Themes from ‘Man Made Music’

“CBS Evening News” Current Theme


When Norah O’Donnell took over as anchor of the CBS Evening News, the program debuted a new look and sound. The new theme is a remixed version of the previous one with lots of EDM elements. After a few months, the program relocated to Washington, D.C. That made it the first network evening news program since World News Tonight in the early ’80s to air regularly from the nation’s capital.

Man Made Music – CBS Evening News open
Man Made Music – CBS Evening News headlines
Man Made Music – CBS Evening News close

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“WCBS Newsradio 880” Current Anthem


WCBS Newsradio 880 is a news and talk radio station in the New York metropolitan area. When they needed a new theme package, they turned to Man Made Music. The station wanted something that did not sound too self-important. The result is something that blends in well with the greater CBS News sonic brand for which Man Made Music is responsible. This is the anthem. It blends some of the individual cuts of the package together, such as the news, weather and traffic themes.

Man Made Music – WCBS Newsradio 880 anthem

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“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” 2016 – 2019 Theme


Originally composed for CBS’ election coverage, this theme was adopted as the theme for the CBS Evening News in May of 2016. 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 news music, 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. Here’s the long close, used on the Evening News. You can listen to a different cut of the package that was used for election coverage.

Man Made Music – CBS Evening News 2016 theme


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“CBS Campaign 2016” Theme


This theme was recorded in late 2015 at the New York studios of Man Made Music. Composer Joel Beckerman referred to it in USA Today as “a hybrid orchestra piece”. There are a lot of samples and synthetic elements that are complemented by live musicians. The theme made its debut at the Democratic primary debate in Iowa that CBS News hosted. It was well liked and was later adopted as the main theme for the CBS Evening News.

Man Made Music – 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 would be no funny weatherman or couch on set. The first hour was anchored by Charlie Rose and Norah O’Donnell and was essentially an extended version of the CBS Evening News. Gayle King joined the show in the second hour, at which point it shifted to lighter fare. In later years all three anchors would be present for both hours. Though the anchors have changed, what hasn’t changed is that each show starts with the Eye Opener, a fast-paced 90-second montage of the day’s news. This energetic piece of music by Joel Beckerman of Man Made Music accompanies the Eye Opener.

Man Made Music – CBS This Morning Eye Opener


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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, it’s a production by 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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“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. Before these impromptu newscasts 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 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 Man Made Music, 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. 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

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.

In a nod to the past, former CBS Evening News anchor Walter Cronkite voiced the opening for Couric until shortly after he died.

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

James Horner – CBS Evening News bumper (Pensive)


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“NBC Nightly News” 2003 Promo


This promo is called “NBC Nightly News Hard & Fast”. It was used to promote a feature report on the next edition of Nightly News. Aside from main themes, networks commission promo material from a composer that they have under contract as a music producer. While promos usually feature the signature of the main theme, they are produced more cheaply: fewer live instruments and more synthesizers. And while main themes can be used for decades, promo music is refreshed every few years.

Man Made Music – NBC Nightly News promo music


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“Chris Matthews Show” 2002 – 2009 Theme


The Chris Matthews Show is a half-hour show airing on Sunday mornings that debuted in 2002 and focusses on politics. It consists of the roundtable format that the network public affairs shows have pioneered and perfected. However, the panelists are almost exclusively journalists, not politicians or political professionals. The show is produced by NBC News but is syndicated, meaning that it doesn’t necessarily air on NBC affiliated stations. The theme music is by Man Made Music.

Man Made Music – Chris Matthews Show theme


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