Captain’s Blog: Five women composers you should add to your playlist

by The Collected Mutineer

The world of film score composition is, for the most part, not female. Although women have dominated the charts in other areas of the music industry (I’m looking at you Rihanna, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, and Celine Dion), breaking into the realm of composing for the screen has been an entirely different battle. If I ask you to think of an awesome film score composer, you might tell me that you like the work of Dario Marianelli or James Horner. If I ask you to look at the nominees for Best Score at this year’s Oscars, you would see that all the names are male. Where are the ladies?

They’re here. They exist. You may not know their names off the top of your head, but the women in this field deserve to be celebrated. The incorporation of female creators behind the camera involves musicians, and there are hundreds of women composers who are striving to bring music to life. The creation of the Alliance for Women Film Composers in 2014 has helped bring some of them to the forefront in recent years, but there’s still a long way to go when it comes to the inclusion and visibility of diverse women in media scoring.

So where do we come in? We as consumers can not only advocate for more diversity in the film and television industries (thank you social media), but we can get to know these women and their work. Here are five women composers that you should add to your Spotify rotation, like, yesterday.

Rachel Portman

Portman is perhaps the best-known woman composer out there, thanks to being the first female artist to win an Academy Award for Best Score (Emma, 1996). You are undoubtedly familiar with her work in Chocolat, Benny & Joon, The Duchess, and so much more. Did you know those films were scored by a woman? Neither did I until recently, which is frankly embarrassing for me as a self-proclaimed cinephile.

Pinar Toprak

Toprak has been making headlines lately in the aftermath of Captain Marvel‘s box office success. She’s the first woman to score a Marvel film, but the Turkish-American composer had to go to great lengths to get the job. To be seriously considered by the mammoth studio, she hired a 70 piece orchestra for her audition. While other women undoubtedly can’t afford to do that, I hope that Toprak’s fantastic work with the MCU will usher in a new wave of women creating superhero music.

Starr Parodi

I don’t know about you all, but the reason I love movie trailers is for the music—and Parodi’s credits include hundreds of iconic movie trailers, such as GoldenEye, Rogue One, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, Last Samurai, and more. She and her husband/composing partner Jeff Eden Fair have also worked on various TV shows, and I can pretty much guarantee that you have heard her music without even realizing it. Parodi is currently serving as the president of the AWFC.

Lisa Gerrard

Imagine my surprise when I realized that Hans Zimmer, one of my all-time favorite composers, did not score Gladiator alone. His co-writer was Gerrard, an Australian singer, musician, and composer. Although the Gladiator soundtrack is a regular part of my Pandora and Spotify playlists, I never once saw any name attributed to it other than Zimmer’s. But Gerrard won a Golden Globe for her work and has composed for other films including Whale Rider.

Shirley Walker

There have been many women who paved the way for the composers I’ve listed above, but perhaps no one more than Walker. For years, she was one of very few women composers working in Hollywood and became a pioneer for women in many aspects of the film industry. Known for orchestrating and conducting her scores by herself, her credits include The Black Stallion, True LiesFinal Destination, and the iconic Batman: The Animated Series television show. Walker passed away in 2006.

Which film scores or composers speak to you? Share with us in the comments below!