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Top Documentary Composers In The Game Right Now

Documentaries are a great way to simultaneously learn new information and be entertained, and like all film media, much of their impact lies in their music. An avid watcher of docs that I am, I put together a list of some of my favorite documentary composers in hopes that, next time you see a doc you love, you may just recognize the name behind the music.

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Darren Fung

If you like BBC’s Planet Earth, I guarantee you’ll love CBC’s The Great Human Odyssey. It’s basically a dope, Canadian version of PE that talks about humanity from its earliest days to more modern ones, and like pretty much everything Canadian it manages to just be awesome. Darren Fung’s music for the series covers more emotional ground than my therapist, and given my recent affinity for bad boys and even badder decision making on Friday nights, that’s saying something.

Michael Small

Pumping Iron is one of the first documentaries I ever saw, and it continues to be one of my favorites to this day. Rife with drama, pranks, betrayal and the escapades of a certiain Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger, this doc is one for the history books. The light-hearted score was completed by American composer Michael Small, whose music for Pumping helped make it an instant classic.

Tyler Strickland

OMG did you know there are these crazy cute animals called Pink River Dolphins and they’re pink and cuddly and smart??? Well, I have some bad news -- they’re slowly going extinct. The upcoming TriBeCa film festival doc A River Below takes a look at how we can reverse this heinous trend, and thanks to composer Tyler Strickland’s score, it’s sure to put some serious tension on the heartstrings! Also check out Mars Generation (available on Netflix) to hear Tyler’s music and see exactly what it’ll take to get humans to live on the Big Red Ball in the Sky!

David Benjamin Steinberg

David Benjamin Steinberg has probably scored more documentaries in his career than most composers score movies (in general) in their lifetime. Is it because his music is awesome? Yes, but that should be only one of the many reasons you check out the doc’s he’s lent his skills to. Out of Iraq, In Vogue: The Editor’s Eye, Gender Revolution, Mapplethorpe: Look At the Pictures, I Am Britney Jean, and the upcoming Oh, Rick! all feature music by none other than Mr. Steinberg, and they all cover engrossing subject matter that’s worth a watch.

Mark Leggett

One of my favorite shows of the past 10 years is NBC’s My Name is Earl, starring Jason Lee and featuring music by Mark Leggett. The western-style guitar themes and goofy orchestration were some of my favorite on television, and though MNE is no longer on the air, Mark is constantly doing music for TV documentaries, and his musicianship is always top notch.

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