Do you remember the songs that were featured in the movies or on the television programs that made you laugh or cry or made you change the way you see the world? Nothing connects us to meaningful moments like music. Music has the power to take us back or to help move us forward toward our destiny.
No one knows that more than the music professionals who help to produce the soundtracks for film and television. This part of the music industry has often gone under the radar, but it is as creative as the record business.
“I don’t consider music as something that evokes emotion,” said Composer Stephen Taylor. “It ‘IS’ emotion, but an emotion of its own sort, unique in and of itself,” he added describing music as a kind of cast member.
To celebrate Black Music Month, Taylor and a few other music professionals will participate in a free panel discussion held by the Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) Institute titled “The Power of Music in Film and TV” at 10:30 am on Saturday, June 30th at The KNOW Contemporary Gallery, 422 South Alameda St. in Los Angeles. Parking is $5.00. Street parking is also available.
Like the record industry, television and film music composing is very competitive. You have to be talented and able to meet crushing deadlines with varying expectations. Reggie Wilson, the former Vice President of Music Production and Administration at Walt Disney Pictures & Television explains the difference.
“Songs recorded for the record business are stand-alone creative pieces recorded for audio only formats,” said Wilson. “Music recorded as underscore for film and TV are created precisely to support the action in a film project,” added Wilson.
Wilson worked in Walt Disney Studios’ music department from 1987 to 2013. His last responsibilities included administrative oversight of all musician union and musician payroll issues for all production divisions of the studio including, ABC Studios, Touchstone Television, and ABC Family. While his credits are too many to site, he worked on several successful musicals such as “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” and “Annie” just to name a few.
“I hire the musicians for composers,” said Wilson. “There are remarkably few African American composers working in film and television. That’s something I’ve tried to fight most of my career. There are certainly qualified composers like Patrice Rushen, Stanley Clarke, and Marcus Miller,” he said, adding that there is a black ceiling blocking the entry of African Americans. The key people who have the power to break that ceiling are major Black directors and producers.
Taylor has written the scores on productions for Charles Burnett, Robert Townsend and most recently the 2016 movie “Southside with You” which dramatizes the first date between President Barack Obama and his future wife, Michelle Robinson.
Taylor said composing music for a Black film can be somewhat different than for a movie with a White cast.
“Since there are indeed experiences unique to the Black community, it is often wise to reflect those cultural nuances and sensibilities in the music,” said Taylor. “However, animation takes a very specific kind of skill and sensibility.
“I wrote the music underscore and main title song (Wakanda Weh T’Challa) for the Marvel/BET Black Panther animated series produced by Reginald Hudlin in 2009 based on the comic book ( to see the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZU7Y1Hdww0),” added Taylor who began his career as a cartoon composer for Hanna Barbera and Ruby Spears in 1981.
Can a music score save a bad movie? Can a soundtrack give a hit movie more juice? How do you break into the business? The panelists will answer these questions and more at the seminar. Seating is limited. For information, e-mail Linda@paff.org or register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/paff-institute-presents-the-power-of-music-in-film-tv-tickets 46858027622?aff=ebdssbdestsearch