With a feverish imagination, impeccable musicianship, complexity, versatility, unbridled joy, and fearlessness, Laura Karpman makes music, which is, in the words of George Manahan, music director of the American Composer’s Orchestra, "a rare combination of heart and groin." With her rigorous musical approach, coupled with conceptual and progressive uses of technology and recording, Laura is a true 21st century American composer.
Four-time Emmy winning composer and composer of the Grammy-winning album ASK YOUR MAMA, Laura Karpman maintains a vibrant career in film, television, videogame and concert music. Her distinguished credits include the series UNDERGROUND, in collaboration with Raphael Saadiq and John Legend, STEP, a Sundance 2017 favorite, Eleanor Coppola’s PARIS CAN WAIT starring Diane Lane and Alec Baldwin, Kasi Lemmons’ BLACK NATIVITY starring Jennifer Hudson and Forest Whitaker, Steven Spielberg’s miniseries TAKEN, the Showtime series ODYSSEY 5, and MASTERS OF SCIENCE FICTION for which she received Emmy nominations. She contributed to Sophia Coppola’s 2017 THE BEGUILED.
Commissioned by Carnegie Hall, she collaborated with soprano Jessye Norman and The Roots on ASK YOUR MAMA, a multimedia opera on a text by Langston Hughes, which received its sold out premiere at Carnegie Hall in March 2009, and its West Coast premiere at The Hollywood Bowl and was revived at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Laura has been commissioned by the Glimmerglass Festival and is developing an opera BALLS, a collaboration with NY Times columnist Gail Collins, with Yuval Sharon’s The Industry.
Laura has received two GANG awards and an additional nomination for her videogame music which has been performed by orchestras internationally, as well as an Annie Feature nomination. She serves as an advisor for the Sundance Film Scoring Labs and is on the faculty of the USC Film Scoring Program. Laura is the founding President of the Alliance for Women Film Composers and is proud to serve as a governor of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
A native of Los Angeles, Laura began composing music at seven years old and continued her studies at Phillips Academy at Andover and the National Music Camp, Interlochen, Michigan. Her lifelong obsession with jazz began early on as well, when, at age 11 she started memorizing Ella Fitzgerald’s scat solos.
Later she started playing and singing in high school bands, sneaking into clubs with a fake I.D. to hear great players like Anthony Braxton, Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald, Ahmad Jamal, and Betty Carter. Laura attended the University of Michigan School of Music, studying composition with William Bolcom and Leslie Bassett, and spent a life-changing summer studying with the legendary Nadia Boulanger at Fontainebleau. She then went on to Juilliard, where she received her Master’s and Doctoral degrees as a student of Milton Babbitt, composing and studying the complexities of concert music by day, while playing jazz and scat singing in Manhattan clubs by night.
Laura subsequently received kudos in concert music with awards including the Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, 2 ASCAP Foundation grants, multiple Meet the Composer grants, and residencies at Aspen, Tanglewood and The MacDowell Colony. She credits a fellowship to the Sundance Institute’s Composer’s Lab as a pivotal moment in her life. For the first time, she saw computers and music work together and was utterly enthralled with this then new technology. She relocated back to Los Angeles from New York, attended the ASCAP Film Scoring workshop, and soon after began working steadily in the commercial world.
Laura has scored projects for every major network, including two seasons of the award-winning UNDERGROUND, co-scored with Raphael Saadiq. She created a unique soundscape for Showtime’s acclaimed science fiction series, ODYSSEY 5 starring Peter Weller. This Emmy-nominated highly unusual score, featuring 12 cellos, bassoons, basses, duduk and countertenor, caught the attention of Steven Spielberg, who invited her to create an epic orchestral score for his 20-hour miniseries, TAKEN. She seamlessly intertwined traditional Americana with evocative modernist strains in this sprawling, adventurous sci-fi score.
