Themes from ‘CBS News’

“Face the Nation” Current Theme

A few months after Margaret Brennan took over as moderator, Face the Nation was given a makeover that brought it more in line with the look and feel of other CBS News programs. The theme was recorded a month before its debut in the studios of Man Made Music in New York. Each section of an orchestra recorded their parts before it was all mixed together under the guidance of Joel Beckerman and Mickey Alexander.

Man Made Music – Face the Nation theme

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“CBS Evening News” Current Theme

This theme was originally composed for CBS’ election coverage. The CBS Evening News started to use it starting in May of 2016. For this election cycle CBS wanted an iconic score, something people would remember 10 to 15 years from now. Man Made Music was charged with that task. Composers Joel Beckerman and Wayne Sharpe came up with this theme centered on three orchestral stabs. It’s a special challenge to write music for an election a year before it takes place, as Beckerman explained to USA Today:

“What we’re doing is creating music for a movie that has not been shot—because we don’t know what the stories are. CBS News doesn’t yet know what will unfold through this whole election cycle. So we’re trying to predict the kinds of emotions that they’re going to need—the different energies, the different instruments, so that we can create almost an entire film score for them that can unfold in real time during the election cycle.”

The various sections of the orchestra give the theme its identity. Strings give it worldliness, lower brass adds trustworthiness and short note percussion gives it forward energy, said Beckerman to AdWeek.

Man Made Music – CBS Campaign 2016 Theme

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“CBS This Morning” Current Theme

The relaunch of CBS This Morning in 2012 was an attempt to bring back hard news to the morning time slot. There is no funny weatherman or couch on set. The first hour is anchored by Charlie Rose and Norah O’Donnell and is essentially an extended version of the CBS Evening News. Gayle King joins the show in the second hour, at which point it shifts to lighter fare. The broadcast starts off with a 90-second look at the news called the Eye Opener, for which this piece of beautiful music is used. It’s composed by Joel Beckerman of ManMade Music.

Man Made Music – CBS This Morning Eye Opener

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“Early Show” 2011 – 2012 Open

This is based on the 1987 CBS Evening News package that was picked up again in 2011. It was performed and recorded at the end of June, debuting about a month later on the Early Show. It again unifies the branding of CBS News while also underscoring the Early Show’s hard news focus. With the cancellation of the Early Show, the new CBS This Morning started to use new theme music. However, this open is still used for other CBS News programs in the morning: the Morning News and Up To The Minute.

Trivers/Myers Music – Early Show open

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“CBS Evening News” 1987 – 1991, 2011 – 2016 Theme

This was the first orchestral theme for the CBS Evening News. Before this theme was adopted in 1987, CBS News had a policy, imposed by CBS TV President Frank Stanton, that no music could be used. This policy dated back to the old days of TV news when many newscasts consisted of syndicated pictures with cheap production music. To prove CBS supplied its own footage, they decided not to add any music. Besides, their music library at the time consisted of music used for those old radio soaps. It was not appropriate for news. For a few years, they had a ticker sound as open/bumper/close, but from 1984 to 1987 they had no music at all in the open and the close! After a few years of seeing their ratings decline, while John Williams’ NBC News theme was popular with the viewing public, the executives at CBS decided to finally reverse their policy and commissioned John Trivers, Elizabeth Myers, and Alan James Pasqua to compose the theme. The music was recorded at the Fox sound stage and took 6 hours to perform. This theme was dropped in 1991, but only temporarily as it later turned out.

Twenty years later this theme made a remarkable comeback. When Scott Pelley took over as anchor of the CBS Evening News in 2011, this theme was picked up again. After five flashy years of Katie Couric, the new chairman of CBS News, Jeff Fager, wanted “to reach back into the DNA of CBS News”. Hence, they brought back their first theme music. They are using the original recordings, though they have been remastered slightly.

Trivers/Myers Music – CBS Evening News close

In the late 80’s they used different openings, but here you can find the one they used quite often. The opening that they have been using since 2011 is a bit different. It’s actually a remixed version of the last part of the long credit close above.

Trivers/Myers Music – CBS Evening News open (2011 version)
Trivers/Myers Music – CBS Evening News open (1987 version)
Trivers/Myers Music – CBS Evening News headlines

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“48 Hours Mystery” Current Theme

This is the theme that has been used on 48 Hours Mystery since the fall of 2010. Like the previous themes, it is composed by Richard Fiocca. It’s not used for some of the special editions of 48 Hours Mystery, such as Live to Tell. That edition, which tells stories without the use of narrator, uses no theme music.

Richard Fiocca – 48 Hours Mystery theme

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“Face the Nation” 2009 – 2018 Theme

This is a fuller, more orchestral arrangement of the previous theme. After pulling double duty on the Evening News and Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer returned full time to Face the Nation after Katie Couric started as main anchor at CBS. He continued to moderate the public affairs show until his retirement in 2015. After that John Dickerson, who was CBS’ political director at the time, took over.

