01 December 2006

Shirley Walker: 1945-2006

More sad news: Film composer Shirely Walker has passed away from a brain aneurism too soon at the age 0f 61. A rare female artist in a field largely dominated by men, Walker spent most of her adult life as a professional pianist (she played synthesizer on the "Apocalypse Now" score, and collaborated with Carmine Coppola on "The Black Stallion") and composer for industrials, commercial jingles, and B-films, before moving into full-time Hollywood work as a conductor for Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer.

Amazingly, when John Carpenter chose Walker to compose the music for his "Memoirs Of An Invisible Man", it marked the first time in Hollywood history that a woman was to write the score for a major feature film.

The bulk of Walker's work was for science fiction, fantasy, and horror projects: she paid her dues on direct-to-video programmers like 'The Dungeonmaster" and "Ghoulies', with Bernard Rose's "Chicago Joe And The Showgirl" as a detour into "respectability" and her first collaboration with Zimmer. Soon, the offers became more high-profile: the "Final Destination" films, Carpenter's "Escape From LA", the "Willard" remake, "Space: Above And Beyond".

For many superhero buffs, her career legacy will be her themes and background cues for "Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm", "Batman: The Animated Series", and "Superman: The Animated Series, in addition to the short-lived "The Flash" live action series--filling the considerable shoes of Danny Elfman and John Williams with passion and artistry. She was set to score the upcoming animated adaption of Darwin Cooke's "DC: New Frontier".

Betweening her own scoring gigs, Walker continued to act as a conductor on other films, includng "True Lies", "Striking Distance", and "A League Of Their Own".

Given the stigma against genre films, Walker's body of work has never been given the recognition and serious study afforded to the other icons of the field, but in time--having found the right mainstream project--I'm sure she would've eventually rose to the esteemed echelon of Elfman, Williams, Zimmer, Jerry Goldsmith, Howard Shore, and the late Basil Poledouris, to name but a few.

The upcoming remake of Bob Clark's "Black Christmas" will be her last screen credit.