May 19, 2014
Pi composer Mychael Danna Receives BMI's Richard Kirk Award
Annual event tributes top grossing film and TV composers and songwriters by Marilee Bradford
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.—Composer Mychael Danna, this year's Oscar winner for his music for Life of Pi, added another honor to his list Wednesday night when he accepted BMI's Richard Kirk Award for career achievement at the performing-rights society's annual Film and TV Awards dinner at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
Danna – whose other notable film scores include The Sweet Hereafter, Moneyball, Capote, Little Miss Sunshine and Girl Interrupted – received a standing ovation from the 700 composers, songwriters and other music-industry professionals. The salute included a video featuring directors Atom Egoyan (Sweet Hereafter), Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding), Ang Lee (Life of Pi) and Bennett Miller (Moneyball).
BMI President Del Bryant praised Danna this way: "When you think of `world music' in film scores, you think of Mychael... a veteran ethnomusicologist who has employed world-music sounds throughout his career." He pointed out that Life of Pi demanded Indian, Persian and Indonesian instruments along with an 80-piece orchestra and choirs singing in Sanskrit and Latin.
Noting that much of Danna's career has been for small independent films, Bryant said, "Mychael has spent much of his working life in the relative shadows, always pursuing the idea of innovative soundscapes against compelling imagery, and relishing the challenges put before him by cutting-edge filmmakers."
Lee called Danna "a fellow filmmaker, rather than just a composer"; Nair termed him "a child of the universe." Egoyan cited his "intense curiosity" and determination to find "some key that will unlock the dramatic material," while Miller applauded Danna's desire to "never approach anything the obvious way."
In accepting, Danna said "I'm so proud and happy that I've been able to spend my career the way all of you do in this room associated with the ancient and wonderful world of storytelling.... The deepest joy of this life is the many collaborations; these are the things that are really the rewards."
Also honored Wednesday night was veteran journalist Jon Burlingame, who received a "special citation of appreciation" for his work covering film and TV music for nearly three decades. Praising Burlingame for his books (The Music of James Bond), articles, radio programs and other public appearances over the years were composers John Williams, Mike Post, Lalo Schifrin, Charles Fox, Richard Sherman, David Newman and Christopher Lennertz. Burlingame is the first journalist honored by BMI in the organization's 75-year history.
In addition, composer Randy Edelman received a "spotlight award" for what BMI senior VP Doreen Ringer Ross called his "most performed and best-known piece of music," the 1993 theme for the short-lived Fox series The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., which NBC has licensed for consistent use throughout its Olympics coverage.
Bryant, who is retiring later this year as BMI president, was also saluted for his 42 years of service to the organization. BMI CEO Mike O'Neill led the ovation for Bryant.
Among the composers accepting BMI awards for their film work were Alexandre Desplat (The Monuments Men), Brian Tyler (Thor: The Dark World), Christopher Lennertz (Ride Along), Danny Elfman (American Hustle), James Newton Howard (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire), John Ottman (Non-Stop), Junkie XL (Divergent), Mark Isham (42), Mark Mothersbaugh (The LEGO Movie), Stanley Clarke (Best Man Holiday), Michael Andrews (The Heat) and Theodore Shapiro (We're the Millers).
Composers who picked up BMI awards for their television music included Atli Orvarsson (Chicago Fire), Blake Neely (Resurrection), Chad Fisher (Scandal), Charlie Clouser (American Horror Story), Clinton Shorter (Intelligence), David Buckley (The Good Wife), Ed Shearmur (Devious Maids), Michael Penn (Masters of Sex), Mike Post (Law & Order: SVU) and W.G. Snuffy Walden (Under the Dome).
©2014 Marilee Bradford