The surprisingly addictive theme music of fake news

dailyshowlogoComedy Central’s fake news shows are becoming as iconic as the shows they were meant to parody. Due to some remarkable genre choices, their theme music is equally memorable. Whether you compare The Daily Show’s theme to a traditional big band late night theme or an orchestral news theme, it stands out.

The Daily Show has used the same theme for the past fifteen years and so it was only logical not to change a winning formula when new host Trevor Noah took over. The theme is performed by the band They Might Be Giants and originally written by Bob Mould. The name? “Dog on Fire.”

Since this theme debuted in the early days of the Jon Stewart era, the show has become less of a parody newscast and more straight forward comedic commentary. But the theme still fits so well. The electric guitar and heavy percussion give it an alternative rock feel and contribute to the rebellious nature of the show.

They Might Be Giants – The Daily Show full close

Earlier this year Larry Wilmore took over Stephen Colbert’s old time slot following The Daily Show. The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore uses a theme that prominently features a guitar riff that is emphasized by the host appearing to play it in the opening montage.

Marc Bonilla – The Nightly Show full theme

The auxiliary cuts of the package contain different styles of music, mostly genres that are considered to be traditionally black music. The bed that is played during the cold open, for example, is greatly influenced by R&B. The close on the other hand is very jazzy. This unique blend of musical styles sets the show apart from other late night comedy shows.


CBS This Morning, CBS Radio Sports, Nightline, The View added to the website

2320945483_ctm_eye_opener_logo_640x360_2320945624Some great new additions have been added to Network News Music!

One of the most requested themes in recent years was the CBS This Morning theme. In particular, the Eye Opener was quite popular. That is the 90-second piece of music that plays while a montage of the day’s news is shown. You can now listen to the full piece of music.

I’ve added the 1967 CBS Radio Sports sounder to the website as well. It’s a variation of the news sounder that was used at the same time.

Also new is the Nightline theme that debuted last summer. It replaced the classic theme by VideoHelper that was heard daily for almost ten years.

Finally, I’ve added a page for ABC’s The View. The daytime show officially became part of ABC News last year. Four different versions of the theme music, going back to 1999, have been added.


Holiday Gift Tip: Joel Beckerman’s The Sonic Boom

ISC_Calrec_TheSonicBoom_coverLooking for a great last minute Christmas gift?

Joel Beckerman’s The Sonic Boom is a great book for anyone who wants to learn how music and sound in general affects what we do. Beckerman is the founder of Man Made Music and produced news music for CBS News and NBC News.

When you think of sizzling fajitas, you will likely think of the restaurant chain Chili’s. The sizzling sound is what Beckerman calls a boom moment. He defines boom moments as instances in which a sound triggers a multi-sensory experience. The sizzling fajitas make you take notice. You turn your head to see what is causing the sound and you get hungry.

Because we react faster to sound than to all other stimuli, sound is the most efficient way to convey a message. Yet it is often ignored by even the smartest people, argues Beckerman. Much of his book is spent on explaining how you can use it to your benefit.

The book doesn’t go into much detail about Beckerman’s work for CBS News and NBC News. He produced John Williams’ 2004 updates to The Mission, as well as James Horner’s 2006 work for CBS News. As a fan of news theme music, that is of course slightly disappointing. But he does devote a chapter each to his music for Univision and the Superbowl on NBC.

Aside from that, Beckman offers a lot of corporate examples — Apple, AT&T, Mister Softee — that are described vividly. The Sonic Boom is exceptionally well written. You will never listen to sound the same way again.


More than 10 new themes added to our archive

ABC3It’s been a while since our last update. But hopefully this was worth the wait.

To start off, the memorable election theme that ABC News used in 1996 and 2004 has been added to the website. You can now also listen to ABC’s custom version of VideoHelper’s Presidential Persuasion theme that is probably most closely associated with the 2008 elections. World News’ headline cue is derived from that theme and has also been added.

Two news magazine themes have been added to the website. Street Stories was an early 90’s show hosted by Ed Bradley on CBS. And Would You Fall For That? was an ABC show featuring psychological experiments that aired last summer.

The network news divisions also produce radio broadcasts. The theme ABC currently uses for its hourly news update is now online, as well as the legendary sounder CBS used for many, many years.

Some older themes we added as well: ABC News Business Brief and Issues & Answers, which was the show that preceded This Week.

Finally, some themes that were already on the website have been upgraded with better cuts. ABC’s current World News is an example: both the full close and open are now available for you to listen to.


Why John Williams is a musical genius

Last week I watched the Star Wars movies for the first time. Yes, I am late to the party. But nonetheless, like most people I enjoyed them. What got my attention was John Williams’ beautiful music for the films. And so I immediately got myself a copy of the official soundtrack. It is at that point that I started to notice things which really got me excited about John Williams. I was already a big fan of his work for NBC News and I felt it was his best work. But now I am open to consider that his work for Star Wars may be his best work yet. When I noticed what I am about to show you, I was just plain…excited.

