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Virtuosic guitar playing and a passion for imaginative composing has kept the schedule of Brian Keane full. In addition to recording several memorable solo albums, Keane has been featured on albums by such stellar jazz players as Larry Coryell, Paco de Lucia, and Bobby McFerrin. His four albums with Turkish multi-instrumentalist Omar Faruk Tekbilek -- Suleyman the Magnificent, Fire Dance, Beyond the Sky, and Whirling -- are classics of modern Middle Eastern music. Respectfully called "the John Williams of the documentary world," Keane has composed scores for more than 100 historical and social films and television documentaries.
Keane inherited his musical talents from his parents. His mother was an avant-garde composer and opera singer who has performed in Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera House. His father was a highly trained Irish tenor singer. Although his father bought a guitar, intending to learn how to play, it lay dormant until he picked it up at the age of ten. Teaching himself a few chords, he spent hours playing rock & roll songs. Initially uninterested in jazz, Keane changed his point of view after attending a concert by the Mahavishnu Orchestra in the mid-'70s. Inspired by what he heard, he began taking the guitar much more seriously. While attending Staples High School, he studied at the Juilliard School of Music with John Mohegan, the developer of the numeric theory of music and the author of Rhythm and Tonal Principals. By the time that he enrolled in Ithica College, he knew more than most music teachers.
Although he studied with modern composer Karel Husa at Cornell University, he earned his B.A. in general studies. Moving to New York, following his graduation, Keane was soon playing with the city's top instrumentalists. In addition to playing in a trio with bassist Eddie Gomez and flautist Jeremy Steig, he performed with a Connecticut-based fusion band Sunsight from 1978 to 1981. Keane also began working as a session guitarist for Atlantic Records producer Arif Mardin.
Shortly after leaving Sunsight, Keane began collaborating with influential jazz guitarist Larry Coryell. Performing as a duo, Keane and Coryell recorded three albums during the four years that they worked together. Keane's collaboration with Tekbilek developed while he was working on the soundtrack for the film Suleyman the Magnificent. Although he knew little of Tekbilek, who was suggested for the project by Mardin, Keane became excited after their initial recording session. The resulting soundtrack recording was so powerful that the two musicians were offered a contract by Celestial Harmonies.
Brian Keane (born 1953) is an American composer, music producer, musician and guitarist. He has composed the music for hundreds of films and television shows and produced over a hundred record albums. Brian is known as one of the most prominent composers of his era in scoring television documentaries.
Collectively, Brian Keane has scored over a hundred award winning documentaries and films, including sixteen Emmy winners for best documentary or series, nine Peabody Award winning films, five Oscar nominated films, and one Academy Award winning film. Brian Keane is the winner of four Emmy awards for music composition, among nineteen nominations. In 2001, he became the first and only composer in the history of the Emmy awards to sweep all of the nominations for music in a single year.
Brian's music has been performed by symphony orchestras throughout the world. He has also scored several feature films and dramatic television shows, including Copper, produced by Academy Award winner Barry Levinson and Emmy winning producer Tom Fontana, which debuted in 2012 as the highest rated television series in the history of BBC America. In 2013 Brian Keane was nominated for a Prime Time Emmy Award for Copper in the category of Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music.
Brian Keane's notable documentary scoring credits include Ric Burns' Emmy and Peabody award winning films New York: A Documentary Film, The Donner Party, Ansel Adams, and Andy Warhol, Thomas Lennon's Peabody award winning and Oscar nominated film The Battle over Citizen Kane, Thomas Lennon and Ruby Yang's Academy Award winning The Blood of Yingzhou District, ABC News' contemporary documentary series Turning Point, and multiple award winning episodes for the long running PBS history series American Experience, among many, many others.
In the sports world, Brian Keane was the music behind HBO Sports for more than a decade when under Ross Greenburg, the network reigned as the dominant award winning network for sports documentaries. Brian has also scored a number of Emmy and Peabody award winning sports documentaries for ESPN, CBS, and others.
As a record producer, Brian Keane has produced over three dozen billboard charting albums with over 150 commercial albums in total. He is particularly known for producing ethnic and new age music. Brian Keane's many credits as a producer include Winter Solstice for Windham Hill Records, the Grammy Award winning Long Journey Home: The Irish in America soundtrack album for RCA Records and his influential work with middle eastern musician Omar Faruk Tekbilek.
