ASCAP Film and Television Awards: Composers Take a Cue, Get Their Due

3:02 PM PST 06/25/2014 by Roy Trakin
Todd Williamson/Invision for W Hotel Worldwide/AP Images

From Shirley Walker to Wendy & Lisa, the performing rights organization celebrates its 100th anniversary by honoring 
women in movie music, the century’s greatest scores and, of course, the perennial Hans  Zimmer.

This story first appeared in the July 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Performing rights organization ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) will hold its 29th annual Film and Television Awards on June 25 at The Beverly Hilton. The event will honor the composers of 2013’s top box-office films, the most-performed television scores and the most popular video soundtracks. Five things to know:

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1. Celebrating ASCAP’s 100th birthday: The 500,000-strong organization is the only performing rights group in the U.S. owned and run by its members: songwriters, composers and music publishers. To mark the milestone, a special clip will highlight the greatest ASCAP movie scores of the past 100 years, from Alfred Newman’s classic 20th Century Fox theme all the way up to Gravity

2. Wendy & Lisa prove there’s life after Prince: Since their ’80s heyday backing the Purple One, Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman have gone on to earn awards and accolades for their film and TV work. Among the duo’s credits: The 1995 box-office hit Dangerous Minds, Showtime’s Nurse Jackie, for which they won an Emmy in 2010, and NBC’s Heroes. Wendy & Lisa will be presented with ASCAP’s first Shirley Walker Award, which honors those “whose achievements have contributed to the diversity of film and television music.”

3. How Shirley Walker paved the way for women composers in Hollywood: Regarded as the first prominent woman of film and TV music, Walker, who died in 2006 at age 61, began her career in 1979, playing synthesizers on Carmine Coppola’s Apocalypse Now score. In 1992, she became the first female composer t o earn a solo score credit on a major Hollywood motion picture for her work on John Carpenter’s Memoirs of an Invisible Man. She went on to create the scores for such films as Willard and the Final Destination trilogy and TV series Falcon Crest, China Beach and The Flash, one of many collaborations with Danny Elfman (she had served as his conductor on Scrooged and Batman). She won Daytime Emmy Awards as music director for Batman: The Animated Series and in music composition in 2001 for Batman Beyond. At the time of her death, Walker had scored more major studio motion pictures than any other American woman. Says ASCAP vp film and TV Shawn LeMone: “Shirley was a mentor, teacher and an inspiration to many. Like Shirley, Wendy & Lisa serve as role models to aspiring females pursuing a career as composers for film and television.” The honorees also are big fans of Walker and her work. “Shirley Walker’s extraordinary talent, name and legacy of camaraderie have been precious to so many of us for so long,” says Coleman, with Melvoin adding, “We hope to do her proud by inspiring other composers, musicians and artists to keep on walking … even if you walk alone at first.”

4. Alf Clausen pens the tunes for a classic toon: An ASCAP board member and a nominee in  this year’s inaugural Composers’ Choice Awards for TV Composer of 2013, this veteran American film and TV musician is best known for being the sole composer of The Simpsons since 1990. The Minnesota native counts Henry Mancini as one of his heroes, inspiring a move to Los Angeles in 1967 in search of TV work. Clausen’s 27 Emmy nominations include mentions for his music on Moonlighting. After working on ALF, Clausen was hired by  Matt Groening for a new Fox animated series. He joined The Simpsons in season two and never looked back, earning two Emmys along the way.

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5. It’s the first year for the ASCAP Composers’ Choice Award: This inaugural prize is the first to be voted on by all of ASCAP’s writer members in film and TV. Hans Zimmer leads in noms, with two in the film category (12 Years a Slave, Rush). He goes up against Golden Globe winner Alex Ebert (All Is Lost) of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, M83’s Anthony Gonzalez and Joseph Trapanese (Oblivion) and Steven Price (Gravity). The TV nominees, in addition to Clausen, are Sean Callery (Homeland), James Levine (American Horror Story, Glee), Bear McCreary (The Walking Dead) and Dave Porter (Breaking Bad). 

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