CuttingRoomMusic’s Katherine Beggs Delivers Heartfelt Musical Project to Support Miracle Activation Center’s Mission

The past year has been nothing short of intense, as the Covid19 pandemic took the world by storm and forced everyone to rethink the way they live, work, and play. Regardless of background, location, or industry, everyone’s been trying their best to contribute to the recovery process. CuttingRoomMusic tries to bring joy and excitement to people’s lives in their own little way, through music.

That’s exactly what CuttingRoomMusic team member Katherine Beggs set out to do when she started working on a musical project for Miracle Activation Center. Miracle Activation Center is a California-based company that focuses on mental health, wellness and spirituality, counseling, life coaching, and more. Their mission is to help people get over difficult times in their lives, and improve themselves, both personally and professionally, so that they can become the best and healthiest version of themselves. 

During these trying times, the team at Miracle Activation Center wanted to bring a tribute to all the people who’ve been working hard to get the world through the pandemic. Founder and Executive Director Larendee Roos collaborates with Earl Purdy, a metaphysical and spiritual teacher, in a series called Conversations for Connection. One of their episodes, What Love Can Do, focused on how to bring healing to centuries of fear that manifests into hatred, anger, and harm. They commissioned Cutting Room Music team member Katherine Beggs, who wrote, composed, and sang the song that has become a theme for their work. They also engaged Larendee’s son, Warren Roos, to create the video. 

“There is power and true transformation can occur by meeting needs in simple ways, one human, one encounter at a time. We want people to know that they can bring hope, light, and love to every person and situation they encounter through simple acts of kindness,” said Larendee Roos of Miracle Activation Center.

“At a time when we are all asking what can be done, Earl asked the question, ‘I wonder what love can do?’ That question became the foundation and inspiration for the project. We specifically chose to collaborate with young adults to demonstrate the power of cross-generational collaboration. The song, ‘Wake Up and See the Light,’ together with the video, is a call to remember that the truth and the answers we need for any problem we face reside within each of us. No one has a monopoly on truth or change. We are all needed. This was a tribute to all the people who remember their true identity-powerful creators of change and transformation who demonstrate love and kindness everyday.”

My song is really supposed to be about healing and recovery, both collectively and individually after this dark year. It is a reminder that even in the darkest times, there is still hope, love, and light,” said Katherine Beggs, writer and performer of Wake Up and See the Light.  

“Katherine’s song captures the emotional feelings of such turbulent times, pointing to the hope, inclusion and humanity that is in all of us,” added Mark Roos, co-founder of Cutting Room Music. 

The team at Miracle Activation Center has been working tirelessly throughout the past year to deliver physical, emotional, social, spiritual and mental health support to people from all walks of life. Cutting Room Music wanted to show their support and respect for this meaningful work through music. 

Enjoy the song and video by clicking the link below:

About Miracle Activation Center

Miracle Activation Center is a California-based company focused on delivering best-in-class counseling, mental health, and personal development services. They specialize in holistic Self-discovery,  executive & ministerial support, and wellness. They also offer strategic intervention and team building workshops, and retreats through self-guided education and counseling.

Music Composers Wanted. Everywhere.

Is music a stable job? Let’s put it this way: music is a stable need. If you feel the urge to create music, be sure there are music-hungry creatures all around you that yearn to meet it, be it in film, in video games, on the radio, intertwined with the narration of an audiobook, or a tune to which their mind can turn for refuge during an awkwardly long elevator ride. Music is needed everywhere, all the time. The bigger, the faster, and the noisier our world grows outside, the more we need music to temper our worlds inside.

If you harbor an innate desire to create music, like we do at Cutting Room Music, keep working on it and don’t limit your chances by thinking that music composers only have careers in film or television. In fact, a music composer has access to a wide array of possible paths, almost all of which blend composition with other elements of music-making, such as performing, conducting, teaching, arranging or production of music, thereby creating endless possibilities, from “traditional” to “modern” composer career options.

What Are the “Typical” Musical Composition Career Options?

This is perhaps the loosest use of the word, as there is hardly anything “typical” about a musical composer’s professional path. You might start out as a fleeting member of small local new wave synth pop bands while working as an assistant engineer and all-around-handyman at a recording studio. Then you might put together a band and win over the world with dark heavy industrial explorations, and eventually relax into composing scores for films ranging from Natural Born Killers to Soul.

Perhaps the path that we are most exposed to is that of a composer-performer, which gives you the distinct advantage of presenting your own music the way you intend it to be heard.

A composer-conductor is another option to tap into the same advantage, but by influencing the performance of your creative work by others.

