Mica Levi’s Intensely Unconventional Film Scores

The musician Mica Levi has observed that in the world of film music, there are two schools of thought. “Some people see it as about doing something new and different, something very ‘felt,’ ” she told me when I met her at her manager’s office in North London earlier this month. “And some people are very respectful of the craftsmanship of writing an articulate score that uses the variety of the orchestra and moves very fast to picture, like you’d see in a children’s adventure film—which is an amazing skill, like watching martial arts. The two sides are quite stark.”

Levi claimed to be neutral on this question, but it’s tempting to read this year’s Academy Award for Best Original Score as a prizefight between the two camps, with Levi representing the former. Her score for “Jackie”—intensely new, intensely different, intensely felt—will be competing against Justin Hurwitz’s score for the musical “La La Land,” a work of diamantine pastiche. (The other nominees are Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka, for “Lion”; Nicholas Britell, for “Moonlight”; and Thomas Newman, for “Passengers.” Newman is on his fourteenth nomination, but none of the other composers have ever been nominated before; the last time the short list included so many first-timers was 1967.)

Some of Levi’s…

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