It’s International Women’s Day, and we’re taking this opportunity to highlight some of our favourite film scores composed by powerful women.
International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating women’s social, economic, cultural, and political achievements. Observed on March 8th every year, it is a time to reflect on progress made towards gender equality and to call for further action to advance women’s rights.
The theme for 2023 is Embrace Equity, highlighting that not all people in society start with an even playing field. This is evident from the number of women composers in film, making up only 8% of the top 250 grossing films according to the 2022 The Celluloid Ceiling report by Dr. Martha M. Lauzen. The good news is this has been consistently rising since 2014 when it was a mere 1%. Here are just a few inspiring women contributing to this male dominated industry.
Lisa Gerrard is an Australian musician, singer, and composer, known for her unique and haunting vocal style. She first gained recognition with the band Dead Can Dance in the 1980s and 1990s. She has since collaborated with many other artists and composers, including Hans Zimmer and Patrick Cassidy. Gerrard is best known for her work on film scores, including the “Gladiator” soundtrack, which earned her a Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination. She has also contributed to the music for films such as “Whale Rider,” “The Insider,” and “The Mirror Has Two Faces.”
Gerrard’s vocal style often incorporates glossolalia and non-lexical vocables. This creates a sense of otherworldliness that has made her music a favourite among ambient, world, and soundtrack fans.
Mica Levi is a British musician, composer, and producer known for her experimental approach to music. She first gained attention as the frontwoman of the band Micachu & The Shapes, which blended pop, punk, and electronic music. Since then, she has expanded her focus to include film scoring. Levi has composed soundtracks for films such as “Jackie,” “Under the Skin,” and “Monos.”
Levi’s work often incorporates unusual instrumentation, found sounds, and dissonance to create atmospheric and immersive soundscapes. Her music is characterised by its ability to evoke emotion and to challenge traditional notions of melody and harmony. Levi has also released several solo albums, which showcase her versatility and range as a composer and performer.
Wendy Carlos is an American musician and composer known for her pioneering work in electronic music. She first gained widespread recognition with her 1968 album “Switched-On Bach,”. Carlos went on to compose and perform music for several films, including “A Clockwork Orange”, “The Shining” and “Tron,” and also created her own albums and compositions.
Carlos is known for using synthesizers and electronic instruments to create unique and innovative soundscapes. Her music has influenced various electronic, classical, and experimental genres. Carlos is also known for being one of the first prominent transgender musicians, and has advocated for LGBTQ+ rights throughout her career. Her music and advocacy contributions have made her an important figure in both the music and LGBTQ+ communities.
Hildur Guðnadóttir is an Icelandic musician and composer known for her captivating and emotionally charged compositions. She has worked in various genres, including experimental, pop, and classical music. Guðnadóttir has composed music for several acclaimed films, including “Joker,” where she won an Academy Award in 2020 for Best Original Score. She has also composed music for TV series, including “Chernobyl,” for which she won a Primetime Emmy Award in 2019.
Guðnadóttir’s music often incorporates unconventional sounds and instrumentation. She is known for using cello and other stringed instruments to create powerful and evocative soundscapes. Her music is characterised by its emotional depth and ability to transport listeners into the world of the film or project it accompanies. Guðnadóttir is one of the most exciting and innovative composers working today, and her work continues to inspire and captivate audiences worldwide.
Rachel Portman is a British composer known for her evocative and emotionally resonant film scores. She began her career in the late 1980s, and quickly made a name for herself with her work on the film “War of the Buttons.” Since, she has composed scores for over 100 films, including “Emma,” “Chocolat,” “The Cider House Rules,” and “The Duchess.”
Portman has received numerous awards for her work, including an Academy Award for Best Original Score for “Emma” in 1997, making her the first woman to win in that category. She has also received a Primetime Emmy Award for her work on the TV film “Bessie,” and a Tony Award nomination for her score to the musical “The Little Prince.” Portman is known for her ability to capture the emotional depth of a story through her music and her use of unusual instruments and orchestration to create unique and memorable soundscapes.
Anne Dudley is a British composer, songwriter, and performer known for her work on film and TV soundtracks and her contributions to the band Art of Noise. She has composed music for numerous films, including “The Full Monty,” “American History X,” and “Elle.” She has been recognised for her work with several awards, including an Academy Award for Best Original Score for “The Full Monty.”
Dudley is known for blending different musical styles and incorporating classical, electronic, and pop music elements in her compositions. Dudley has also contributed to several chart-topping songs, including hits by Robbie Williams and Tina Turner. She is a versatile and accomplished musician and composer, and her contributions to film and music have made her a respected figure in both industries.
Jocelyn Pook is a British composer and producer known for her eclectic and diverse approach to composition. She has worked on various projects, including film scores, operas, and theatre productions. Pook is mainly known for her work on the film “Eyes Wide Shut,” for which she composed the haunting and memorable score.
Her music is characterised by its ability to create powerful emotional atmospheres, often incorporating found sounds and field recordings into her compositions. Pook has also been involved in numerous collaborations with artists from a variety of genres, including Peter Gabriel and Massive Attack. She is a versatile and innovative composer, and her work continues to push the boundaries of contemporary music.
Shirley Walker was an accomplished composer and conductor best known for her contributions to film and television scores. She started her career in the 1980s as a music editor for films such as “The Color Purple” and “The Witches of Eastwick.” She then transitioned into composing, becoming one of the few female composers in Hollywood.
Her notable works include the score for the TV series “Batman: The Animated Series,” which earned her an Emmy Award in 1993, the first three instalments of the “Final Destination” films, and the music for the video game “Final Fantasy X-2.” Shirley was also a trailblazer for women in the industry. She mentored and inspired many other female composers to follow in her footsteps. Her impact on the film and television music world continues to be felt today.
Germaine Franco is a Mexican-American composer, songwriter, and producer known for her work on films and TV series. She has composed music for a range of projects, including the animated films “Coco”, “Dora and the Lost City of Gold,” and “Encanto” for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for best original score. Franco has been recognised for her work with several awards and nominations, including an Annie Award and a Daytime Emmy nomination.
She is known for her ability to blend different musical styles, such as Latin music and pop, to create unique and engaging soundscapes that enhance the story and characters of the projects she works on. In addition to her work as a composer, Franco is also a respected songwriter and producer and has worked with artists such as Ozomatli and Kinky.
Pinar Toprak is a Turkish-American composer and conductor known for her work on film and television soundtracks. She has composed music for a wide range of projects, including the film “Captain Marvel” and the TV series “Krypton” and “The Angel.” Toprak is known for her ability to blend different musical styles, drawing on her diverse cultural background to create unique and evocative soundscapes. She is also known for using traditional instruments in her compositions, such as the Turkish ney and the duduk.’
Toprak has been recognised for her work with several awards and nominations, including a BMI Film Music Award and a Primetime Emmy nomination. In addition to her work as a composer, Toprak is also a respected conductor and has led orchestras worldwide.