it "a special honor" and asked for acceptance by the Hollywood community because "I've got so much love to give."
McKenzie's win was preceded by a funny bit in which presenters Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis emerged from the orchestra pit crashing cymbals and introducing themselves as "professional musicians." McKenzie thanked Disney "for making movies with songs in them" and acknowledged the late Muppet creator Jim Henson for his inspiration.
Music was prominently featured during this year's ABC telecast, as music directors Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams (collaborators on the animated Despicable Me) put star soloists in the balconies of the former Kodak Theatre.
Most visible were percussionist Sheila E., previous Oscar winner A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire) and violinist Ann Marie Calhoun. Also featured were another Oscar winner, Giorgio Moroder (Midnight Express), jazz guitarist Stephane Wrembel and cellist Martin Tillmann. Zimmer himself was seen playing guitar from time to time.
Esperanza Spalding and the Southern California Children's Choir sang "What a Wonderful World" during the annual in-memoriam tribute to actors and artists who died during the past year. Composer-orchestrator Jack Hayes was the only musician featured on the broadcast, although the online necrology also included composers Pete Rugolo, Fred Steiner and John Strauss.
Composer Marc Shaiman, host Billy Crystal's longtime musical collaborator, penned the music and lyrics for Crystal's funny opening Oscar medley. Danny Elfman was announced as having composed the music for the Cirque du Soleil segment. And David Newman's music for Hoffa was heard during the segment recapping the Governors' Awards to James Earl Jones, Oprah Winfrey and makeup artist Dick Smith.
Nick Glennie-Smith (composer of Secretariat and Ella Enchanted) conducted a 60-member orchestra during the telecast. Zimmer said in an interview last week that he believed it was the largest orchestra in the history of the Oscars.
On Saturday, the Society of Composers & Lyricists sponsored its annual Oscar music reception at the home of Kojak composer John Cacavas in Beverly Hills. All the nominees (except for Rio songwriter Carlinhos Brown, who was in Brazil) attended.
John Williams, a double nominee this year for War Horse and The Adventures of Tintin, expressed his thanks to the music branch for his record 47 nominations. "I have really felt that, by this time, they must have been quite fed up with me," he said, drawing laughs from the crowd of 300. Songwriters McKenzie and Siedah Garrett (lyricist for Rio) engaged in good-natured banter, with Garrett quipping, "If I win, I'll still speak to you afterwards."
The weekend's music-related events began on Friday, when talent agency WME's Music for Visual Media Department hosted what it called "the first annual Film Music Family Brunch" at a Sunset Boulevard restaurant. Approximately 300 attended.
Composer-producer Quincy Jones, in brief remarks, reminisced about working in Universal's famous "Sprinkler Drain" rooms where he and other composers toiled in the mid-1960s and spoke about the importance of "community" in today's world.
Also on hand were WME executive Amos Newman and Composers Guild president Alan Elliott, who announced a new initiative to mentor young composers into the Hollywood system. The first, Elliott said, will be Polish-born composer Wlad Marhulets, currently attending New York's Juilliard School.
©2012 Jon Burlingame