Schooled as a classical oboist and armed with a Juilliard education, composer Michael Kamen has carved out a career as a prolific writer of movie soundtracks. He has also collaborated with pop groups such as Pink Floyd and Metallica, experimenting with fusing classical techniques with rock and pop.
Born in New York City, Kamen studied at the High School of Music and Art before entering Juilliard as an oboist. While at Juilliard he formed a rock/classical fusion band called the New York Rock and Roll Ensemble. The band included two oboists and a cellist, making for an odd combination of instruments for a rock band. The group was invited by Leonard Bernstein to perform on one of the New York Philharmonic's Young People's concerts and by Arthur Fiedler to perform on a Boston Pops program.
Kamen's early compositions were ballet scores—for the Joffrey Ballet, Alvin Ailey, and La Scala in Milan. In 1976 Kamen wrote his first film score, for The Next Man, starring Sean Connery. His big break in pop music came with Pink Floyd, collaborating on arrangements for the group's hit album The Wall (1979).
Kamen regards his score for the 1983 Terry Gilliam movie Brazil as his first big movie soundtrack success. He has gone on to write the soundtracks for more than seventy movies and TV projects, picking up Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) and Don Juan DeMarco (1995) and an Emmy nomination for From the Earth to the Moon (1998). Other well-known movie projects include the Lethal Weapon and Die Hard series, Mr. Holland's Opus (1995), X-Men (2000), 101 Dalmations (1996), and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998).
In pop music Kamen has created hit songs for Bryan Adams—"Everything I Do, I Do It for You" (from Robin Hood ) and "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman" (from Don Juan de Marco ), both of which won Grammys, and for Sting ("It's Probably Me"). He has also collaborated with David Bowie, the Eurythmics, Aerosmith, and Eric Clapton, among others. Additionally, Kamen created music for the closing ceremonies of the 1996 Olympic Summer Games in Atlanta, Georgia.
A musical fusionist, Kamen has worked to incorporate diverse genres into his scores, experimenting with classical, jazz, world music, rock, and pop. He has written concertos for guitar and for saxophone. He has collaborated with David Sanborn, Herbie Hancock, and Eric Clapton on symphonic projects and has written a piece for the band Metallica and the San Francisco Symphony called S&M. In 2000 he wrote and recorded an orchestral piece for conductor Leonard Slatkin and the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., called The Old Moon in the New Moon's Arms, which was derisively reviewed by The Washington Post.
Kamen was one of the most prolific and well-known film score composers of the 1990s. He well understands the ability of music to convey in a few notes the tone of a scene or underscore and foreshadow its emotional tenor. He writes music that aims for an emotional response from a listener, and his romantic scores work well in the visual medium of film.
Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988); Concerto for Saxophone (Warner Bros., 1990); Let Him Have It (Virgin Movie, 1992); Last Action Hero (1993); The Three Musketeers (Hollywood, 1993); 101 Dalmations (Walt Disney, 1996); Event Horizon (London, 1997); Michael Kamen's Opus (London, 1998); The Iron Giant (Varese, 1999); Die Hard (Varese, 2002).
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