Alternatively, consider songwriting — the field is notoriously competitive, but always in need for fresh ideas to put behind the endless stream of fresh faces and voices transforming delivery of music.

The more academically inclined might explore the path of composer-instructor, which can range from teaching one or more instruments, teaching composition itself, or teaching musical arts courses within a college or university.

What Are Music Composer Careers You Don’t Hear Enough About?

There are a lot of options out there that we don’t associate with composers, either because they are called something else or because most of us don’t understand that it takes composition skills to do the job well.

A producer, for instance, is a wide-net term that can encapsulate arranging music or engineering to overhaul the sound of a piece or a collection of music — it takes a composer’s familiarity with instrument capability to realize when the sound might be missing something or when a good piece of music could be elevated by adapting it to a different set of instruments.

Some of the best producers in the business started out as producer’s assistants, which on its own is great exposure to music marketplace knowledge, collaboration opportunities, new skills and creative avenues. From there, you might put together your own studio and help lift other voices in film, television, commercials, animations, documentaries, or whatever their project is that needs music.

Composers’ particular expertise in new music gives them a certain knowledge of quality and sense of discrimination that makes them great publishing scouts — attend concerts, meet other composers, catch an early wave of new music, and uncover new talent.

Repertoire selection is another avenue of collaboration with publishing and record companies. A composer’s fine sense for musical arrangement and variety of the times makes for great curation of, say, a discography release.

New medium music compositionvideo games would likely not have evolved to be so immersive and sophisticated without the musical score that complements their narratives and built worlds. Even the best written true crime podcast would not be as gripping without the right music to underscore the drama.

As traditionally “analog” endeavours lean more into the digital and multimedia dimensions, advertising agencies and event coordinators need music composers to create everything from catchy jingles to soundscapes for conferences, conventions, and book tours, as well as edit sound and advise on audio design.

Films, television shows, video games, plays, commercials, podcasts, fashion shows, orchestras, small local store ads, musical therapy programs, and so much more everywhere around you need composers to bring their projects to completion, and each of these paths can be a fulfilling, satisfying composer career. 

If you’re looking for experienced composers or music consultants to help you with your next musical project, feel free to reach out to Cutting Room Music. We’re always ready and eager to immerse ourselves in a new and unique project, and we’re looking forward to working with you!

Inside Cutting Room Music: Meet Adonis Tsilimparis

We recently sat down and had a chat with Katherine Beggs, the youngest member of the Cutting Room Music team, where we picked her brain and got to know what makes her tick as a musician. Now, we’re talking to Adonis Tsilimparis, co-founder of Cutting Room Music and a veteran in the music business. We wanted to find out how he got started in this competitive industry, what inspires him, and what he thinks makes Cutting Room Music stand out from the competition.

Adonis Tsilimparis has a long track record writing and composing music for various projects. Raised in the New York City scene, where he played guitar in various bands, he got his first taste of the business writing music for various commercial ads. He now resides in Los Angeles and is constantly busy with team projects at Cutting Room Music, as well as his solo work. Read on to find out what keeps him motivated.

Adonis Tsilimparis of Cutting Room Music

Tell us a bit about your background and what got you into music. How long have you been doing this and do you still enjoy it?   

I have been in the music industry for over 20 years. I studied Guitar and Piano when I was 11 years old, and then went on to perform in bands and eventually became a composer. I still enjoy every minute of it.

Can you tell us about some of the favorite musical projects you’ve worked on in your career? Is there a project that holds a special place in your heart? 

Writing music for film and TV has always captivated me more than anything else. I had a lot of fun working on shows like “NCIS” and “CSI.”

Any exciting projects you’re currently working on, with CRM or individually (that you can tell us about)? 

We have an Amazon series that we will be working on this summer. It’s the second season of “Trending Crimes” and should be released this fall.

What do you think is special about CuttingRoomMusic? How do you differentiate from the competition? 

We stand apart because of our diverse musicality. Mark and Katherine have very different musical backgrounds than I do. As a result, we have more to offer. 

What’s it like working with Mark and Katherine within CuttingRoomMusic? Are your styles similar or very different? Do you ever disagree when working on projects, and how do you make it work?  

Everybody brings something different to the table. Katherine brings her songwriting skills and vocals, and Mark has his scoring and production background. With that configuration, it makes it very easy to work together. 

Now we want to get to know you a little bit better. Who are your favorite musicians or composers? Who inspires you?  

When it comes to guitarists, George Benson will always be my favorite. However, in the scoring world, I have the utmost admiration for Hildur Guðnadóttir and Johann Johannsson (RIP).

Where do you get your inspiration when writing/composing music? 

There has been so much music that has inspired me all throughout my life. I always try to draw back to those musical memories as a template and a source of creation. 