ContentsBiography1.1 Early life1.2 Professional career1.2.1 Guitarist1.2.2 Composer and Record Producer188.8.131.52 1980s184.108.40.206 1990s220.127.116.11 2000s18.104.22.168 2010 -
Brian Keane was born January 18, 1953 in Philadelphia. His mother Winifred Keane is an avant garde composer, and his dad George F. Keane, while being a successful business man, was also an Irish tenor. Brian's brother Geoffrey Keane and his sister Sheila are both musical as well. Brian grew up in Westport, Connecticut and played his first professional job as a rock n’ roll musician when he was still a sixth grader. He studied privately with the late jazz pianist and Juilliard educator John Mehegan, and then with Czech composer Karel Husa at both Ithaca College, and Cornell where he went to school.
Brian began his professional career as a guitarist playing in clubs and as a sideman, and eventually became a world renowned jazz guitarist, performing with many Jazz greats of the 1970s and 1980s, including touring worldwide and recording for several years in a guitar duo with Larry Coryell, and eventually becoming a Blue Note recording artist. Brian played on hundreds of records, commercials and film scores as a guitarist beginning in the 1970s and has performed or recorded as a guitarist with artists as diverse as disco singer Vicki Sue Robinson, entertainer Eartha Kitt, the rock group Wishbone Ash, jazz bassist Eddie Gomez, jazz fusion group Spyro Gyra, flamenco guitarist Paco Delucia, blues artist Taj Mahal, cajun icon Buckwheat Zydeco, classical clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, jazz saxophonist Marion Meadows, folk legend Pete Seeger, singers Linda Ronstadt, Bobby McFerrin, The Clancy Brothers, John Sebastian, and many others.
Composer and Record Producer
In the late seventies, still making his living primarily as a guitarist, Brian met film directors Jim Burroughs and Suzanne Bauman, while working in his childhood friend Gary Scovil's recording studio in Norwalk, Connecticut. In 1981, Brian scored his first documentary for them, Against Wind and Tide: A Cuban Odyssey, which was nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary in 1982. That early success led to several more scoring opportunities for Brian in the eighties, an era where few documentaries were scored with original music. Keane's prominence as a composer rose quickly, even as he continued to tour as a guitarist in a duo with Larry Coryell, and eventually as a solo artist with the release of his first solo CD Snowfalls in 1986. In 1987, Brian Keane's score to the documentary Suleyman the Magnificent, was discovered by German publisher Eckart Rahn who heard the documentary on television, and decided to release a soundtrack CD of Brian's score on his Celestial Harmonies label. The record, among the first to harmonize traditional Middle Eastern music, would form the first of a series of enduring, and culturally important collaborations with middle eastern musician Omar Faruk Tekbilek, and the success of that CD would eventually lead to Brian becoming a prominent producer of ethnic and New Age recordings, both for Celestial Harmonies and for a variety of major record labels.
In 1989, Brian Keane scored the music to Chimps: So Like Us, the HBO, Academy Award nominated, and Emmy winning documentary that helped introduce the public to naturalist Jane Goodall. The film was made by Oscar winning directors Kirk Simon and Karen Goodman whose New York offices happened to be in the same building, one floor down, from the acclaimed film maker Ric Burns. After producing the classic Civil War mini series with his brother Ken Burns in the late eighties, the highest rated television documentary series in history, Ric went on to work with Brian on the 1990 award winning documentary Coney Island. Brian has scored every one of Ric Burns' award winning films ever since, and their ongoing collaborations span well over two decades.
The early 1990s saw Brian's composing career rise dramatically in stature with the multiple award winning General Motors' Playwright's Theatre series for Nederlander television, which ran for four years on A&E, the Emmy and Columbia Dupont winning miniseries The Great Depression and The War on Poverty for the prominent film maker Henry Hampton, the highly influential Ric Burns film The Donner Party (documentary) which won a Peabody in 1992, and the Emmy and Peabody winning film The Battle of the Bulge, for Oscar winning director Thomas Lennon. Brian scored many award winning films for the PBS history series American Experience, working with producer Judy Crichton, directors Carl Charlson, Ben Loeterman, Mark Zwonitzer, and others. Brian also scored several award winning specials for National Geographic working with director Oren Jacoby, and again with the Simon and Goodman picture company. In addition, Brian was hired by ABC News in the early nineties to be the composer for the first prime time, hour long, news documentary series Turning Point. Working with producers Rudy Bednar and Betsy West, Turning Point would become the first of several news documentary series Brian scored for ABC News in the 1990s, and the musical approach developed for ABC News has been adopted in many subsequent news documentary series. Because of demand, Brian began hiring orchestrators, many of whom would go on to become successful in their own right like Michael Bacon, Richard Fiocca, Don Grady, Michael Terry, and others.