With his soundtrack for Star Wars, Williams brought back an old tradition that had fallen out of favor with movie directors and composers in the late seventies: the leitmotif. A leitmotif is a recurring musical phrase that is associated with a particular character. So whenever that character is doing something important plotwise, the theme in one rendition or another is played. The leitmotif is common practice today in both movies and TV dramas.

The leitmotif in Star Wars that got me so excited is one you’ll recognize: Darth Vader’s theme. It’s officially called Imperial March and is a constant throughout the various movies, usually predicating evil and gloom. It has become an iconic theme. A few chords of this theme are regularly played in episodes of The Simpsons when the evil billionaire Mr. Burns enters a scene. Here’s what it sounds like:

You know it, right?

Here’s what’s amazing. Read more »


Themes from This Week, The Lookout and Good Afternoon America added

522051_10150901729792061_1191563769_nA couple of great themes have been added to the website. Recently This Week started using an updated version of its theme music. The new version has some electric guitar riffs that really give George Stephanopolous’s sunday morning show a great ESPN-like vibe.

Also new on the website is the theme music for ABC’s The Lookout, a new kind of news magazine produced by the Nightline team. Like the show, the theme music is different from that of other news magazines. Both these themes are composed by DreamArtists Studios.

And finally, you can now enjoy the theme song used for the GMA-spinoff Good Afternoon America. The show aired for two months last summer. The theme song is written and performed by country music band Little Big Town. It has not been commercially released so this is the only place you can listen to the full song.


ABC’s America This Morning starts using GMA’s theme

atmAmerica This Morning, the early morning ABC newscast that precedes the local news in most markets, just started using Good Morning America’s current theme music. DreamArtists Studios is the composer of that theme. Along with the music, the show also uses a modified version of GMA’s graphics. Previously ATM used a theme by composer Gary Anderson who for many years was a vice-president of Score Productions. That company composed the original ABC News theme in 1978 and its many variations that were used throughout the years but does not exist anymore. Its last remaining ABC News theme on the air is the current World News Now theme.

The latest changes to ATM took effect last week. In May of this year the program started using similar lower thirds to those used by GMA, including the time and temperature bug. They, however, did not have the Times Square Studios sign swerve. That swerve is now part of the current ATM open, even though the program is not broadcast from the Times Square Studios.

The look and feel of ABC’s early morning newscast has evolved in an interesting way the past few years. Back in the days that the program was called World News This Morning, the branding was in line with that of World News Tonight. It used a variation of the classic ABC News theme and had similar graphics as the evening broadcast. That changed when the program was renamed to America This Morning. The program started being anchored by two co-anchors, like GMA. Now they use the same studio set-up as GMA Weekend, the same theme music and even have some of the same segments (ATM has its own Play of the Day, a popular GMA segment at the end of the 7.00 hour). ATM is now a full-fledged extension to the GMA brand, a sort of pre-dawn GMA.

Read on for some screencaps of the new ATM graphics. Also, check out our piece from last year on how the GMA theme was composed.

Read more »


New themes added from The Mission, Chris Matthews Show, 20/20, NBC’s 1986

img_1Just as I was working on this update for the website, it was announced that the Chris Matthews Show would be leaving the air later this year. I was just about to post the two themes that the show has used in its eleven year history. The syndicated show uses a cue from John Williams’ masterpiece The Mission, the theme for NBC News, as its open since 2009. It was actually the music that was intended for NBC Nightly News. When the show debuted in 2002 it used music by Joel Beckerman’s company, Man Made Music. Both themes are great to listen to!

I also posted the very nicely done current 20/20 theme which is composed by DreamArtists Studios as we reported at the time.

Finally, we have obtained the full version of the theme music used by one of the many short-lived NBC news magazines in the 1980’s: 1986. The show, hosted by Roger Mudd and Connie Chung, lasted for only twenty episodes. The theme certainly doesn’t sound like a traditional news theme.


ABC debuts new special report music (updated)


The terrible news out of Boston today marked the debut of a new ABC News special report theme. The previous theme, which had been in use for about two decades, has been retired. DreamArtists Studios composed the new music.

The special report theme is often used for big and unexpected news events. Such was the case today. Shortly after 3 p.m. ET George Stephanopolous anchored a special report on the explosion at the Boston Marathon.

Recently ABC News had debuted new opening graphics for their special reports that match the graphics for World News. However most of the special reports of late were focussed on the election of a new pope and for that ABC used a special theme. So the new theme did not make its debut until today.

UPDATE (April 16, 2013): The new Special Report theme has been added to Network News Music. You can listen to the music right here.


NBC’s Today dumps The Mission in favor of theme by Non-Stop Music

Today_2012This morning NBC’s Today Show debuted a new opening theme which replaces the John Williams’ fanfare that has in one way or another opened the broadcast since 1985. While the graphics have remained the same, the music accompanying them is a variation of the music that Today has been using for election broadcasts and other special editions. That music was composed by Adam Gubman on behalf of Non-Stop Music so it is likely he is also behind the particular arrangement that is currently used as the opening theme. You can hear the new opening theme here.

