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    Listen to the Top Story w/Tom Llamas theme

    Top Story w/Tom Llamas is the hour-long primetime news show on NBC News’ streaming service, NBC News Now. The show has a theme that’s edgy, intense and rhythmic. It’s produced by Current Music with composers Matthew Sikora and Elizabeth Forde. You can listen to it here.

    Current Music was founded in 2013. In recent years they have produced theme music packages for NBC Sports and Fox Sports among many others.


    Two themes that represent the musical identity of CBS News

    Musically speaking, CBS News has found its identity in the last few years. Their themes are usually based around a lush, orchestral sound with crescendos and lots of emotion. That is layered on top of very contemporary drum rhythms and deliberately inorganic sounds that could have come straight out of the latest EDM track. And of course, most shows start with the now famous CBS News tritone.

    I’ve added two CBS News themes to this website that represent that identity well. The first is the current theme for the CBS Evening News. It is composed by Joel Beckerman of Man Made Music. The other one is the theme used on election night 2020, composed by Nick Murray on behalf of MIBE Music.

    To explain the process of composing the CBS election theme, Murray has posted a video on his very informative YouTube channel. It’s almost ninety minutes in length but well worth your time if you want to gain more understanding of how television music is produced. One of the highlights is that he lets you hear the difference between the demo version which features midi only and the final version which has live instruments. The difference is not as big as I would have expected. He dissects the music layer by layer, letting you hear in isolation the very spacey synths that give the theme its contemporary feeling.

    It’s also an entertaining watch. At one point Murray refers to a section of the theme that was played over and over by CBS. “Bars 13 to 21,” he said, “that’s going to buy me a new car nine months from now when ASCAP comes out.”


    World News Tonight returns to its roots

    World News Tonight had quite a surprise last night for its viewers. It opened with the classic theme, that was used from 1978 until 2012. It’s part of a major overhaul for the ABC newscast, that has been the most watched show on all of television as of late. The broadcast also premiered new graphics and finally returned to the renovated TV-3 studio which is its longtime home.

    The version of the theme they are using is somewhat new. It’s not the same version as was used before 2012. Though it is not exactly new either. It’s a version that was recorded in 2002 by Edd Kalehoff but was not used at the time. You can listen to it here. For the opening headlines, World News Tonight still uses a cut from the previous package by Remote Control Productions.

    I have some personal history with this theme. Through my sources I had obtained a copy of this theme back in 2002. To find out why it was not being used, I had contacted some people to find out more information on it. That was quickly met with an email and phone call from ABC’s legal department. Being a teenager at the time, that scared me quite a bit. But they couldn’t be more nice and supportive. They wanted me to know that I had to be careful in not hurting their interests. I took that to mean (don’t remember if they said it explicitly) they did not want me to post something which had not aired first. So I, of course, did not. It’s amazing that almost twenty years later, the theme does finally make it to air.

    Evening newscasts returning to a classic theme from its past is not new. In 2011 the CBS Evening News went back to their 1987 theme.

    It is a testament to the greatness of Edd Kalehoff as a composer. Though he did not compose the original theme (it’s by Robert Israel), all of the versions since the late nineties have been produced by him. That ABC returned to a version he composed years ago and not a new version, shows his music stands the test of time.


    New on the site: ABC News Live (plus some personal news!)

    A new addition to the website: the theme to ABC News Live. For the streaming news channel, composer Matthew Kajcienski composed a specific mnemonic. It’s embedded in a piece of sound design that is very layered and textured. Be sure to check it out!

    Kajcienski was interviewed recently along with composer Michael Karp and yours truly for The Washington Post Magazine about election theme music. We discuss, among other things, what has changed in election music throughout the years and what it says about how the media portrays the upcoming election.

    (As an aside, you can listen to all of the election music on Network News Music by clicking this link.)

    And finally — some personal news. In the 2020 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records I am listed as the world record holder when it comes to curating the largest collection of news theme music. As of April last year, my collection totals 1,876 hours, 2 minutes and 52 seconds. That’s 80 days of straight listening before you hear something repeated. For those who have the book, I’m om page 76. Since I’m right below the guy with the most Muppet mementoes, you can be sure my collection is presented as a bit of an oddity. But I am nonetheless pleased to hold the world record in something.

    After they approached me about possible inclusion in the book, it was actually quite a bit of work to tally up my collection. I had to list every piece of music and its duration in a GIANT spreadsheet. They then went through it more carefully than I would have expected. They asked me to take out some things which were not strictly news-related. That gave us the final tally above.

    For those without the book, you can see the page here.