Friday, December 01, 2006

Shirley Walker, RIP

The composer and conductor Shirley Walker died Wednesday. She was 61.

Walker (1945-2006) was probably best known as supervising composer for Batman: The Animated Series. She'd previously been a prolific orchestrator and conductor for various movies, and came to the attention of the Batman producers because she'd orchestrated and conducted Danny Elfman's score for the 1989 Batman movie, as well as composing the music for the short-lived live-action series The Flash. For the Batman series, Walker arranged Elfman's main title theme (based on, but superior to, the version of that theme in the movie), composed the music for dozens of episodes, and supervised the work of the other composers to make them fit in with the style she'd set for the show.

She could also depart from that basic style, quite brilliantly, when needed; for the episode "The Laughing Fish" she did a spooky, Bartókian, modernistic score, and in the tribute to Dick Sprang's Batman comics in "Legends of the Dark Knight," she went to great lengths to make the score (and the recording of it) sound like a parody of canned music in early '60s TV cartoons.

Here's a website devoted to Walker's work, which includes a full list of her many credits.

I wrote a bit about Walker in an earlier post, which included a link to this article on Walker and the other Batman/Superman composers. There was also a recent two-part interview with her in Film Score Monthly.

Walker can also be heard on two audio commentary tracks on volume 3 of the Batman series.

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