ASCAP Henry Mancini Award Honoring Alan Silvestri

By Erik Philbrook


Alan Silvestri


The Doberman Gang, 1972
The Mack, 1973
Starsky and Hutch, 1975
The Amazing Dobermans, 1976
CHiPs, 1977
The Fifth Floor, 1980
Romancing The Stone, 1984
Summer Rental, 1985
Fandango, 1985
Back To The Future, 1985 ##
Cat's Eye, 1985
No Mercy, 1986
Flight Of The Navigator, 1986
American Anthem, 1986
Delta Force, 1986
Clan Of The Cave Bear, 1986
Overboard, 1987
Critical Condition, 1987
Predator, 1987
Outrageous Fortune, 1987
My Stepmother Is An Alien, 1988
Mac & Me, 1988
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, 1988 ##
She's Out Of Control, 1989
The Abyss, 1989
Back To The Future II, 1989
Downtown, 1990
Back To The Future III, 1990
Young Guns II, 1990
Predator 2, 1990
Father Of The Bride, 1991
Dutch, 1991
Soapdish, 1991
Shattered, 1991
Ricochet, 1991
Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot, 1992
Death Becomes Her, 1992
Ferngully: The Last Rainforest, 1992
The Bodyguard, 1992
Sidekicks, 1992
Judgment Night, 1993
Grumpy Old Men, 1993
Cop An A Half, 1993
Super Mario Bros., 1993
Richie Rich, 1994
Clean Slate, 1994
Blown Away, 1994
Forrest Gump, 1994 ~<#
The Quick And The Dead, 1995
The Perez Family, 1995
Judge Dredd, 1995
Father Of The Bride II, 1995
Grumpier Old Men, 1995
Sgt. Bilko, 1996
Eraser, 1996
Long Kiss Goodnight, 1996
Fools Rush In, 1997
Volano, 1997
Contact, 1997 +
Mouse Hunt, 1997
Odd Couple II, 1998
Parent Trap, 1998
Holyman, 1998
Practical Magic, 1998
Siegfried & Roy: The Magic Box, 1999
Stuart Little, 1999 +
Reindeer Games, 2000
What Lies Beneath, 2000 +
Cast Away, 2000 *+
What Women Want, 2000 +
The Mexican, 2001
The Mummy Returns, 2001
Serendipity, 2001
Showtime, 2002
Lilo & Stitch, 2002
Stuart Little 2, 2002
Uptown Girl, 2002

* Grammy Award
# Grammy Award nomination
~ Academy Award nomination
< Golden Globe nomination
+ ASCAP Award

In recognition of his outstanding achievements and contributions to the music of film and television, ASCAP is proud to present The Henry Mancini Award to Alan Silvestri.

In a career that has spanned more than three decades, Grammy-winning and Oscar-nominated composer Alan Silvestri's music has enriched an extraordinary number of the most-successful and beloved films of the late 20th century. From comedies such as the Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Father of the Bride, Stuart Little and What Women Want to dramas such as The Bodyguard, the Best Picture Oscar-winning Forrest Gump, Cast Away and The Mummy Returns, Silvestri's stylistic reach seemingly knows no bounds. In fact, he has written more than 70 scores to prove it.

Manhattan-born and Teaneck, New Jersey-bred, Silvestri attended Boston's prestigious Berklee College of Music before joining a Las Vegas band as a guitarist. His performing and arranging skills later landed him in Los Angeles where he got a job writing the music for more than 100 episodes of television's "CHiPs." That experience led to Silvestri's first major film scoring project, 1984's Romancing the Stone, directed by Robert Zemeckis.

Since then, Silvestri and Zemeckis have worked together on nine more films, including the Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Death Becomes Her, Forrest Gump, Contact, What Lies Beneath and Cast Away. Their collaboration has spanned 17 years and, next to that of Steven Spielberg and John Williams, is the longest-running and most successful director-composer relationship in Hollywood.

Whether a film demands that his music be dark and suspenseful (Predator), awe-inspiring (The Abyss), celebratory (Father of the Bride) or melancholy (The Bodyguard), Silvestri's music never fails to move an audience. Like many of these films for which he has scored, his talent is a blockbuster. On the occasion of his receiving ASCAP's Henry Mancini Award and in anticipation of his two most recent projects, Disney's Lilo and Stitch and Stuart Little 2, Silvestri spoke to ASCAP about his career and what continues to light his fire.

You have worked with a lot of different directors. However, there is one director, Robert Zemeckis, for whom you have scored ten films. To what do you owe your long-running success with him?

