Tom Pierson

Gil Evans called Tom Pierson “the best unknown composer I know”

Born in Ashland, Wisconsin in 1948 and an explorer by nature, Tom studied classical at Julliard before venturing into jazz, fusion, and film.

He’s written a symphony and is currently composing an opera. He’s arranged and composed film scores for directors Robert Altman, Milos Forman, and Woody Allen.

On this program we discussed his varied work including music for Altman’s enigmatic 1979 science fiction film Quintet, which starred Paul Newman and took place in a dystopian ice age.

This is a candid conversation about being a child prodigy at classical piano, his original compositions and his jazz fusion band, the art of being an orchestrator, playing hardball with studios, moving to Tokyo, and the pursuit of art over commerce.

Listen to the PRX Tom Pierson radio program:

PRX Tom Pierson

Click the link below to listen to the extended version of the Tom Pierson interview (unexpurgated and without music tracks), with additional topics discussed including: film directors’ use of temp tracks, the business of negotiating with studios and Altman, battling with Woody, working on Popeye when songwriter Harry Nilsson got fired, being courted by a famous CBS record exec, and having a gangster manager who got things done right.

Listen to the Tom Pierson Extended Interview (no music, adult language):

Tim Ayres YouTube

All the music discussed and much more can be found on Tom Pierson’s Bandcamp site here:

A terrific page on Altman’s film Quintet:

Published by Tim Ayres

Host of the Mad River Anthology on KHSU 90.5 FM Arcata, California.

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