What does a day in the life of a music composer look like in 2021?  

Fortunately, there are a lot more opportunities for composers nowadays. There is more media out there than ever before, and there is work for everyone. That being said, a day in the life of a composer in 2021 should be a very busy one. 

What kind of music do you enjoy listening to? Any favorite genres or artists? 

I grew up listening to Classic Rock, so that will always be my “go to.” However, I honestly enjoy every genre. I also listen to Jazz, Classical, and World Music. 

Can you tell us which are your favorite movie soundtracks or scores? 

The first soundtrack that captivated me as a child was the score for “Chariots of Fire,” which was composed by Vangelis. That was what first made me want to do music for film and TV. More recent scores that I admire include “Sicario” by Johann Johannsson and “Gone Girl” by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

What’s your favorite musical instrument?  

The Guitar was my first Instrument, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. 

What’s one movie, TV show, or musical project that you would have loved to be a part of?  

I would have loved to have worked on any of the David Fincher films like “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” or “Panic Room.” He’s very good at creating tension that becomes a wellspring for musical inspiration. 

Anything else you’d like to share with us?  

I’m looking forward to some of the exciting new projects coming up at Cutting Room Music. We will keep you informed. Stay tuned!!

Interested in working with Adonis and Cutting Room Music? Reach out to us and tell us about your musical project.

The Difference Between a Score and a Soundtrack (Yes, There Is One)

While it is tempting to refer to “score” and “soundtrack” interchangeably, they are technically quite different. Scoring — an art form that some of us first learned in 2020 also applies to sourdough — refers to the original music that accompanies a film, whereas a soundtrack is generally used to refer to the selection of recorded songs that accompanies a film. However, its technical definition spans more broadly than that, as well as more broadly than the score. Let’s dig deeper for a better understanding of both, as well as some things you might not have known about either.

What Is a Film Score?

The score is music that is tailor made for a film, and is usually written by a composer who is specifically contracted for the production. The purpose of this original composition is to underscore and accentuate the delivery of a scene’s mood and the film’s emotion. Therefore, the creators of the score traditionally get all their cues from the film: plot; characters; spoken dialogue, as well as that which is left unsaid; scenery and set decor; costumes; and, of course, the director’s vision. An integral part of a film’s soundtrack, the score encompasses all the musical elements of a film’s sound, from background music in a scene to musical composition that accompanies climactic moments. 

It is also incorrect to think of a score as just a linear progression of more or less memorable orchestral tracks. In fact, scores have a multi-dimensional structure that spans both sides of the fourth wall. A score includes both the music that exists within the story (a.k.a. “diegetic”), which characters can also hear, and the soundscape that exists outside the story, which exists in the film only for us to hear (a.k.a. non-diegetic). 

When thinking of iconic scores, most of us instantly remember some of the  instrumental/orchestral theme songs that may or may not have also been our phone ringtone at one time or another. Those are more often than not an original composition non-diegetic score that ends up defining a character, a place, or a whole mood. Diegetic scores are where the bespoke composition sometimes meets existing songs that are licensed for use in the film’s soundtrack. A good example is when Buffalo Bill (as portrayed by Ted Levine in Silence of the Lambs) dances to “Goodbye Horses,” a real song from our real world by Q Lazzarus. Similarly, Guardians of the Galaxy features an extensive diegetic score, made up of all the real-world hit songs on Peter Quill’s mixtape. 

What Is a Soundtrack?

We generally associate the term “soundtrack” with the collection of music that is released along with a feature film. The thing is, a commercially released soundtrack album can be anything the studio wants it to be: it could be only the original score, only the licensed songs, or a combination of score and excerpts of dialogue or remixes and tribute versions of the music in the film. With A Man for All Seasons, RCA Victor released a double-album set that was a recording of almost all audio soundtrack of the film, including dialogue. 

While the soundtrack of a film does include the music, it is not limited to that. In fact, technically, the soundtrack encompasses all dialogue (both recorded on set and overdubbed), as well as ambient sound and sound effects – basically all of the sound in a movie. The soundtrack that reaches the general public is in fact a composite track of several other tracks that were recorded independently, such as the dialogue track, sound effects track, and music track. The making of a soundtrack brings together music composers, sound designers, editors, supervisors, and many more audio-visual professionals. 

Of course, neither scores nor soundtracks apply to just radio drama and movies anymore. Video games, theme parks, events, audiobook productions, and even book launches have enriched the audio entertainmentverse by including original scores, as well as dedicated soundtracks to complement the narratives and experiences they provide. 