Keane's prominence as a record producer was also rising with the release of the critically acclaimed, and commercially successful early nineties albums. Tibetan Bells: The Empty Mirror for Celestial, Firedance, and Beyond the Sky with Omar Faruk Tekbilek, John Boswell's Festival of the Heart, Celtic Twilight for Hearts of Space, and Song Of The Irish Whistle featuring Irish whistler Joanie Madden, among others. In 1992, Brian produced the Grammy nominated comedy album You're Good Enough, You're Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like You featuring the comic, turned United States senator, Al Franken. Also in 1992, following the success of Brian's production of jazz saxophonist Nelson Rangell's CD for GRP records, working with executive producers Dave Wilkes and Danny Weiss, Brian was signed by legendary music executive Bruce Lundvall, and became a Bluenote recording artist with his debut release of Common Planet. However, despite the successful debut of Common Planet, Brian resigned from his career as a recording artist. By that point, Brian was the father of young children and already in demand as a record producer and composer. He would let go of his career as a touring guitarist from that point on, but continue to record as a guitarist on records and soundtracks.
By the mid 1990s Brian Keane was firmly established as a leading composer in documentary film, and a prominent producer of ethnic and New Age music simultaneously. The later 1990s brought Keane widespread success as a record producer with over three dozen Billboard charting albums for Windham Hill, RCA, Sony, Hearts of Space, and other record labels. Brian produced several successful Windham Hill records including the billboard chart topping CD's Carols of Christmas, Thanksgiving, and several CD's in the hugely popular Winter's Solstice, and Summer Solstice series. Brian also signed Sean Harkness (a former guitar student) to a deal with Windham Hill. Brian also produced several critically acclaimed ethnic records including: Via Jo, and Afrika Wassa for Senegalese artist Vieux Diop, and Este Es Mi Mariachi featuring Linda Ronstadt and Mariachi Cobre. In addition, Brian became well established in producing prominent Irish artists including several RCA records for the female Irish traditional group Cherish The Ladies, Riverdance fiddling sensation Eileen Ivers, and others. In 1998, Brian collaborated with Chieftains founder Paddy Moloney composing and producing the music for the Disney and PBS joint production Long Journey Home: The Irish in America. The RCA soundtrack, featuring the Chieftains, Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, and others, won the Grammy Award for best traditional folk album in 1998.
In 1997, Brian started working with Hollywood agent Bruce Teitell, and scored several feature films including The Vernon Johns Story: Road to Freedom with James Earl Jones, Stephen King's Night Flier for New Line Cinema, and Illtown for director Nick Gomez. Brian's continued scoring documentaries as well, with the award winning Burns mini series and Shanachie double CD soundtrack The Way West, Thomas Lennon's Oscar nominated and Peabody award winning The Battle over Citizen Kane, the award winning PBS Nova series A Science Odyssey, and more award winning American Experience documentaries for its new executive producer Margaret Drain. American Experience won Prime Time Emmy awards for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series in both 1998 and 1999. Also in 1999, Brian scored the multiple Emmy winning Ric Burns series New York: a documentary film, which after the World Trade Center attack of September 11, 2001, became among the biggest selling documentary series of its time.
In 1996, Brian was asked to score Spirit of the Games, a documentary on the subject of the olympics by the Emmy winning director George Roy for HBO Sports. It began a long relationship with HBO Sports and a very successful run of sports documentaries including the Peabody winning films Babe Ruth, Ali Frazier: One Nation Divisible, Dare to Compete, and Fists of Freedom, among others, all scored in the late nineties as part of a new series of documentaries entitled Sports of the 20th Century. Brian also scored HBO's Inside the NFL during that period.
