Composer Jeff Beal joins us to join in our discussion about film noir, and delves deep into his approach to scoring the award-winning Netflix series House of Cards. Jeff also shares his love of choral music and demonstrates excerpts from an upcoming premiere of a piece he is writing for the LA Master Chorale.
ABOUT JEFF BEAL
Jeff Beal is an American composer of music for film, media, and the concert hall. With musical beginnings as a jazz trumpeter and recording artist, his works are infused with an understanding of rhythm and spontaneity. Steven Schneider for the New York Times wrote of “the richness of Beal’s musical thinking…his compositions often capture the liveliness and unpredictability of the best improvisation.” Beal’s seven solo CDs, including Three Graces, Contemplations (Triloka), Red Shift (Koch Jazz), and Liberation (Island Records) established him as a respected recording artist and composer.
Beal’s eclectic music has been singled out with critical acclaim and recognition. His score and theme for Netflix drama, House of Cards, has received five prime time Emmy Award nominations & two statues. Regarding his compelling score for the documentary, Blackfish, the late film critic Roger Ebert wrote of Beal’s ability to “invoke many genres; thriller, mystery, melodrama.” Another lauded documentary, The Queen of Versailles, opened the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune wrote that, “scored wittily by composer Jeff Beal, the film glides along on Beal’s waltz theme, a theme full of elegance and class and a discordant hint of storm clouds.”
Scoring Ed Harris’ beautifully balletic painting scenes in Pollock was an exceptional opportunity for Beal. Film critic for the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan wrote “To watch Lisa Rinzler’s expressive shots of Harris as Pollock create his paintings, especially the famously acrobatic drip canvases, to Jeff Beal’s Aaron Copland-influenced music is little short of thrilling.”
He has received nineteen prime time Emmy nominations for his music, and has won five statues. Other scores of note include his dramatic music for HBO’s acclaimed series Carnivale and Rome, as well as his comedic score and theme for the detective series, Monk. Beal composes, orchestrates, conducts, records and mixes his own scores, which gives his music a very personal, distinctive touch.
Beal’s commissioned works have been performed by many leading orchestras and conductors, including the St. Louis (Marin Alsop), Rochester, Pacific (Carl St. Clair), Frankfurt, Munich, and Detroit (Neeme Jaarvi) symphony orchestras. Kent Nagano commissioned and premiered two works, Alternate Route for trumpet and orchestra with Beal as soloist, and Interchange for string quartet and orchestra. Other commissions include the ballet Oasis for Smuin Ballet, Light Falls for the World Science Festival, The Metropole Orchestra, Ying String Quartet, Debussy Trio, Henry Mancini Institute, Chamber Music Festival of Lexington & Grammy winning guitarist Jason Vieaux. His score for Philip Haas’ art installation Butchers, Dragons, Gods & Skeletons, was showcased at the Kimball Art Museum and the 2011 Venice Biennale. His first choral commission, entitled The Salvage Men, is written for the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Current commissions include new works for The Brooklyn Youth Chorus, a concerto for flutist Sharon Bezaly, song cycles for Cantus, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus.
Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Beal’s grandmother Irene was a pianist who performed on the radio and as accompanist for silent movies. She was an avid jazz fan, and gave him Miles Davis’/Gil Evans’ Sketches of Spain album when he was beginning his trumpet studies. Beal graduated from the Eastman School of Music, where he was commencement speaker and honored alumnus in 2011. He now mentors and encourages young composers as a participant in the Sundance Film Composer seminars and as a guest lecturer at conservatories. Beal met his wife, soprano Joan Beal at Eastman School of Music where the couple recently donated $2 million to the creation of The Beal Institute for Film Music and Contemporary Media.