If you’re looking to create music to go with your project, or want to know more about the differences between score and soundtrack, reach out to Cutting Room Music and let’s figure it out together. Our talented trio of composers is ready to help you with any musical project you might need, and we love a challenge!

Inside Cutting Room Music: Getting to Know Katherine Beggs

Don’t be fooled by the success experienced by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross: successful music composer duos that stand the test of time are rare. Music composer trios are even more of a rare breed, and this is one of the things that make Cutting Room Music stand out.

We want to learn more about what makes Cutting Room Music work, what the day in the life of a music composer/producer looks like nowadays, and what makes each team member tick – musically speaking. We kicked things off by chatting with Katherine Beggs, the youngest member of the team and arguably the busiest. Besides working full-time on musical projects for CRM and her solo work, she is also pursuing dual degrees in music composition and political science at Brown University. Keep reading to learn more about Katherine and what it’s like being part of Cutting Room Music.

Katherine Beggs, Composer | Cutting Room Music
Katherine Beggs of Cutting Room Music

Tell us a bit about your background and what got you into music

This is a great question because I honestly was not anticipating doing music professionally even five years ago. I was trained on classical piano, but when I was around 13 I started to write my own pieces. I then started officially composing in a more professional capacity when I was a sophomore in high school. I got into a young composer’s program where I had to compose for my city’s local choir and I truly fell in love with it. As I continued composing throughout the years, I realized that I wanted to continue doing it in college and eventually my career. 

Can you tell us about some of the musical projects you’ve worked on since you started out? Is there a project that holds a special place in your heart?

Yes! One of my recent projects that I am particularly proud of is a song that I wrote and sang for called “Wake Up and See the Light.” This was a commission from the company and it was inspired by the events of 2020, including the BLM protests and the Covid response. Although it’s been an extremely dark time, there have been beautiful moments of people coming together and helping one another. 

Any exciting projects you’re currently working on, or anything interesting in the pipeline (that you can tell us about)?  

So many projects! But I am not sure if I am allowed to discuss them quite yet…But you will definitely hear more about them in the upcoming months.  

What do you think is special about CuttingRoomMusic? How do you differentiate from other similar companies or the competition?

What is so special about CuttingRoom Music is that we are truly a team where everyone has an equal voice. I’ve worked for companies as an intern where I felt completely invisible due to my age, but Mark and Adonis treat me as an equal, which is remarkable given the fact that they are established composers who have been doing this longer than I’ve been alive. I think what separates us is that we are a team as opposed to a single composer. We each have different strengths which we bring to the table — so you get triple the amount of talent and labor.   

What’s it like working with Mark and Adonis within CuttingRoomMusic? Do you ever disagree when working on projects? 

It is truly the best, it has brought me so much joy to work with both of them. Our styles definitely vary, but that is the beauty of it all. We each have our own unique voice and when we combine them, the end product is amazing. I haven’t had any disagreements so far and I don’t anticipate we will! In addition to being great collaborators, Mark and Adonis are also great friends, which makes the team even more special. 

Now we want to get to know you a little bit better. Who are your favorite musicians or composers? Who inspires you?

Wow, I have so many so I’ll just name a few. Some of my favorite film composers are Dustin O’Halloran, who did the music for the movie Lion, Siddarhta Khosla who scored This is Us, Rafael River who scored Queen’s Gambit, and Labrinth, who is an incredible solo artist but also did the music for Euphoria. Their music speaks for itself, I would definitely check them out.  They have been some of my main inspirations. 

Where do you get your inspiration when writing/composing music? 

I get a lot of my inspiration for writing music from the artists that I listen to combined with my own life experience. I consume a lot of music and I view my brain as kind of like a computer. I input the information, which is the music I consume, and the output is the music I write. It’s not always a conscious thing, though. Sometimes I will write something and notice that it sounds similar to a song I really love, and I’ll be like “oh that’s where that came from.” I write a lot of music based on what I am feeling, too, or experiences I’ve had, which tend to inspire a lot of my songwriting lyrics. I know a song I write is good when it’s a song I would want to listen to. 

What does a day in the life of a music composer look like? 

I think my typical day as a composer is somewhat unique because I am also still a college student. I try my best to balance work and school life, though. Typically in a day, we either have meetings as a team or with our clients. I also meet with Mark a lot to work on music and production. A lot of the time is then spent composing independently, too, when I am not in class or doing homework.   

What kind of music do you enjoy listening to? Any favorite genres or artists?

I would say my go-to genres of music are pop, indie pop, and RnB. I really love artists with distinctive vocals, specifically. Recently I’ve been appreciating a lot of acoustic music with minimalistic production. Some of my current favorite artists are Mustafa, Ayoni, and Leon, who embody what I mentioned above. 

