Can you tell us about your musical education and background?
Attended Music and Art High School (now called: LAGUARDIA SCHOOL OF PERFORMING ARTS) and Juilliard, as an oboe major, but my real education came from playing in jazz groups, in pick-up bands, and in the Symphonies (Dallas, Pittsburgh, N.Y. Little Orchestra Society, L.A. Philharmonic).
Do you play any instruments, and in turn ever played on any of your scores (and/or other composer's scores)?
I am still performing on oboe with the Santa Fe Symphony, and, occasionally, tenor sax with the Santa Fe Great Big Jazz band. I used to be a folk guitar picker. I played on dozens of my scores: oboe on several MAN FROM UNCLE's, English horn on CRY BABY KILLER (Jack Nickolson's first movie), sax on MACHINE GUN KELLY, oboe and English horn on the ORIENTA album, etc., etc. I also played Tire Chains on CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN. Also played for Elmer Bernstein, Jerome Moross, Ernest Gold, David Raksin, Lynn Murray, Andre Previn, John Williams, Franz Waxman, Bronislaw Caper, John Green, Morton Stevens, Hershel Gilbert, Paul Sawtelle, etc.,etc.
What led you to wanting to compose music for a living?
Luck. I was the only musician Stanley Kubrick knew.
Have you ever composed any non score works such as concert pieces, symphonies, etc.?
Many, and still doing so, mostly to plays and oratorios, the books of which I wrote myself.
What was your first television/film score?
Kubrick's DAY OF THE FIGHT
I don't know if you'll recall, but you scored one episode of the popular, long-running series "Gunsmoke" (the season 10, "Dry Road To Nowhere"). How did you get on the show and why only one episode?
I did several one shots: my agent thought it would be a good career move to spread me around.
Let's take a three-hour tour, or at least a twenty second question: how'd you get involved with the classic "Gilligan's Island" series, taking over for no less than John Williams as the series' is composer?
Same thing: my agent wanted me to have a "Comedy" credit.
Similar question, only this time for the cult series "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.", and were you asked or felt obliged to use any ideas or themes from other composers, in the episodes you did?
Same thing again. It was assumed that I would re-arrange Jerry Goldsmith's theme, and use it.
Three of your scores to the series were released on CD (LINK). Were there any efforts you wish had also been released on CD, and how happy were you when you found out the ones that did get released, were?
Very happy. Sure, I wish many of them would be released.
And now we reach the inevitable -- "Star Trek". How did you get involved, and why only the five episodes?
Bob Justman knew of my work, and hired me when the opportunity arose. The series ended shortly after I worked with them.
From films like "The Cable Guy", to TV series like "The Family Guy", your now infamous fight music for the episode "Amok Time", has been paid homage too more times than Kirk romanced the ladies. How does it feel to have become a part of the musical lexicon of every single generation of composers since then, and do you have a little smile each time you hear the homages? For goodness sakes -- aside from a few hard-core fans, nobody can recall any of the dialogue from that scene, but everybody can hums bars from your fight music.
One of life's continuing pleasures.
Play excerpt of the iconic "fight music":
Must be nice to point to the screen, when any grand children are around and say, "You know, I composed that..." and grin, huh?
I find it more fun to have the grandkids, four of whom are graduating high school and college, this month and next, stumble on the credits on their own.
How did you get involved with "Mission: Impossible", and did you use Lalo's theme in your efforts? Where you asked to bring that certain sound that other episode scores carried, into your efforts?
Again, it was assumed that I would use Lalo's theme, and keep the mood similar.
What exactly was your involvement with the 1977 series "Roots"?
Quincy Jones wrote part of the first episode. Three weeks before air-time, he had not yet come up with a main theme. I was brought in, wrote the Main Theme, finished Episode One, and did every ROOTS project since then.
How did you get involved with "Dynasty", for which you did three episodes? (credits list)
My agent told me to show up, and I did so.
Play suite from the episode :
Did you ever mentor and thus protege another composer into the industry?
Not really. I did, however, teach the Master Class in film Conducting and composing at U.C.L.A. Extension for 16 years.
What was the last film or television project you worked on?
THE SECRET LIVES OF 118 GREEN STREET.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: This was from a 1994 documentary special for "ABC World of Discovery")
What have been some of your favorite film and television projects you have worked on over the years, and why?
Hard question to answer. I'm a lover of Appalachian music, so THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY OF DOCTOR MEG LAUREL is a favorite. Also, TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN. They ran out of money, and asked me to score the entire movie with three players (Robert Duvall on trumpet, William Kraft on percussion, and Laurindo Almeida on guitar). I played oboe, making it four. Also, I enjoyed all the STAR TREKS. There was a good feeling surrounding the Trek series.
Are there any scores you've done that you wish were on CD?
Sure. All of them.
Have you ever had a score rejected, or replaced any scores?
How do you feel about scores today and the state of the industry?
I'm glad to be out of the business, what with these music supervisors.
What are some of your favorite scores, not composed by yourself?
Jerome Moross THE BIG COUNTRY, John Green RAINTREE COUNTY, all the PROKOFIEV scores, William Walton's HAMLET and HENRY THE FIFTH, Alex North VIVA ZAPATA, STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, all of Elmer's scores.
Who are some of your favorite composers (living or deceased)?
Bartok, Copland, Stravinsky.
In an era where orchestra synth samples are becoming more & more realistic, and producers using composers who create scores more on computers than with real orchestras, how do you feel it's impacted scoring as you knew it, and do you think it misses the nuances and playing quality a real orchestra can only give?
Of course I think it's an unfortunate compromise. But, how to fight it, is the problem.
If you had to do it all over again -- the hectic TV schedules, overlapping projects, quick turn arounds ... would you?
I smile every time I think of the impossible situations us film composers have wriggled our way out of. I loved it.
Are there any upcoming musical projects, or otherwise, you would like to tell us about?
If you're ever in Santa Fe, give a call. I will be having another play with music put on the boards by year's end.
And finally, if there is anything you'd like to comment on that wasn't covered by a question earlier (or you felt a question didn't go fully enough into), please feel free to say what ever you want.
I'm glad to have had the opportunity to go over my adventures in film land.
Many thanks to Mr. Fried for being so kind to lend his time and tales to the score loving community! Published: May 13, 2010