Sunday, March 8, 2009

Composer name pronunciation key

"Joy, we're back in Brooklyn, alright? Alright? In Brooklyn, it's Joy, not Joie, okay? It's not Jackée, alright? It's Jackie. It's not Sade, alright? It's Say-dee, alright? Whatchu gonna call me next? Whatchu gonna call me? Spi-kay?"

--Spike Lee (Tommy Davidson), reminding his sister Joie (T'Keyah Crystal Keymah) to stick to Brooklynese pronunciations of names,
In Living Color

The most challenging part of playing film and TV score music on Internet radio is having to pronounce the composers' often baffling-looking names. Over the years, I've Googled the correct ways to read their names and compiled them to create a pronunciation key for myself. Here's an excerpt from it:

Maurice Jarre's Film Score Monthly Composer Collector CardBruno Coulais (Coraline composer): [coo-lay]
Christopher Tyng (Futurama and Rescue Me composer): [ting]
Craig Safan (Cheers and The Last Starfighter composer): [saw-fawn or sawf-on]
Elmer Bernstein: [burn-steen]
Ennio Morricone: [en-yo more-a-cone-ay]
Gustavo Santaolalla: [san-ta-oh-lah-yah]
Jan Hammer: [yahn hah-mer](*)
Leonard Bernstein: [burn–stine]
Maurice Jarre: [jar]
Michael Giacchino: [jah-kee-no]
Mikis Theodorakis (Zorba the Greek and Serpico composer): [thay-uh-doe-rahk-is](**)
Miklós Rózsa: [mee-kloash ro-zha ("zh" as in "leisure")](***)
Ramin Djawadi (Iron Man composer): [rah-meen juh-vaw-dee]
Randy Edelman: [eddle-man]
Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run and The International director): [tick-ver]
Trevor Rabin: [rah-bean]
Wojciech Kilar: [voy-check kee-lar]
Zbigniew Preisner (Three Colors trilogy composer): [zbig-new prize-ner]

And now, here are some actors, singers, filmmakers or music supervisors whose equally challenging name pronunciations I've had to research or double-check before saying them on AFOS:

Alexandra Patsavas: [pot-saw-vuss](****)
Amitabh Bachchan: (uh-mi-taabh buh-chun)
Bobby Cannavale: [canna-vah-lay]
Chris Douridas: [door-ree-duss](*****)
Djimon Hounsou: [jie-mon hahn-soo]
Franka Potente: [frahn-kuh poh-ten-tay]
Krzysztof Kieslowski: [kzhish-tof kee-es-lof-ski]
Nina Persson (Cardigans frontwoman): [peer-son]
Seu Jorge: [say-oo zhor-zee]
Sidney Poitier: [pwah-tee-yay]
Zhang Yimou: [jahng ee-mow (rhymes with "cow")]


(*) Source: New England Jazz Radio Cooperative

(**) Source: "Once Banned, Now a Hero of Greek Music" by Ralph Blumenthal,
New York Times, October 23, 2000

(***) Source:

(****) Source: "Music of 'The O.C.'" by Cheryl Corley, All Things Considered, April 24, 2004

(*****) Source: "The Man Behind the Music of the Movies" by Michele Norris,
All Things Considered, May 27, 2003


  1. or, my personal favorite, Badalamenti

  2. I listed his name in my pronunciation key on my PC, but I didn't post it in the excerpt above, so for those who aren't sure how to say it, here we go:

    Angelo Badalamenti: [BAD-a-lamen-tee] (sources: L.A. Times and NPR)

  3. Thanks Jimmy! :) Would it be possible to get your entire list somehow?

  4. All 36 pages of it? Why, of course.

  5. Now, if you could only put ACCENT marks on which syllables are stressed...