Can you tell us which are your favorite movie soundtracks or scores? 

My all time favorite score is Inception (Hans Zimmer), specifically the Time theme, which is incredibly moving and beautiful. The build up is tremendous. I also love the music for the movie Moonlight, which Nicholas Britell scored. The string work on it is amazing. And like I said before, I love the soundtrack to Lion by Dustin O’halloran and Hauschka. The piano melodies are stunning on that score. 

What’s your favorite musical instrument?

My favorite musical instrument probably has to be the harp, which I cannot play, unfortunately. I just think the sound is angelic and it’s such a beautiful instrument in itself.  

What’s one movie, TV show, or musical project that you would have loved to be a part of?

I would have loved to have worked on This is Us. Not only is the show itself so well done, the music is some of my favorite music on a television series and I love Siddhartha Khosla (like I said before).

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

Just that I am so grateful and excited to be a part of this team. I am so proud of the work we have already created and I just can’t wait to see what we do and how we grow in the future. 

Interested in working with Katherine and Cutting Room Music? Reach out to us and tell us about your musical project.

Awards Season’s Greetings! 2021 Music Awards Round-Up

2021 Musical Awards Season | CuttingRoomMusic

With the Grammys freshly wrapped and the Academy Award nominations now out, awards season is near its apex – and its end. Even though the Grammys typically offer a comically anachronistic view of film awards season─Jojo Rabbit and Joker won Grammys on Sunday!─they still ring loudly in the statue world. Plus, we have an award for a film that is yet to be released, as Billie Eilish won for her No Time to Die theme nearly a full year before we’re set to see James Bond’s latest outing.

The 2021 awards season, in full swing

It’s been quite the awards season up to this point, as the entire music industry came to grips with a lengthened season and a compressed sample size of films to winnow and grant statues, medals, and plaques to. But the work was there. A series of films, either backed by initial critical buzz, studio confidence, or sheer luck of being attached to the best equipped distribution model (you may have heard that streaming services had a pretty solid 2020), still came out and caught our attention, with some warranting awards for their effort and mastery.

We often discuss the power filmmakers wield by triggering moods and feelings with their creations, more often than not underpinned by a great musical drop or accent. But it’s fun to think that one of the most powerful compositions out there is the dreaded “wrap it up” music that awards shows play when an acceptance speech goes on for too long. As a result, we’re focusing on the ongoing postponed awards season for a quick round-up of who’s winning big, who’s expected to win, and who else contended.

Long story short: Soul is winning everything

Soul has won 26 different awards so far, ranging from the Golden Globes to the Greater Western New York Film Critics Association Awards, and is the top contender for the Academy Awards, set to air on April 25. With music composed by Jon Batiste, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, the film is an awards powerhouse, banking on the appeal of animation in general, and the Pixar Studios model, as well. With another powerful message in the vein of Inside Out and Coco, Soul has been a magnet for accolades during the ongoing season. It’s likely to continue to win big through the end of its awards season run, as it has scored three nominations at the Academy Awards─Best Achievement in Sound, Best Original Score, and Best Animated Feature. 

With the Oscars looming, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross enter a prestigious group of those nominated twice in the same category, as they’ve received an Academy Award nomination for another awards season favorite this year. Mank has been nominated across major awards as well, and has been a critical darling throughout. Fincher’s long-awaited return to feature filmmaking asked how interested we really are in Hollywood mythmaking, and the call was answered with nominations across the board. The black-and-white picture leads all films this year, with 10 nominations. 

Too bad the duo is cleaning up the best score categories with the other film they scored this year; maybe then Mank would have a shot at an award or two of its own.

James Newton Howard, Terence Blanchard, and Will Ferrell’s Eurovision song make the list

The Best Original Score category also features the work of veteran James Newton Howard─who has 8 prior nominations─for Netflix’s pensive Western, News of the World. Terence Blanchard has also scored (get it) his second ever Academy Award nod for his work on another Spike Lee joint. He was nominated for the Vietnam veteran story, Da 5 Bloods. The list of five is rounded out by first-time nominee Emile Mosseri for his work on Lee Isaac Chung’s surprising take on Americana in Minari

In the Best Song category at this year’s Oscars, we run through an eclectic mix of picks, mostly made eclectic by the presence of last summer’s “Husavik” song, courtesy of Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. The other entries come from a few of the other critically acclaimed movies of this year’s season, with songs from One Night in Miami…, Judas and the Black Messiah, The Trial of the Chicago 7 and The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se) scoring nods for this year’s awards. 

