Michael A. Levine
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|Michael A. Levine|
February 20, 1964 |
Michael A. Levine (born 20 February 1964 in Tokyo, Japan) is an American composer, music producer and screenwriter born in Japan and currently based in Los Angeles. He is best known for his work in film and television.
Life and career
His Concerto for Pedal Steel Guitar and Orchestra is believed to be the first concerto ever written for the pedal steel guitar. It was premiered on April 16, 2005, in a performance by the Nashville Chamber Orchestra with Gary Morse (of Dierks Bentley and Dwight Yoakam's bands) as soloist, and Paul Gambill as conductor. Levine also composed Divination By Mirrors for musical saw and strings. It was premiered in New York City's Merkin Hall in 1998 by the New York Virtuosi with Dale Stuckenbruck as the saw soloist. The piece makes extensive use of quarter tones and golden mean sections.
Levine has also written several opera and musical theater pieces including Orpheus Electronica (2000), widely believed to be the first "rave opera". Orpheus was developed for the stage by William Philip McKinley, who directed Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark and The Boy From Oz on Broadway.
Trained as a violinist, Levine began his career as a studio musician in New York in the 1980s playing both keyboards and violin. He appeared on recordings and/or live performances with Carla Bley, Michael Mantler, John Greaves, Peter Blegvad, Joe Jackson, Lenny Kravitz, and Marianne Faithfull. His violin playing on Faithfull's rendition of Boulevard of Broken Dreams is considered signature. In the mid-1980s, Levine led the New York City-based quartet, No Guitars, in which he sang and played electric violin. Patrick Moraz of Yes described him as "The Jimi Hendrix of the violin."
By the late 1980s, he switched his emphasis to composition, first making a name in advertising. Levine, with lyricist Ken Shuldman, wrote "Gimme a Break", the Kit Kat jingle. In a 2003 study of earworms (tunes that get stuck in people's heads) Univ. of Cincinnati researcher James Kellaris named "Gimme a Break" as one of the top ten worst offenders.
Levine is, perhaps, best known as the composer for the television dramas Cold Case and Close to Home, both produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. In 2007, he scored the features Adrift in Manhattan and Columbus Day and in 2011, the feature thriller No One Will Know. In 2012 he became the composer for the upcoming George Lucas-produced Star Wars Detours animated series featuring Seth Green and Seth MacFarlane.
Levine also produced, with Michael Wolff, the songs for the Nickelodeon TV preteen comedy series and combo, The Naked Brothers Band. One of the songs, Crazy Car, peaked at #23 on the Top 200 Billboard Charts and was written by musician/actor Nat Wolff, thought to be the youngest person to ever compose a charting song (He was 6 when he wrote the song).
Michael has done extensive work for other film composers including Hans Zimmer, Harry Gregson-Williams, Rupert Gregson-Williams, and Cliff Martinez as an arranger and composer of additional music. He was the arranger of the choral version of "Spider-Pig" from The Simpsons Movie and co-composed the Megamind theme alongside Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe as well as writing additional music. In addition, he composed the music for the murder scene in Veronica Guerin.
Levine often plays violin on his and others' recordings. He is a featured player on Hans Zimmer's and James Newton Howard's score for the Batman movie, The Dark Knight. He also plays tenor violin and the ciola (pronounced chee OH la) an instrument the size of a viola but which sounds in the same range as a cello.
He is the recipient of eight ASCAP awards, two Clio awards, an NEA grant, a Meet The Composer grant, and a Massachusetts Arts Foundation grant.
In 2013 Levine, alongside Lucas Cantor, arranged and produced Lorde’s spooky rendition of “Everybody Wants to Rule The World” from the Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack. It was later used in the cinematic trailer of Assassin's Creed Unity at E3 2014, promo for the new network BBC First and in the trailer for the 2014 film Dracula Untold. The cover appeared on the New Zealand Singles Chart at number 14. It reached number 53 in Australia, number 65 in the UK, number 93 in France, and number 27 on the US Hot Rock Songs. In addition, Levine and Cantor also produced Demarest's cover of the Neil Young classic "Heart of Gold," which was featured in the official trailer for Out of the Furnace.
Levine wrote the score for the 2015 documentary Landfill Harmonic, which tells the story of the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura, Paraguay. The film has won numerous awards at festivals worldwide including the World Cinema Award at the 2015 AFI Festival and the Audience Award in the 24 Beats Per Second category at 2015 SXSW.  He also composed the closing credits song, Cateura - Vamos a Soñar with lyricists Mariana Barreto and Rodolfo Madero.
In 2017, Michael wrote and produced the theme song for Resident Evil VII Biohazard, the first Virtual Reality game in the series. The song, a reworking and expansion of the traditional Go Tell Aunt Rhody is sung by U.K.- based New Zealander, Jordan Reyne. 
Levine's script Useless, about Pres. Ulysses Grant, was a semifinalist for the Film Academy (Oscars) Nicholl Fellowship as was his screenplay The Last Battleship, based on a true story involving his father, Solomon B. Levine, who was the translator for the Japanese Admiral who designed the Yamato, the most advanced battleship ever built and the last ever sunk in combat.
Video Games (as composer)
Filmography (as composer)
- Kovler, Jessica. "When the Brain Grabs a Tune and Won't Let Go." The New York Times, 11 Aug. 2003. Web. 27 Aug. 2014.
- "Assassin's Creed Unity trailer". 3 News (MediaWorks New Zealand). 12 June 2014. Archived from the original on 14 June 2014.
- Ellwood, Gregory (27 June 2014). "'Dracula Untold's new trailer needs a Lorde cover to rule the world". HitFix. Retrieved 28 June 2014.
- Alexander, Mike. "Kiwi singer Jordan Reyne features in Resident Evil 7 trailer". Stuff. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
- Seikaly, Andrea. "'Walking Dead' Zombies Invade, 'Game of Thrones' Battle Ensues at TV Academy Concert." Variety. Variety, 24 May 2014. Web. 27 Aug. 2014. <http://variety.com/2014/scene/vpage/walking-dead-zombies-invade-game-of-thrones-battle-ensues-at-tv-academy-concert-1201189065/>.