Other notable works include the acclaimed DOING TIME ON MAPLE DRIVE directed by Ken Olin for Fox, DASH AND LILLY directed by Kathy Bates for A&E, and the highly rated SINS OF THE MOTHER, starring Jill Scott for Lifetime. She also composed music for NBC’s hit miniseries A WOMAN OF INDEPENDENT MEANS, starring Sally Field, creating music stylistically spanning the first half of the 20th century. Laura scored the series WIOU for CBS and the procedural drama IN JUSTICE for Robert and Michelle King on ABC. She has also collaborated with directors Michael Tolkin, Michael Petroni and Darnell Martin on the limited series MASTERS OF SCIENCE FICTION for ABC, for which she received an Emmy nomination for her quirky score to JERRY WAS A MAN. She most recently created a massive suspense soundtrack for LAST MAN STANDING, Lifetime's first action movie, produced by Gale Ann Hurd and directed by Ernest Dickerson.
Laura’s imaginative scores for numerous independent films include BLACK NATIVITY for director Kasi Lemmons and Fox Searchlight; for THE BREAK UP starring Bridget Fonda and Keifer Sutherland; FOR MAN IN THE CHAIR starring Christopher Plummer and Michael Angarano; THE ANNIHILATION OF FISH starring Lynn Redgrave and James Earl Jones for director Charles Burnett; and most recently, the hybrid orchestral score for THE TOURNAMENT. She received a feature Annie nomination for her score A MONKEY’S TALE, combining Chinese instruments and traditional cartoon scoring, and has enjoyed creating scores for SANDLOT 2 and ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE, JR., directed by David Mickey Evans.
Laura has composed music for dozens of game titles, including the large orchestral scores for Sony’s EVERQUEST 2 and many of its updates. She created an epic choral sound and set a Middle Scots war text for the PS3 launch title and PSP versions of UNTOLD LEGENDS: DARK KINGDOM. Laura is currently scoring Microsoft’s PROJECT SPARK, and has recently worked on Kinect Disneyland Adventures, Warner Brothers’ GUARDIANS OF MIDDLE EARTH, and a Chinese action score for KUNG FU PANDA 2 for DreamWorks/THQ, and has contributed additional music to Clive Barker’s JERICHO and HALO 3. She was included in the original production of Video Games Live and received 2 GANG awards for her work on EVERQUEST 2 and KINECT DISNEYLAND ADVENTURES. Her music has also been featured by The National Symphony at The Kennedy Center, and performed throughout Europe. She conducted Games in Concert 2, Metropole Orchestra and PA’dam Choir, Music Centre Vredenburg, in Utrecht, The Netherlands, in 2007. She also contributed to PLAY FOR JAPAN, a collection of tracks from top videogame composers for the Japanese tsunami relief effort.
Laura has a passion for documentary film, and has won four Emmy's and been nominated for an additional five for her work in this genre. She has served as an advisor for the Sundance Composer’s Lab. She credits THE LIVING EDENS, the long running nature series on PBS, for helping to shape her creative voice. To create a sound for the last unspoiled places on earth, Laura melded world music with jazz and traditional Western scoring and started sampling from her collection of over 200 instruments from across the globe.
Laura has scored dozens of documentaries, including THE REAGAN SHOW, STEP, REGARDING SUSAN SONTAG for HBO, and three seasons of the Peabody award-winning PBS series, CRAFT IN AMERICA, where her re-contextualizing of classic American tunes earned her another Emmy nomination. For directors Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine she wrote the music for THE GALAPAGOS AFFAIR, which premiered at the Telluride Film Festival and was showcased at the Berlin Film Festival, as well as a “cool” jazz score, featuring the Turtle Island String Quartet, for Geller and Goldfine's feature documentary SOMETHING VENTURED, which premiered in 2011 at South By Southwest. Laura has also helped shape dozens of winning political campaigns, having written music for candidates Diane Feinstein, Charles Schumer, Lois Capps, and many others—she scored a third of the campaigns for the DCCC in 2000.