Given the Academy Awards’ typically elaborate selection process, it’s a big kudos to all the composers, songwriters and engineers that booked their virtual tickets for this year’s ceremony. We’ll be watching as this awards season culminates and wait with baited breath to see who gets the ultimate bragging rights, but one thing’s for sure: a nomination works just fine if you’re going to brag. 

Music Industry Fails and Controversies – a Throwback Mixtape

Music Industry Snubs and Fails | Cutting Room Music

It was the best of times, except when it got really awkward. For all its limitless potential of uplifting the human spirit to a more enlightened state, the music world is not immune to controversy, scandal, and downright cringey awkwardness. While some incidents go on to forever populate the internet as memes, others leave long-lasting marks on essential aspects of making, sharing, and enjoying music. Let’s briefly revisit some of the most memorable controversies and awkward moments in music, to date. 

Thou Shalt Not Lip Sync

It’s difficult to not think about how certain seemingly small choices in performance, such as when not to lip sync, ended up causing notable and lasting ripple effects. 

One relatively recent such instance was Ashlee Simpson’s gig as musical guest on Saturday Night Live in 2004. While promoting her freshly released album Autobiography, the rising star of the Simpson family was unpleasantly surprised when the vocal track that started playing was all too visibly not what she had prepared to sync with. The show being, well, live, everything went downhill from there. From the awkward dance walk off the stage, to blaming confusion on the band at the end of the show, and then throwing it to a bad case of gastric disorder, the hole she kept deepening would prove impossible to come out of. 

The most notorious lip-sync case, however, remains producer Frank Farian’s experiment, Milli Vanilli. The German-French pop-duo was brought on to serve as public faces for singers Charles Shaw, John Davis, and Brad Howell, whom, although talented musicians, Farian thought they lacked a marketable image. This would turn out to be a pattern that Farian would employ several times. The extra stir regarding Milli Vanilli, though, stemmed from the fact that in 1990, the group were nominated for and won the Grammy for Best New Artist. When it was confirmed publicly that neither of the two men understood to constitute the group had actually ever performed any vocals during recording sessions or in any of their live performances, that Grammy became the only one ever to be revoked. 

Thou Shalt Not Snub

It seems that, no matter how hard the Academy tries to achieve harmony with mainstream sentiment regarding musical achievement, there will always be plenty to contest about each edition. Sometimes you snub the Grammys, and other times the Grammys snub you. Or they haven’t figured you out yet. One thing is certain: the 62 Recording Academy award ceremonies so far have yielded several unflattering moments that live rent-free in many of our minds, to this day. 

Before rapper Kanye West took it upon himself to correct the judging of Best Female Video during Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2009, the late Russell Tyrone Jones (a.k.a. Ol’ Dirty Bastard) stood up for Wu Tang Clan’s merits at the 1998 Grammys, just as Shawn Colvin was stepping up to the microphone to accept the award for Song of the Year. 

Although there are always disputes regarding who should have won the Grammy in the Best New Artist category, sometimes it does seem like the Academy lacks proper understanding of some of the emerging music genres. For example, the first year that the Recording Academy recognized Hard Rock/Metal in its own category, the voting members gave the inaugural Grammy for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental to British band Jethro Tull, when Metallica was nominated for its fourth studio album, “… And Justice for All.” Or that time in 1993 that the Grammy for Best Rock Song went to Eric Clapton’s “Layla” (unplugged) over Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. 

Pope’s Nopes

Quite a few controversial incidents caused a stir to high heaven over the years, or at least to the highest of ranks within the Catholic Church, eliciting comments from the Pope himself. 

One such episode that comes to mind could be boiled down to a case of “same language, different funny bones,” except it very much wasn’t. In 1966, during a candid interview with Maureen Cleave for the London Evening Standard, John Lennon made the famous “we’re more popular than Jesus” remarks. While pretty much nobody in England took any notice of the 25-year old’s offhand comments, matters unfolded quite differently in the United States, where the interview was syndicated several months later. Reactions included banning the Beatles’ music from being played on the radio; on-air destruction of physical copies of their albums; the end of the band’s touring career; “eternal damnation” of their songs by religious leaders across the Bible Belt at the time; and even a Papal denunciation of Lennon’s comments, in a statement to the Vatican newspaper. 

Another example of Vatican-level upset in music happened in 1989, when the world received the video for Madonna’s hit song “Like a Prayer.” While the musical blend of gospel with the singer’s more usual dance-pop expression marked a notable shift in style for the artist, the music video pushed enough buttons to draw attention toward very different topics. Conservative America was deeply irked by the video’s depiction of racial and religious imagery. Italy banned the video from being shown on state television.

