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 CBS’ 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 Made Music Studio, who is specialized in music for 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.
James Horner – CBS Evening News headline cue
James Horner – CBS Evening News open
There were multiple versions of both the headline cue and the open. At first there was a plan to use different opening cues, depending on the news of the day. That plan ultimately did not materialize but Horner did compose opens with different moods. Here’s the open for when a war breaks out.
James Horner – CBS Evening News open (alternate)
In a nod to the past, former CBS Evening News anchor Walter Cronkite voiced the opening for Couric until shortly after he died.
The war theme was actually used on air, for the Virginia Tech shootings.