NBC hasn’t commented on the reason for replacing the iconic theme music. But Today has had a rough year. It was surpassed in the ratings by ABC’s Good Morning America in part due to the rocky transition from co-anchor Ann Curry to Savannah Guthrie. With its status as the most profitable program on network television at stake, the Today team likely wants to make clear that the show has improved. (“Warmer, more positive, and less sensational,” according to media reporter Howard Kurtz this morning.)

The version of Williams’ Today open that was used up until today, was a relatively recent version. In late 2011 John Williams rearranged the Meet the Press theme when, at the same time, he re-recorded the Today open. While Williams’ music is synonymous with the Today Show, there have been two previous attempts to replace it: in 1994 (with the debut of Studio 1A) and in 2004. (You can see a clip of the 1994 open on YouTube.) Whether the change will stick this time is unknown right now.

Speaking of new theme music, The Huffington Post reports that MSNBC’s NewsNation with Tamron Hall also received some new music. It is composed by none other than legendary pop icon Prince.


Five beautiful Today Show themes added

Today, I added five recent themes from NBC’s Today Show to the website. The current open that has been in use since 2004 is now finally online, along with the current and previous headline beds. I also added some special opens for last year’s British royal wedding and this year’s election.

The Today Show has a very nice orchestral sound that distinguishes it from other morning shows. ABC’s Good Morning America tends to use themes these days that have a big and bold sound. Their main theme is percussion based which gives the show a hip and edgy feel. CBS’s themes are mostly understated. This Morning uses a nice composition but not one that particularly stands out. CBS News uses theme music in the way network news used it years ago: very sparingly. NBC on the other hand takes its cues from John Williams’ The Mission. When Today uses a special open, it is usually a grand sounding orchestral theme by Non-Stop Music.

This is not just the case among morning shows; network news music in general has become more differentiated. Read more »


New World News theme added to Network News Music

Well, here it is! The new theme by Hans Zimmer is now online.


ABC World News gets new theme for the first time in more than a decade

ABC World News debuted a new theme tonight. ABC News’ flagship broadcast had been using their previous theme since 2000, when Peter Jennings anchored the broadcast. Unlike their previous theme, this theme seems to have no relation to the original ABC News theme that has been used in various forms since 1978.

The new World News theme is a composition by major Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer and sounds decidedly cinematic. This continues a trend of movie composers doing news themes that was started by NBC which commissioned John Williams in 1985 to compose The Mission.

There had been some speculation as to when the ABC World News theme would be refreshed. The old theme by Edd Kalehoff sounded dated. Since it started being used, all other ABC News programs have received new themes.

Aside from the theme music, World News also received new graphics. The set remained mostly the same, though some color was added and a few camera angles have changed. At the end of the broadcast anchor Diane Sawyer commented on the changes. “You may have noticed some differences here in our studio,” she said. Sawyer then asked viewers to let them know how they feel about the changes by going to their website.

Update: See and hear the new open here.


That iconic WNBC news theme? Turns out it is composed by NJJ Music

Sometimes you find out that a great theme of yesteryear is by a well known composer of today. When I spoke to Scott Schreer of NJJ Music the other day, he mentioned he did the iconic local news theme used on WNBC throughout the 1980s. That was a pretty big revelation because that WNBC theme is often mistakenly credited to Edd Kalehoff (who has done other great themes for WNBC) or Jim McAllister. Schreer explains: “Jim McAllister was a friend of mine who worked for me back then. He was a guitar player but had nothing to do with the NBC theme.” Schreer really didn’t mind that it was miscredited: “I really didn’t care because I know I wrote it and produced it at my studio!”

Schreer is best known these days for some of the best music used by Fox Sports and Fox News. When you think of the NFL on Fox, MLB on Fox and the O’Reilly Factor, his music immediately comes to mind. He has also composed a theme for Good Morning America in the late 90s (which, by the way, he did not keep a copy of in his personal archive).

Schreer’s theme debuted when WNBC revamped its entire station image. “NewsCenter 4” became “News 4 New York”. And at 5 p.m. a new newscast with a news-and-entertainment format debuted: “Live at Five”. The changes were a hit and WNBC’s news operation became the talk of the town.

The theme music was actually quite a challenge to record with the technology of those days: “I used my Oberheim synth that had a built in sequencer to trigger the 1/16 note pattern. Because midi wasn’t really invented or available to me back then, I had to play the high hats to match the oby synth sequence almost exactly.”

Some nice YouTube clips of the theme as used on the air after the jump.
Read more »


ABC’s 20/20 debuts new theme music

For the first time in two years ABC’s 20/20 debuted a new theme yesterday. It’s part of a major revamp of the venerable news magazine that also includes a new set and new graphics. Once again the theme music is composed by DreamArtists Studios. In every way the program departed from the dark and dramatic feel it went with in 2010. The theme music has that big and bold sound (with a touch of cool) that has become synonymous with ABC News.

Recently 20/20 has undergone some more changes. Since earlier this year the program is anchored solo, usually either by Elizabeth Vargas or Chris Cuomo. They haven’t anchored together in quite a while.

You can see a shot of the brand new set after the jump.

Read more »