The Vatican condemned the choice of use of Christian imagery and called for a boycott of Pepsi after one of the brand’s commercials featured the song. Madonna’s contract with Pepsi, having only recently been signed, was cancelled. Pope John Paul II even flat-out called for a boycott of Madonna. Though her career has since continued to flourish and a different Pope dons the holy robes, the singer noted in a 2020 interview that not that much has changed in the world since that controversy. For one, the church still likes to dabble with the playlist, here and there

Black Widow May Highlight a Spy-Centric Turn in MCU Music

Black Widow soundtrack | CuttingRoomMusic

Natalia Alianovna “Natasha” Romanoff is one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most fascinating, complex, and human characters, which we know doesn’t say a lot because a bunch of them are essentially not human, but Black Widow is a very strong figure, regardless. The Russian-born spy has a cinematic legacy that goes back as far as the third entry in the MCU, Iron Man 2, and a comic book history that ranges back to the mid-60s─Natalia Alianovna Romanova first featured in Tales of Suspense #52 in 1964. 

The reformed KGB agent with a checkered past was recruited to the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division (fine, we’ll call it S.H.I.E.L.D.!) by fellow superspy turned Avenger, Clint Barton. Their bond remains strong throughout the events of the films, until Black Widow’s ultimate sacrifice to retrieve the Soul Stone in Avengers: Endgame, a small European film dealing with personal and professional loss within a group of work friends, five years after a traumatic event changed their lives. 

Black Widow is Coming to a Marvel Universe Near You

Now, 11 years after the character’s introduction to the MCU, Black Widow is slated to have her very own showcase, a film that aims to explain Natasha’s murky personal history, ongoing internal conflict and her hesitation to establish personal relationships. The fact that her only romantic onscreen relationship is with Bruce Banner is very telling. If you’re attracted to the mother of all inner conflicts involving a Gamma ray demon who’s also a walking Jekyll/Hyde metaphor, it’s clear that your personal history is something of a thrill ride.

The challenge to portray Black Widow in a standalone film is significant, due to her already very established presence within the MCU and is seen as a culmination of Scarlett Johansson’s profile as the character for more than a decade. Director Cate Shortland has built a career on smaller-scale psychological thrillers before taking on a $150-$200 million tentpole, hinting at the production’s significant focus on building Natasha’s complicated profile and eventful past. The screenplay is penned by Eric Pearson, a MCU mainstay responsible for three different One-Shot shorts, as well as Thor:Ragnarok and several episodes of Agent Carter. It is no surprise that Pearson’s involvement with one of the MCU’s main female-led projects led to his addition to the team responsible for the Avengers’ most iconic on-screen member. In the music department, first-time MCU composer Lorne Balfe has been appointed to score the first entry in Phase Four. 

What Will Accompany the Superspy’s Solo Debut?

The music of the MCU has ranged almost wildly from classic hero themes like Alan Silvestri’s Avengers Assemble theme, to charged musical drops like Iron Man’s AC/DC and Black Sabbath samples, to the why-haven’t-we-thought-of-this-before notes of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song in Thor: Ragnarock

However, we can start deducing some elements of the music that’s to come in Black Widow. The character’s background and ethos beg for an action-heavy spy thriller soundscape. Natasha always felt more at home in the Three Days of The Condor/Marathon Man vibe of Captain America: The Winter Soldier than in the space epic that was Avengers: Infinity War. A more tethered and realistic approach is exactly what composer Lorne Balfe was brought in to achieve.

Action Film Pedigree for the MCU

Given the MCU’s penchant for turning out superheroes in increasingly genre-inspired films, the choice of Lorne Balfe as the film’s composer is poignant. If Cate Shortland excels at delving into the character’s psyche, Balfe is well equipped to set the stage for intense action. The Scottish music producer came up working with Hans Zimmer and has already taken on a significant slate of big-budget action films like Mission Impossible: Fallout, 6 Underground and Bad Boys for Life. But Balfe’s involvement with action isn’t just tied to films. He’s responsible for video game scores within the Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed franchises. 

Bearing the grandiose crescendos of Zimmer’s now omnipresent blockbuster work, Balfe has infused spy thriller elements into his more action-heavy work, often working with quick percussion motifs to underscore tension in films. Although speculative, it’s safe to say we may well get similar offerings in Black Widow. Balfe’s background in working on music for Netflix’s The Crown will come in handy as the film also dives into Natasha’s ties with her own spy royal family, fellow Red Room trainee and little sister-like Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), father-like Red Guardian (David Harbour) and mom-like Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz). 