Hailed by Vanity Fair as “super-lush…always impressive,” Laura’s epic multimedia work ASK YOUR MAMA was commissioned by Carnegie Hall. At its sold-out world premiere there, The New York Times reported that the audience “thundered its approval,” and raved that the ground-breaking music, “melding Ivesian collage with club-culture remixing, morphed from one vivid section to the next in a dreamlike flow.” ASK YOUR MAMA, based on an iconic cycle of poems by Langston Hughes, was written for Jessye Norman, The Roots, Nnenna Freelon, d’Adre Aziza, and large orchestra, conducted by George Manahan. The work received its West Coast Premiere at the Hollywood Bowl, returned to New York’s Apollo Theater in 2013, and Avie Records will release the recording in 2015.
SIREN SONGS, premiering on June 11th, 2015 was commissioned by the Pacific Symphony to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its music director, Carl, St. Clair. This multimedia work explores women, the ocean and our alarming future; it is based on a set of poems by the exceptional poet, Amy Gerstler, and is accompanied by video and animation by Tempe Hale, who has used footage from Gregory MacGillivray, an Academy-Award nominated cinematographer. Laura’s concert music has been commissioned and performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cabrillo Festival Orchestra (with Marin Alsop), Concordia, the American Composers’ Orchestra, Metropole Orkest, Northwest Sinfonia, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and the Detroit, Houston, National, New York Youth, Richmond, and El Paso Symphonies. Upcoming commissions include works for The Gay Men’s Chorus of San Francisco (2015) and WILDE TALES for Glimmerglass (2016). Laura has also received an Opera Grant for Female Composers from Opera America to develop BALLS, an opera about the Billie Jean King v. Bobby Riggs tennis match with NY Times columnist Gail Collins. She is also developing multimedia works for clarinetist David Krakauer and Evelyn Glennie.
Recent commissions include the evening-length THE HIDDEN WORLD OF GIRLS, in collaboration with NPR’s the Kitchen Sisters and visual artists Obscura Digital, for which she also served as creative director, for the Cabrillo Festival; ONE TEN PROJECT for the Los Angeles Opera, celebrating both the 70th anniversary of the dedication of the freeway and the 25th anniversary of the Los Angeles Opera; DIFFERENT LANES for string quartet and two iPads for Pacific Serenades; THE TRANSITIVE PROPERTY OF EQUALITY for orchestra and electronics, conducted by Marin Alsop with the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, commissioned by Red Bull; WAXING NOSTALGIC for Laura Klugherz (viola) and Roberto Limón (guitar); NOW ALL SET, a memorial tribute to her teacher Milton Babbitt, for Perspectives of New Music.
Laura is an active composer for the theater. She has created underscore and songs for A Noise Within in Los Angeles, The Georgia Shakespeare Festival, The Old Globe Theater, and Los Angeles Theater Works, among others. She takes great pride in A WILDE HOLIDAY, her original musical theater production of Oscar Wilde's Fairy Tales, which ran to critical acclaim for three seasons at A Noise Within, and her work with Tony award-winning singer/actress Tonya Pinkins, for whom she created arrangements for Jazz at Lincoln Center and Stephen Sondheim's 75th Birthday Celebration.
Laura serves on the faculty of the USC Film Scoring Program & the New Media and Music Technology Program at San Francisco Conservatory. From 2005-2009, as a professor at UCLA in the School of Theater, Film, and Television, she taught interdisciplinary multimedia performance and film music, mentoring the collaboration between filmmaker and composer. In 2012-13, she ran the first Master’s degree film-scoring program at Berklee College of Music, where she taught videogame scoring as well as film composition. Laura serves as an advisor at the Sundance Institute and has lectured at The Juilliard School, USC, UCLA Herb Alpert School, Mills College, Berklee College of Music, Emerson College, and The Tides Momentum Leadership Conference, and is a fellow of The Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities.