Christopher Young

Adjunct assistant professor

One of the foremost talents in film music today, Golden Globe-nominated composer Christopher Young has scored an impressive number of features in virtually every genre. The spine-tingling Hellraiser showcases the composer’s seminal upbringing in horror; the new, techno sound of Swordfish displays his versatility; the resonant, genuine Celtic sounds of The Shipping News display his attention to detail; the heart-pounding rhythms of Spider-Man 3 are evidence of his willingness to experiment. These scores are among the nearly 100 films that embody the work of this prolific composer. Young was recently awarded BMI’s prestigious Richard Kirk Career Achievement Award; past recipients include Danny Elfman, John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith.

Born in Red Bank, New Jersey, (the birthplace of Count Basie), Young graduated from Massachusetts Hampshire College with a BA in music and did post-graduate work at North Texas State University before moving to Los Angeles in 1980.  He proceeded to take classes at the UCLA Film School, where he studied with famed film composer David Raksin (Laura). Raksin would become his greatest mentor. Young met a number of college filmmakers with whom he would later work in the business. One of these filmmakers wrote and directed the student film, The Dorm that Dripped Blood, which Young scored. It became a New Image Studio release, providing Young with an early foray into Hollywood. Within a few years, his abilities thrust him to the attention of major studios and directors, including Clive Barker. His talent was recognized with a Saturn Award (given by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films) for his unsettling, demonic orchestral and choral score for Hellbound: Hellraiser II.

Though Young had built a solid reputation scoring horror and science fiction pictures, director Jon Amiel recognized that the composer’s talent transcended genre. Amiel entrusted Young to score Warner Bros.’ dramatic thriller, Copycat. The film and score received critical acclaim, and Amiel requested the composer for his follow-up film, the Bill Murray comedy The Man Who Knew Too Little. Young proved that he could not be pigeonholed by genre. The professional kinship ensued, and they subsequently would work together on the Fox feature Entrapment and later, The Core.

During this time, Young scored MGM’s Species, which became a box-office sensation. For his work, he received a Motion Picture Sound Editors Golden Reel nomination. His next work was the resonant score for Murder in the First, completing an era marked with major turning points in Young’s career.

Not wanting to be restricted to features, it was at this time that Young received the first of two Emmy nominations, despite scoring only four telefilms. The nominations were for the dramatic urgency of his music for the fall of Saigon film Last Flight Out, and for the smoky jazz of the critically acclaimed HBO picture Norma Jean and Marilyn.

When Academy Award-winning director Norman Jewison hired Young to score Universal Pictures’ The Hurricane, Young officially entered the pantheon of A-list composers. Later, Jewison would personally recommend Young to Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson for the MGM release Bandits.

Immediately following Bandits, Young scored the Miramax romantic drama The Shipping News, directed by Oscar nominee Lasse Hallstrom. Young received both Critic’s Choice and Golden Globe nominations. Earlier in 2001, Young further displayed his versatility with the composition for Warner Bros.’ Swordfish, as he incorporated elements of DJ Paul Oakenfold’s hypnotic trance into his orchestral score.

Young had established himself as working with the brightest and most talented directors. Sam Raimi hired Young to score his high-profile film The Gift. Raimi had always used Danny Elfman, but due to a scheduling conflict, Elfman was not available. The relationship would continue to include additional music on Spider-Man 2 and scoring The Grudge, The Grudge 2, Spider-Man 3 and Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell.

Young has also collaborated with Oscar-winning director Curtis Hanson on Wonder Boys starring Michael Douglas and Lucky You starring Drew Barrymore. His other works include the scores for Head Above Water; Beauty Shop, starring Queen Latifah; Ghost Rider; The Exorcism of Emily Rose; and Untraceable, starring Diane Lane. Furthermore, Young delved into the dramatic with Sleepwalking, starring Charlize Theron. Young worked closely with Theron, who was also a co-producer on the film.

Young likes to say that he has two distinct sides: one side that is attracted to abstract ideas and twentieth century music and the other that enjoys writing “the great American tune.” That dichotomy serves him perfectly as a film composer, constantly called on to write the most dissonant music for a suspense cue one minute and to collaborate with a lyricist on an R&B track (“Give me a Reason” with Dave Hollister for In Too Deep) or a love song (“Against the Wind” with vocalist Lori Perri for Set it Off) the next.

Christopher Young says he has been blessed with his career so he gives back to the film music community. He has taught in film scoring for over ten years, served two terms as president of The Film Music Society and served as the president of the Madrid Film and Music Festival in Spain. He also purchased a residence to house students and struggling young composers.