Oscar-Nominated Music Scores Find Life Beyond Big Screen, Thanks to Radio and Concerts

Classical radio station KUSC has programmed Film-Music Week starting Feb. 12, with a movie theme playing every hour during the workday, as part of the station’s pre-Oscar buildup.

It’s a reminder that a film score has life beyond the big screen.

Robert Kraft, who heads production-management company Kraftbox Entertainment, says, “A great composer knows what a movie needs and he or she provides emotional amplification. But their score can also work as a stand-alone, because these are often great works of art, performed by great musicians.”

This year’s five Oscar nominees will all be heard on KUSC film week, aka KUSC at the Movies: Carter Burwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri”; Alexandre Desplat, “The Shape of Water”; Jonny Greenwood, “Phantom Thread”; John Williams, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”; and Hans Zimmer, “Dunkirk.”

Many of them have already been part of the regular KUSC rotation, along with such classic and current composers as Miklos Rozsa, Bernard Herrmann, Howard Shore and Rachel Portman.

KUSC program host Brian Lauritzen says: “The traditional classical audience used to turn up their noses at film scores, but that’s changed over the years. Movie music has so much power — and it’s power that we often don’t realize when we’re watching the film.”

Since KUSC is a public radio station with audience support, “Listeners feel a great sense of ownership,” says Lauritzen. “As a result, we hear a lot from them, via email, phones and social media.” One of the topics that creates the most feedback is film scores. “The listeners are kind of surprised to hear it and, for the most part, are super-stoked about it.”

This year’s five Oscar nominees are also played regularly on internet radio station Soundtrax, which is completely devoted to music from film, TV and video games.

Chris Goodwin began the station in 2011, mixing his radio background with a love of film music. “I’m trying to find more people like me, to turn them into movie-score fans. I wanted to let composers and scores be the stars of this station.”

He is constantly adding new works, and went through all 141 Oscar-eligible scores for 2017, adding most of them to Soundtrax. He programs it like a Top-40 radio station, with various categories, such as blockbusters, oldies, recent films, etc., but with the heaviest rotation coming from current films.

“I love to break a song right when a movie’s opening; I want listeners to make those connections,” he says. “I want the film to pop into their head, so I lean toward the main title or character themes. Music for action sequences often don’t work as well.”

Soundtrax is available 24/7 and Goodwin adds that he is based in Oklahoma but “I can’t think of myself as a local market, because Soundtrax is heard around the world.”

To support the stations, go to KUSC.org (or call their 800 number) and go to soundtrax.fm

Kraft says it’s no surprise that movie scores have life beyond the screen, “A Thomas Newman score stands alone any day of the week. ‘Road to Perdition’ and ‘Shawshank’ — those are great works of art.” Kraft, who also served for 20 years as president of Fox Music, adds, “Film composers are now rock stars. It’s a new phenomenon for a number of reasons. One, there are genuine rock stars who’ve become composers, and it works both ways: Trent Reznor working with Atticus Ross, Hans Zimmer headlining at Coachella, Danny Elfman at Lincoln Center, Williams selling out the Hollywood Bowl.

“When James Horner’s score for ‘Titanic’ sells 30 million CDs, it’s clear that film composers are cultural icons. And I think it’s only going to get bigger.”