Musings About Music In Film

Six of the Best... Female Film Composers

300x244xindexphoto_jpg_pagespeed_ic_fBXtvqcr1N Wendy Carlos

The obvious one. After releasing Switched On Bach, a collection of the classical works of Johann Sebastian Bach performed on a Moog synthesiser, Carlos was hired by Stanley Kubrick to create the esoteric soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange. Carlos further contributed to Kubrick's adaptation of Stephen King's The Shining, with that iconic and portentous opening title cue, but perhaps her most accomplished work was for Disney's 1982 science fiction adventure Tron, with the video game aesthetic allowing for a unique and innovative blend of orchestral and electronic elements.

Debbie Wiseman

One of the film score world's best kept secrets, English composer Debbie Wiseman has been scoring under the radar for decades, including the Stephen Fry-starring biopic Wilde, the 2004 action thriller Arsene Lupin, and, um, Lesbian Vampire Killers. Thankfully she has had more recent exposure with her music for BBC productions such as the excellent Wolf Hall, of which she has won several awards, her superb score to the Dylan Thomas film A Poet In New York, and the high-profile and well-received project Dickensian.

Mica Levi

Mica Levi seemingly came out of nowhere in 2013 (although she had been performing for years with her band as Micachu and the Shapes) and her score for the Jonathan Glazer horror-scifi Under The Skin created huge shockwaves in both the mainstream music and film scoring worlds. Her only film score to date, Under The Skin is a powerful and terrifying work, and certainly challenging. But underneath the dissonance is a brilliant structure that charts the evolution of the character and the score, creating a unique piece like no other.

Rachel Portman

A magnificent composer, Rachel Portman has excelled in her field while scoring a variety of genres, from acclaimed dramas The Joy Luck Club and The Cider House Rules, to dystopian science fiction Never Let Me Go. Having a gorgeous sound to her scores, one of her best recent works was for the 2013 film Belle, with another - the inspiring Race, about Jesse Owens' win at the Berlin olympics - just released. She is also the only female composer to win an Academy Award for her score to Emma.

Angela Morley

While an accomplished composer in her own right for movies such as Captain Nemo and the Underwater City and the Oscar-nominated The Little Prince, Morley is known throughout the score world for uncredited orchestration duties for several John Williams scores, such as Superman and The Empire Strikes Back. However, her biggest contribution to the field wsas her wonderful score to the 1978 adaptation of Richard Adams' Watership Down, where she gave the animated rabbits a new lease of life through beautiful pastoral colours and a sense of the countryside. She was the first transgender person to be nominated for an Academy Award.

Shirley Walker

Shirley Walker's contribution to film scoring is immeasurable. Scoring a spread of genre projects while working with directors such as John Carpenter and John Schlesinger, Walker is nonetheless primarily known for her association with the caped crusader. Overseeing and scoring many episodes of the groundbreaking Batman: The Animated Series (as well as its movie, Mask of the Phantasm), her voice was a unique one, especially in a genre that was primarily male-orientated. She also orchestrated, arranged, and conducted Danny Elfman's score for the 1989 Batman movie, which by itself puts her status as legendary. -CB