The first thing was that on the first day we met to work on Romancing the Stone, we were both wearing the same sweater (laughs). Beyond that, we just connected creatively on that film, which did very well. A relationship between a director and a composer is always a special and difficult relationship. There is so much reliance on the director being able to communicate his needs and the composer being able to hear those needs and translate them into music. There is quite a potential gap that can really only be spanned by faith. And, for Bob and I over the years, he has become more and more trusting, and that has only inspired me more and more to achieve his vision.

Would you say that most directors know what they want musically?

I have seen over the past thirty years the extremes and a lot in the middle. The extremes include some that give no voice to specific musical needs and some that are very specific. I think the key to communicating with a composer, and this is the place where Bob really excels, is the director needs to really know what he or she wants from their movie, not specifically a line reading from an actor or a phrase from a composer. If the director has accomplished the rendering of the story on film, then the composer can bring what he does. So the most effective communicators in the world of directing get what they want on film. Then you don't have to have it explained to you while you are sitting in a room, because it is clearly showing its intent all the way along.

You have worked in this field for more than three decades now. Does it get easier the more that you do it, or is it always a challenge? More specifically, are you still challenged in your own personal development to grow as a composer?

All great questions. I think the first thing that I find after this much time is that I am amazed at how it doesn't get easier. The one thing that has remained constant over the years is the stack of blank paper with a clock sitting on it ticking too loudly. It has never gone away. I am still amazed at how I go through that initial panic and that initial search of "how am I going to do this? I can't do this." Then I look at this list of stuff behind me and I think, well, somebody has done it, but why isn't he here today? Sure enough, you always have to blast through those obstacles that are all psychological.

Do you have any tricks that you use to get the fire going? I know that film composers often have precious little time to create the work they need to get done.

The time is really the key. Until I'm scared enough, I can't go. What I think I have learned over the years in regard to all of this, is to be a little more kind to myself until the fire does light. I remember just being in agony and being completely beat up because I was trying to push the process ahead of its natural form. What I find now is that the fire is basically lit by that clock. I know exactly when I'm in trouble. It really feels like physics to me. It's got to do with voltage. Until there's enough heat and voltage, you somehow don't access that part of yourself where the better things come from. You try to make the waiting room as creative possible, but it is still a waiting room until you get called to go. It is a fascinating dynamic for anyone who does anything like this.

You have worked on many big, successful films, and ones that I presume had considerable budgets for music. Does having a bigger budget allow you to create "better" music, or is technology such now that you can achieve the same things with a smaller budget. In short, is there still nothing that can replace a full-scale orchestra.

In capital letters, THERE IS NOTHING THAT CAN REPLACE A BIG ORCHESTRA. In a way, the composer's audience is the director, not the public. Because if the composer doesn't achieve the director's goals for the music, than the public will never hear their music. I think the power and emotional range of an orchestra is overwhelming. It always is, and always will be. Things on that level can not be achieved any other way. When you start to record and to have your director in that room with that orchestra, it's a very powerful event. So, aside from the intrinsic power of the orchestra, you are there with someone who has poured their blood out for the past two or three years, and for them to feel life being breathed into their work through this amazing collection of talent, it is truly moving.

Cast Away was a long movie, and one with very little dialogue. Would you say that it was one of your biggest challenges since music had to carry so much of the emotional weight throughout the story?

On the face of it, you would look at it and say, "boy, this is a composer's dream. There's all this dead air and I'm going to have a grand old time here, making them feel what we need them to feel." But the truth is that too much music would have short-circuited what was great about the film. The film was trying to create this environment where the audience could experience a kind of deprivation on many levels. It took some work, but we finally find a way for music to enter in an appropriate way in the context of what the film was trying to accomplish. And it was a challenge to not play. There was some of that going on in Forrest Gump as well. It was a very fragile film emotionally, and to just tromp through it with music would have been inappropriate.

On the other end of the emotional spectrum, you have scored the music for two upcoming children's films, Disney's Lilo and Stitch and Stuart Little 2. What do you enjoy about working on films like these, in which the music can be more playful?

One of the great things about the animated medium like Lilo and Stitch or this hybrid medium like Stuart Little, is it's always fantastic to see an audience respond emotionally to non-human characters. What it shows you is that it is the storytelling and the emotional movements that bring about these responses. It allows you to experience the power of a story and a cinematic moment not relying on a physical human experience. It is an amazing thing that you can laugh and cry and feel sadness and joy at a drawn character. That is always a great testament to the art of storytelling along with the artistry of the people involved. For me, it all comes down to the filmmakers. It is truly a collaborative art, whether it is live-action or animation. To make a movie requires an enormous amount of people working as hard as they know how to work. There is something about the collective energy of all of those people that has really made cinema as powerful a medium as it is. Somehow the film becomes the repository of that labor. And to move all that energy through a dark room into that audience is a tremendous thing.