Carlos Rafael Rivera's Top Ten Film Composers/Cues

Carlos Rafael Rivera's Top Ten Film Composers/Cues

By UM News

Carlos Rafael Rivera's Top Ten Film Composers/Cues

By UM News
FROST TENS tap into the broad and deep expertise of the world-class faculty at the highly acclaimed Frost School of Music. The lists are not necessarily "Top Tens”, but rather TENS to consider and discuss. Each month we will post a new faculty list, inviting your responses and additions. Enjoy!

Somehow, a great movie score has the unique ability of embedding itself in the fabric of our lives. By hearing just a snippet, one is transported to a specific time, place, or even mood. We even share these snippets as a global culture - think of the theme for Jaws when in danger, or Psycho when alluding to horror. But the best aspect of great film music for me, is that it brings out that curiosity I first felt as a child, a whimsy to explore, indulge, laugh, or cry, that no other medium has yet provided in my experience. The list below is by no means definitive, and could change if you asked me next month, but without a doubt addresses the wonder of being alive.  Here We Go! 

(in no particular order) 

1 – Ennio Morricone: Malena
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-YD2Y8ojYE
This is not necessarily Morricone's most popular piece of music, but it definitely captures his incredible facility in writing emotionally charged melodies. 
 
 
2 – James Horner: Glory
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mR09OclTLNk
Inclusive of choir, military drums, and a rarely matched gift for melody, this bit of music encapsulates at the highest degree the magnificence that film music can be. 
 
 
3 – Atticus Ross | Trent Reznor: The Social Network
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SBNCYkSceU
This simple, yet gorgeously crafted piano melody, written over an almost noise-like electronic pedal point is a great example of why this score won an academy award. 
 
 
4 – Jerry Goldsmith: The Great Train Robbery
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cs4djp2cZ6Y
This is Goldsmith at his best. A masterpiece caper score. There is so much I could say about this, but the music should take care of it for me.
 
 
5 – Alexandre Desplat: Birth
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jP7DtzyGZa8
This is a must watch video - perhaps one of my favorite opening sequences to music inclusive of a small Wagner quote.  It is an early work for Desplat, yet his elegant sensibilities are on full display. 
 
 
6 – John Williams: Catch Me If You Can
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nv2S_S9MlU
OK - maybe this IS my favorite opening sequence. It is a perfect marriage of animation  with Williams' Jazz imbued score.
 
 
7 – Bernard Herrmann: North by Northwest
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-08bV-c-vs
This piece captures the spirit of Herrmann's compositional approach: Repetition of short phrases with endless orchestral variation.  Desplat calls Herrmann the first minimalist.  To me, he is not far off. Here is a composer that could do so much with so little.
 
8 – James Newton Howard: Signs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpBlakZzwZo
One of his more memorable cues, one can see/hear the very powerful influence of Herrmann on Howard on this cue, specifically. 
 
 
9 – Randy Newman: Toy Story 2 "When She Loved Me"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElhbTsKsros
One of the greats, in that Newman can write underscore AND song.  This is perhaps one of the most tear shedding pieces of story in animated film.
 
 
10 – Hans Zimmer: The Da Vinci Code
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JU7JK2yJ9mo
A great example of how epic Zimmer can be. The music slowly builds, rising in intensity in a way that Zimmer has truly mastered.  
 
 
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Carlos Rafael Rivera  
Assistant Professor  
Director of Musicianship, Artistry Development & Entrepreneurship 
Director Media Writing and Production 

Emmy-winning composer and Frost Assistant Professor, Dr. Carlos Rafael Rivera, serves double duty as Director of the Frost M.A.D.E. program, and Director of Media Writing and Production. A protégé of Randy Newman, Carlos has been teaching film scoring at the Frost School for the past seven years. His work for film and television includes A Walk Among the Tombstones (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment), and Godless (Netflix’) which won a 2018 Emmy Award for Original Main Title Theme Music, and a nomination for Outstanding Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie or a Special. As a guitarist, Carlos has performed onstage as the opening act for The Who at the Hollywood Bowl, recorded studio sessions for Island/Def Jam, and Universal Records, and he has had songs featured on ABC’s Scrubs, MTV, and VH-1. With his multi-talented career spanning several genres of the music industry, Carlos is the ultimate example of a musical entrepreneur.