By the year 2000, Napster and other downloading entities were beginning to take over record distribution, and several long established record companies went out of business. In the space of just a year, the record producing business that Brian Keane had enjoyed and accumulated over the previous decade and a half collapsed, along with most record companies. Brian was still among the most widely recognized composers for documentary film however, and by then, he had extended his notoriety to the world of sports. In addition to continuing to score Emmy winning documentaries like Ric Burns Ansel Adams, Bill Moyers' Becoming American: The Chinese Experience collaborating with Chinese musician George Gao, and several more award winning American Experience episodes for its new executive producer Mark Samels, Keane composed the music to many classic Emmy and Peabody winning HBO sports documentaries in the early 2000s including Do You Believe in Miracles, Legendary Nights, Picture Perfect, The Curse of the Bambino, and Nine Innings From Ground Zero. Brian worked with producer Ross Greenburg, directors George Roy, Joe Lavine, and other Emmy winning sports documentarians, and he composed a number of Emmy nominated and Peabody winning films for ESPN as well such as Kentucky Bluegrass Basketball, The Complete Angler, You Write Better Than You Play, and David Halberstam;s Teammates for directors Fritz Mitchell, Johnson McKelvey, Neil Leifer, and others. Brian also scored several documentary specials for CBS Sports including Pistol Pete, for which he won a music Emmy for his collaborative score with Cajun musician Buckwheat Zydeco.
In 2001, Brian Keane became the first, and only composer in the history of the Emmys to sweep all the Emmy nominations for music composition in a single year, and he won Emmys in 2002, 2003, and 2004 for music composition as well. In 2005, Brian had three more Emmy nominations for music composition, and scored all five Emmy nominated films for best sports documentary that year, including the best documentary Emmy winning Rhythm In The Rope for ESPN. In 2006, Brian scored Thomas Lennon and Ruby Yang's The Blood of Yingzhou District, which won an Academy Award for best documentary: short subject. In addition, Brian scored the Emmy and Peabody winning Ric Burns films Andy Warhol for American Masters, and Eugene O'Neil featuring Christopher Plummer Al Pacino, Liam Neeson, and others. In 2007, Brian received Emmy nominations for his scores to HBO's Barbaro, Mickey Mantle and Johnson McKelvey's Kabul Girls Club. In addition to all this, Brian Keane's compositions were being used in several major feature films, and being adapted for symphony orchestras throughout the world, including the London Symphony Orchestra, The Istanbul State Symphony Orchestra, The Boston Pops Orchestra, and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra to name a few.
Brian enjoyed a nonstop series of successes in the entertainment business for over two decades, but by 2008, the era of reality TV, digital media, and multi channel cable television was coming of age. The high end documentary was falling out of favor due to the expense of making them. A 2007 writer's strike crippled the film and television industry. Budgets for live musicians were becoming a thing of the past, and the abundance of new cable channels meant smaller budgets and lower standards. Emmy judging was no longer monitored, and although Brian continued to score Emmy nominated films such as Ric Burns' Into the Deep for American Experience, HBO's Joe Louis: A Hero Betrayed, and The Running Rebels of UNLV, as well as the 2011 Academy Award nominated documentary The Warrior of Quigang for Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon, Brian decided not to work as much, even considering retirement, preferring to have a period of time that was more balanced with his private life. That period would only last a few years.
In 2012, after scoring Death and the Civil War, which won the Erik Barnauw Award and received an Emmy nomination for outstanding non-fiction program, Brian got a call from Oscar winning director Barry Levinson to score the dramatic television series Copper, about an Irish cop set in 1864 New York. The Levinson Fontana produced series debuted as the highest rated series in the history of BBC America, and garnered Brian another Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Main Title Music. Copper has been renewed for a second season in 2013, with the soundtrack, Copper: Original Soundtrack, released on May 28, 2013 via Valley Entertainment.
Brian Keane's studio is located in his first home in Monroe, Connecticut which he bought in 1985, and converted into a recording studio in 1993. Brian lived in Newtown, Connecticut from 1995 to 2010 and commuted to his first house in Monroe to work. Brian was married to Susan St. Louis Keane in 1987, though they lived together since 1983. They had their first son Wylder Keane in 1987, and second son Dylan Keane in 1988. In addition, Brian has a step son, Chris Laskowski, born to Susan in 1971. All three are musical, though they have other careers. Brian and Susan were divorced amicably in 2010. Although Brian toured throughout the world in his early career as a guitarist, most of Brian's composing career has taken place at his studio in the woods of Connecticut, near friends that he has known for over fifty years in some cases. In an era where most television and film production took place in New York or Los Angeles, Brian was able to develop his substantial career simply through the notoriety and emotional power of his music.