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Television Academy’s Words + Music Celebrates Music in TV Storytelling

Words + Music organizers Michael Levine and Rickey Minor talk to Awards Daily TV about tonight’s concert event celebrating music and songs in television.

Television series thrive in their current Platinum Age, and so does the music that supports the bevy of acclaimed series and specials. In fact, television music – including main title themes, series underscoring, and accompanying songs – shines in the spotlight in a way typically reserved for film music. To recognize this exponential growth, Television Academy Music Governors Michael A. Levine and Rickey Minor orchestrated tonight’s Words + Music concert. The concert reflects the growing worldwide appreciation for music used in television series, according to co-organizer Michael Levine.

“In the television world, this is all quite new. Festivals in Europe now feature performances from music in television, and all of this represents the fact that television music is this burgeoning field,” Levine said. “We’re now in the Platinum Age of television where there are nearly 500 shows on the air. With 500 shows, you’re going to hear some really great music.”

Words + Music celebrates television music and songs by inviting a host of performers and composers to highlight music from the 2017 Emmy season. Composers and performers from such shows as Empire, Mr. Robot, This is Us, Narcos, Homeland, and Fargo are expected to showcase their contributions to television at the event held at the Television Academy’s campus in North Hollywood, the Saban Media Center’s Wolf Theatre.

In advance of tonight’s concert, Awards Daily TV talked to both Michael Levine and Rickey Minor about how the Words + Music event celebrates music on television.

(Photo: Television Academy)

Michael A Levine On Celebrating Eclectic Scoring At Words + Music

Tell me about the Words + Music concert event. What can we expect from it? 

Well, it’s going to be a show that demonstrates the importance and the sheer fun of music in today’s television storytelling. We have more than a dozen of the most interesting acts, composers and songwriters, who are on television, and they are going to be performing their own compositions. I’m delighted that we have such a great bunch of composers here who are going to be showing the Academy and the world what they do.

There is a truly eclectic selection of featured composers. How did you settle on who would perform?

There were a number of criteria. Some of it had to do with trying to get the kind of diverse representation both in terms of personal background and styles of television shows. Plus, we have many different broadcasters represented from the Big Four to the many different cable and streaming broadcasters. We’ve got everything from drama to comedies to reality shows. The first criteria, of course, was is it good and do people love it. The next criteria was is it different from something else we have in the show.

As a Music Governor within the Television Academy, what changes have you seen over the past few years in terms of scoring for television?

I think that scoring for television is as diverse in terms of style than it has ever been. There are a variety of different kinds of approaches. Everything from the retro 80’s stuff that’s quite popular now to contemporary electronic score like Mr. Robot. Then, you have more traditional orchestral scores like David Buckley’s The Good Fight. The field that was much narrower a few years ago is now enormously broad.

Do you ever see the series Emmy® scoring category breaking down between drama and comedy?

I would love it. The people who write for comedy often feel like they’re underrepresented as a result of the fact that people tend to take dramas more seriously. You’re always battling this awards proliferation. This year in particular, Rickey [Minor] and I fought very hard to get music supervisors recognized because they had no awards that they were eligible for. There now is a Music Supervisor award. I would be delighted if there were a separate comedy award. I would be delighted if there were a separate documentary award as well. Personally, I’d love to see a comedy award separate from the drama award.

Rickey Minor On Celebrating Diverse Talents and Styles through Words + Music

(Photo: Television Academy)
Tell me about your contributions to the Words + Music concert event. 

I’m co-Music Governor with Michael Levine. This is a project that came about three years. There was a scores concert that I wasn’t a part of, but from everything I heard and saw clips of, it was a great celebration of the importance of music and storytelling to drive the overall narrative of a television show. When we started putting this together about a year ago, we were not only looking at great scores but also great original songs that were written for television. We have approximately 13 composers and performers in various segments.

What excites you the most about the scheduled performers?

The composers are as varied as the shows they represent. There’s comedy. There’s drama. We have music-driven shows represented such as Empire. That’s really exciting because we have so many shows with a lot of music on television and show that place a significant emphasis on music. We emphasize music originally written for television.

Are there any specific sets that people should really look out for?

We always have to have a few surprises up our sleeves, but we do have a few numbers that heavily feature percussion. We have two percussionists covering an array of instruments. For example, the Narcos score with Pedro Bromfman where he will play several instruments throughout the suite. Several musicians playing with him will play multiple instruments as well.  I think that’s going to be a delight to see as a live performance. It’s going to be challenging for us at the same time. That piece has at least six percussionists on it, and we have two covering what six guys did in the recording session.

We have some great songs as well. Another highlight will be the performance of “We Can Always Come Back To This” from This Is Us. That song really drove home what music alone could do, which is to really tell the story.

The concert really highlights the incredible amount of diverse talent in the television music industry. 

I’ll tell you it was with great intention to be inclusive as the landscape is exactly that. We’re just looking to represent what is actually happening out in the industry. I’m co-chair of diversity with Gail Mancuso, and we have several initiatives. We’re looking for every peer group to increase their outreach. We need to understand that we are exactly the same. We are literally a family.