Peter Fish – Face the Nation theme

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“Inauguration of Barack Obama” Theme

This theme was used for CBS’ coverage of the inauguration of President Barack Obama, anchored by Katie Couric. It is a great variation on the CBS Evening News theme composed by James Horner. While the theme is based on the Horner composition, the composer of this theme is actually Joel Beckerman of Man Made Music. Beckerman knows Horner’s theme well because he was previously involved in converting Horner’s music to a music package suited to the needs of a TV broadcast.

Man Made Music – Inauguration theme

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“Early Show” 2008 – 2011 Theme

This is a remix of James Horner’s original Early Show theme that the morning program used for a little over three years. While the original sounds like a piece of classical music, by giving it an urban beat the theme became a very hip sounding piece of music. This theme premiered on the day that they started to use their redesigned street level set and Maggie Rodriquez started her run as co-anchor. Over the years the Early Show used various slightly differently arranged versions of this open.

James Horner – CBS Early Show theme

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“Early Show” 2006 – 2008 Open

Since 2002 an ensemble of four anchored the Early Show to give the show a less formal feel than other morning news shows. By the time this theme started to be used, that concept was phased out, eventually returning to a more traditional format. This is the theme that James Horner composed for the Early Show. It was recorded in New York, two weeks after the original session in Los Angeles during the summer of 2006. In comparison to his work for the Evening News, he wanted the theme for the Early Show to be more energetic, gentler and intimate. It debuted about two months after Horner’s Evening News theme went on the air. CBS decided to use this theme as the headline cue and used a shortened version of the Evening News close as its open.

James Horner – Early Show open

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“CBS News Special Report” 2006 – 2011 Theme

This ominous sounding cue of James Horner’s theme package for the CBS Evening News was composed for special reports, impromptu newscasts that break into regularly scheduled programming. Before they start, viewers can usually see (part of) a 10-second countdown. That is used to give CBS stations around the country the chance to switch to the national feed. Before the Horner theme, CBS News used the headline cue from the 1991 Evening News package to open special reports.

James Horner – CBS News Special Report theme

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“CBS Evening News” 2006 – 2011 Theme

For Katie Couric’s ascension to the anchor chair, the CBS Evening News was given a total makeover. Like NBC did earlier, they turned to a famous movie composer for their theme: James Horner. He is known for the scores to such hit movies as Titanic, Aliens and Avatar. They asked him to create a theme that stood out from other news themes including its previous theme. The result is music that sounds sweeping, regal and cinematic.

Although Horner scored hundreds of movies and won both Oscars and Grammys, he had never worked in television. That was different for him because TV cues have demands that movie cues don’t have. They tend to be shorter – only a few seconds – whereas film cues can last fifteen minutes. Furthermore, many special cues such as bumpers, billboards and opens are needed. Therefore Joel Beckerman of Man Made Music, who is specialized in TV, helped Horner convert his music to a theme package suited to the demands of television. He added, for example, the three notes at the beginning of the headline cue. The music was recorded in L.A. in an eight hour session with a 90-piece orchestra, consisting mostly of players with whom Horner works regularly. This theme was also used by the CBS Morning News and Up to the Minute.

James Horner – CBS Evening News close

Below is the headline cue open to the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. The voice of legendary anchor Walter Cronkite accompanied the open until about six months after his death. There were multiple versions of both the headline cue and the open, these are the ones that were used most.

James Horner – CBS Evening News headline cue
James Horner – CBS Evening News open
James Horner – CBS Evening News open (with Cronkite voiceover)

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“Campaign ’06” Theme

James Horner’s CBS package is fairly extensive, it literally contains hundreds of cuts. This is the music that CBS used for the election coverage in 2006. From 2008 onwards they used a slightly different theme.

James Horner – CBS News Campaign theme

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“America at War” Theme

This was the theme that CBS used for all coverage of the 2003 War in Iraq. Theme music is very important in setting the tone for the program, as music instantly brings up associations in the minds of viewers. ABC used a variation of the Special Report theme that sounds rather sad and somber for the war. NBC used music by Michael Karp that sounded very dramatic. CBS, however, took a different approach, as you can hear. The network decided on a very aggressive piece of music that would shock-and-awe you. Peter Fish composed the music.

Peter Fish – America at War theme

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“48 Hours Mystery” 2002 – 2008 Theme

In 2002 Dan Rather stepped down as anchor of 48 Hours and the show was reformatted. In a trend that almost all other news magazines would follow in years to come, 48 Hours Mystery – as it was now called – focussed on telling true crime stories. Murders are examined step-by-step in a suspense-building style. Essentially the news magazine became  a non-fiction novel, taking the place of the movie of the week on the network schedule. This theme reflects that change. During the first two years of the new format, Leslie Stahl anchored (and the program was actually known as “48 Hours Investigates”). After that period, the correspondent would introduce his own story.

Richard Fiocca – 48 Hours Mystery theme

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