Young composers challenge the Hollywood music establishment

Film music is only a little more than 100 years old, but that’s long enough for any art form to grow stale. Musically, most trips to the multiplex run together these days, with delights and surprises in short supply. But if this year’s Academy Award nominees for best score are any indication, new blood is beginning to course.

Justin Hurwitz, who won the Oscar, is only 32 — and “La La Land” was his third score for a feature film. Mica Levi, 30, was nominated for her second feature, “Jackie.” “Moonlight” composer Nicholas Britell, 36, scored his first major film in 2015. But it’s not just the relative youth and wetness-behind-the-ears that are noteworthy. These composers, and several others, are shaking up the sound of Hollywood. Film scores are starting to have personality again.

Levi’s score for “Jackie,” with its in-your-face string slides and jarring, queasy waltzes, was somewhat divisive, but that’s because people took notice. The London native was classically trained, but until recently was best known as “Micachu,” creator of experimental pop music. She brought her unique background to Chilean director Pablo Larraín’s outsider take on the grieving first lady.

Larraín was a juror at the Venice Film Festival in 2013 when Levi made her film scoring debut, for Jonathan Glazer’s “Under the Skin,” an itching, churning aural nightmare for Scarlett Johansson’s seductive alien.

Larraín “pushed the jury committee for an award for Mica, and she got it, because I felt that I was listening to something that was immediately made from a master,” he said last year. “I just thought that it was really something that I had never heard before — and nowadays, that’s something very, very, very hard.”

While the director…

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