Following consecutive release date delays, Black Widow is slated for release on May 7, and will be the first film to usher in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  

Falling Kanji: The Music of the Matrix is Its Own Simulation

The Matrix 4 | CuttingRoomMusic

One thing’s for sure: you already know the films we’re about to discuss. Whether through child-like wonder, calloused pessimism, or just through Elon Musk’s tweets, you’ve heard of the theory that our reality is just a run-of-the-mill computer simulation. But the idea is now in the mainstream mostly due to the success of a tiny 1999 flick directed by two Australian siblings, starring a Beirut-born Canadian actor and a diverse supporting cast, all heavily featuring vinyl clothing. OK, there aren’t many ways to poorly describe The Matrix, but that’s mostly due to its ubiquitous nature! And said omnipresence in pop culture is in no small measure due to the sounds and songs accompanying it. 

Upon its appearance, and then through its back-to-back sequels, The Matrix has popularized, generalized and overworked the idea of destiny and choice of one’s fate, using the setting of machine-generated simulation as its crutch and selling point alike. The result is one of the most well-known trilogies of all time. Pieces of its dialogue, imagery, and aesthetic have been meme-ed ad nauseam: the Red Pill, I know Kung Fu, Whoa! and bullet dodging, just to name a few. But the impact of its music, a snapshot of its time, if there ever was one, is often overlooked. 

Putting Sounds to Themes

The Wachowskis have created an oeuvre defined by saviors awakened to their true potentials. They then topple oppressive, controlling systems that bind them—the Matrix trilogy, Jupiter Ascending, V for Vendetta. However, their through-line of a non-conforming, third type of characters in a binary world often comes wrapped in elements of emerging, underground culture. The costuming inspired by the club scene, the diversity of the people of Zion, the exaltation of those who have been freed from the inputs of the machines – they all hint at a deeper reality, where people can outwardly be who they are within.  

The music of their films, especially their iconic trilogy, is no different. The song choices and arrangements in the Matrix come from anything but the mainstream. The movies themselves reveal, then analyze, hidden or obstructed worlds to be discovered and changed by their protagonists. That through-line is anticipated and highlighted by the music, mid-to-late nineties anti-system anthems in the breakbeat, rap metal (remember when that was an exciting new thing?), and trip hop genres. The song choices are underpinned throughout by Don Davis’ score, filled with arrangements that include industrial sounds, metallic tunes and sharp incisions that highlight the grandiose scale of the film, as well as its high-brow ideas. 

The world of The Matrix – Elements from our Reality

The first film’s original soundtrack was released in album form. The Matrix: Music from the Motion Picture ended up being something of a hit, even peaking at 7th on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart. The score was released on a separate album. The Matrix: Revolutions received a similar release treatment, while the middle entry in the series, The Matrix: Reloaded, bucked the industry standard by releasing a single 2-disc album featuring both the original soundtrack and score. This serves to further highlight the interconnected nature of the song choices and original score.  

The success of the first film generated significant interest in the release of new material from the world of the Matrix, with animated fare like the obviously titled The Animatrix and Enter the Matrix, a companion videogame for the second and third entries in the franchise. Music and sounds throughout Matrix properties have remained consistent, with the scores of the existing three films being helmed by Don Davis. 

A Trilogy ends, A Quadrilogy is born?

Davis’ musical direction continued to push the Savior myth and religious themes throughout the music of the franchise, further anchoring Neo’s story in a Messianic pattern. However, none of the musical arrangements found on the cinematic trilogy’s scores is more poignant and literal of that idea than Neodammerung. The song, translating loosely to “twilight of Neo,” accompanies the final duel in the Matrix between an overpowered, albeit pessimistic demigod of the medium, and the liberated and domination-bound Agent Smith, both of them creations of their previous interactions. The chanting accompanying the bout between the two foes is taken directly from the Upanishads, furthering the hero myth to textual levels. Here, the Matrix combines with one of its main source texts, questioning our role in the reality we inhabit. 

What’s next for our reality (aka this increasingly unlikely series of events)? Well, the Wachowskis are cooking up a fourth iteration of their magnum opus, with Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Jada Pinkett-Smith, while new faces have been recruited to continue the saga: Yahya Abdul Mateen II, Priyanka Chopra and Neil Patrick Harris, to name a few. Lana Wachowski has worked on the new entry with returning creative partner David Mitchell, writer of Cloud Atlas and screenwriter of the Wachowskis’ Sense8 Netflix series, where interconnectivity is an essential theme. 

The musical aspects of the sequel are unclear, but it will be fascinating to see how, two decades onward, changes in music genres and pop patterns will inform choices. What will be the sounds and influences to convey the continuation of our journey in, around, but especially out of the Matrix? 

The Matrix 4 is set to be released in theaters and the HBO Max streaming platform on December 21, 2021.