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Vanity Fair Ghost-Composers Piece

Vanity Fair has published a fantastic piece by Mark Rozzo about the prevalence of ghostwriters for Hollywood film and television composers, and how it’s become an even larger problem for the ghostwriters to earn a living with reduced or eliminated royalties in the streaming age.

The article doesn’t “out” anybody—no stunning revelations—but it’s well-researched, nuanced and insightful.

I don’t love contemporary film music the way I did even in the 1990s—in fact, I don’t even like it. I kind of can’t stand most of it. There are all sorts of aesthetic reasons why—but it’s quite likely a major reason that it’s simply not “written” anymore.

It’s neither composed by hand, nor by a single artist. It’s by a small army of anonymous musicians operating software doing musical sound design—then, under larger budgeted situations, re-recorded in whole or part by an orchestra.

The scores that I still find delightful and seek out for listening are those that do have a single, artistic point of view to them—Under the Skin by Mica Levi comes to mind.

It’s even more problematic in television. If you’re seeing one name on more than one TV show, it’s just physically impossible for one person to be writing it all.

I find it especially sad when some of my favorite composers of decades past (names withheld to protect the innocent, and the guilty) now sound like...well, everybody else.

I don’t want to speculate publicly without knowing the facts. But it’s just a sad reality of the modern world.

I was recently looking at the published score for Poltergeist and it’s just impossible to imagine something like that being written today. I doubt very many composers know how to do it, first of all—and none of them could approach Jerry Goldsmith’s level of mastery. But also, Poltergeist was made in the old days of reasonable postproduction schedules.

Just a depressing state of affairs—but a terrific piece from one of my favorite magazines.

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Jack Zhu
Jack Zhu
May 17, 2022

I agree with this sentiment a lot, I love Jerry's more modernist and complex compositions, I doubt many modern composers save for perhaps Elliot Goldenthal or Austin Wintory could write like this and even then these people are hardly in the mainstream all that much. The point is outside of Hollywood all the great personal scores are being written by truly passionate artists and composers but within Hollywood the music is just not what if used to be.


Feb 21, 2022

I agree with a most of this. While I do take some comfort that some people seem to be continuing to do good work and have established creative relationships with certain producers and directors. Composers and film music is just another "below the line" element. It is, indeed, a sad thing to see that where composers were once listed in the credits following director, writer, and producer they are now buried after the costume designer or art director's title.

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