It was definitely an evening of “soul” at the second annual Society of Composers & Lyricists Awards, as the Pixar film “Soul” and the Latvian film “Blizzard of Souls” took the top prizes for outstanding original scores for 2020 films.
The “Soul” composing trio of Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste won for outstanding original score for a studio film, their second such prize in 48 hours after winning the Golden Globe Sunday night. Should it maintain this momentum through other ceremonies in the weeks to come, “Soul” could be the film to beat at Oscar time.
Batiste, music director for TV’s “Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” contributed the jazz material for the story about an aspiring jazz pianist whose life is cut short by an accident. Reznor and Ross wrote the dramatic score. Reznor and Ross, who were also nominated this year for “Mank,” are best known for their Nine Inch Nails work and the Oscar-winning score for “The Social Network.”
Reznor praised their Pixar colleagues for being “generous, inviting and warm collaborators,” while Batiste spoke of the “divinity and spiritual elements” of the film and how important it was to “do something that people around the world, when there is so much darkness, will get a little bit of light from.”
“Blizzard of Souls” composer Lolita Ritmanis won for outstanding original score for an independent film, a surprise considering the Latvian-produced World War I epic was not widely seen and failed to qualify for the Oscar shortlist.
She was one of three women in the category, and this marks the second consecutive year that SCL honors went to women; last year’s winners were Hildur Guðnadóttir for the studio film “Joker” and Kathryn Bostic for the independently produced “Toni Morrison: The Pieces That I Am.”
The win for Ritmanis (pictured above) was doubly impressive because she also outpolled Emile Mosseri, whose film “Minari” is a major entry on this year’s awards circuit. Ritmanis, whose parents fled Communist oppression in Latvia during the 1940s, is an Emmy-winning composer whose primary work for the past two decades has been in animation.
She thanked director Dzintars Dreibergs for making a film of “such depth and magnitude,” and cited the Alliance for Women Film Composers (which she co-founded), saying “we are here and our voices are being heard and recognized.”
“Husavik,” the soaring ballad from “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga,” won outstanding original song for visual media for songwriters Savan Kotecha, Fat Max Gsus and Rickard Göransson. Their win, too, was interesting as they topped veteran Diane Warren in the balloting (although her nomination was for the Disney Plus movie “Free” and not the Netflix film “The Life Ahead,” which won the best song Golden Globe on Sunday).
Carlos Rafael Rivera won the SCL Award for outstanding original score for a television production for Netflix’s “The Queen’s Gambit” miniseries. Rivera burst onto the scoring scene in 2018 with his music for “Godless,” which won the Emmy for best main title theme.
Honored for outstanding original score for interactive media were Garry Schyman and Mikolai Stroinski for the Kafka-inspired video game “Metamorphosis.”
The Spirit of Collaboration Award, given annually to a director-composer duo, went to Spike Lee and Terence Blanchard, whose work together dates back 31 years to the musician’s trumpet work on Lee’s “Do the Right Thing.” Blanchard began composing Lee’s scores with 1991’s “Jungle Fever,” and since then the two have collaborated on various films and television projects including “Malcolm X,” “Inside Man,” “The 25th Hour,” the Oscar-nominated “BlacKkKlansman” and current Oscar hopeful “Da 5 Bloods.”
Quincy Jones introduced Lee and Blanchard. Blanchard thanked Lee for having been “a very creative force in my life, and helping me grow.” Lee said “my film isn’t complete until the score is in the movie” and lamented musicians in film “not getting the respect they deserve.”
An In Memoriam segment recognized key composers, songwriters and industry people who died during the past year, including Oscar winners Johnny Mandel and Ennio Morricone, Emmy winners Billy Goldenberg, Lennie Niehaus and Adam Schlesinger, and music agent Cheryl Tiano.
Composer Michael Giacchino (“The Incredibles,” “Lost”) served as host for the virtual ceremony, held entirely online in a mix of live acceptance speeches and taped music pieces. Performers included vocal group Naturally 7, harpist Emmanuel Ceysson, pianist Kris Bowers and trumpeter Blanchard, guitarist Tommy Emmanuel and vocalist Nikka Costa.
The SCL is the leading organization of composers and songwriters who work in visual media.