Randy Edelman knows the score

The composer is in Israel to participate in the 12th Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Master Class Workshop.

Edelman 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Edelman 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Movie music composer Randy Edelman said he’s jet-lagged, but even if it’s slowing him down, he still has more energy than almost anybody you’re likely to meet.
Edelman is in Israel to participate in the 12th Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Master Class Workshop, sponsored by the Los Angeles Jewish Federation, and held at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque in mid June.
The program brings together filmmakers and students from the two cities and features classes for students from both countries given by a host of Hollywood professionals.
This year there is a special focus on film professionals who work on the music in movies. Edelman, a musician, composer, conductor, and music supervisor, has worked on such recent movies as The Mummy 3, Leap Year, and Beethoven’s Big Break, and as well as The Mask, Kindergarten Cop, My Cousin Vinny and literally dozens of others. Other movie music-makers participating this year are David Renzer, the head of Universal’s music division; Doug Frank, who headed the music division at Warner Bros.; and Steve Schnur, the worldwide executive for music and marketing for Electronic Arts (EA), the largest video game producer in the world.
Edelman says there is a special type of musician who is good at working in movies. “You have to be a great musician who is flexible and versatile,” he says.
“You have to do it fast and right. If you can do it one of those ways, but not the other, it won’t work.”
Edelman is riveting as he describes the way he works on the score of a film. “The last person to make a contribution to a movie is the composer,” he says. “When everyone else is done, you’re alone with the movie. That’s when you really get into it. There are these moments late at night when you come up with something you really like. Those are the most exciting moments, when you’re alone with it.”
Normally, he has between two weeks and two months to compose a score for a film. “You’ve got to quickly translate what you see on the screen into something musical... You have to work fast, the adrenaline has to be flowing,” says Edelman, who has been working on movies for about 20 years.
A TRADITIONALLY trained classical pianist, Edelman was raised in New Jersey and studied at the Cincinnati Music Conservatory. But even as a student, he veered out of the traditional music-student trajectory and began writing orchestrations and conducting music for King Records, the Cincinnati-based company – known for its R&B hits – that produced James Brown. Edelman has had many different jobs in music, from playing in Broadway shows to conducting in Las Vegas. He also wrote pop songs and made an eponymous album in the ’70s. The album was heard by the immensely popular duo The Carpenters, who chose Edelman to be their opening act.
“I had never played my music and sung in front of an audience before,” he says.
“And here I was, playing these stadium concerts. I was just a guy no one knew,” so he didn’t really feel pressure.
Edelman also wrote songs for wellknown pop stars. Barry Manilow had a hit with Edelman’s “Weekend in New England,” and his songs were also recorded by Olivia Newton-John, Patti LaBelle, Bing Crosby, Kool and the Gang, and, more recently, hip-hop artist Nelly, who had a #1 hit on the Billboard rap chart with Edelman’s “My Place.” Offers to compose music for television came his way, and he wrote for the series Mac- Gyver among many others, including NBC’s NFL Football theme.
The chance to write for movies was “liberating,” he says. “Film scoring is very creative. I felt that, as a musician, I had gone as far as I could go with threeminute songs. In a film, you can write whatever you want to enhance the scene.”
ANOTHER ASPECT of writing movie scores Edelman particularly enjoys is that “There has been tremendous use of the music that I’ve written for films” in other media. Music he wrote for the film DragonHeart has been used in the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics games. A number of ice skaters have also used Edelman’s music in their Olympic routines. “People do go out of the theater humming my music,” he says.
Of course, in a collaborative medium like film, there are surprises, and not always pleasant ones. In the recent Amy Adams film, Leap Year, his music was changed beyond recognition. “You have to be ready to deal with that emotionally,” he says.
It helps Edelman, however, that the soundtrack albums from his films are released with the music just as he wrote it. He tells of how composer Leonard Bernstein was devastated when the music he wrote for On the Waterfront was changed.
“Bernstein never wrote another film score again,” Edelman says. But he’s far more flexible. “If 80 percent of the music is the way you want it to be in the movie, than that’s good.”