From spaghetti westerns to new Australian drama series, nearly every moment we experience on film and television is accompanied by music. Five composers who write for the screen reveal to Angus McPhersonthe pleasures and perils of working in an art form that aims to hit the audience in the head, heart and gut.

Screen Composers

The coyote cry of Ennio Morricone’s theme for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Bernard Herrmann’s stabbing strings in Psychoand the heroic brass of John Williams’ music for Star Warsare all instantly recognisable. These motifs have become cultural touchpoints, with a life outside the films for which they were created. Almost every moment we see on a screen at the cinema or watching television is intensified by music, whether...