The Academy’s Ever-Evolving Best Original Score Category

Few Oscar categories have evolved as much as Best Original Score. Since its introduction at the 7th Annual Academy Awards in 1935, it has undergone over 20 name changes and been subject to 10 instances of categorical subdivisions. Perhaps this is merely a reflection of ever-changing cinematic tastes. Or, perhaps it’s indicative of an inability to come to a consensus on what constitutes an original score.

The original name for the category was Music (Scoring). For the 11th Academy Awards, it was changed to Music (Original Score). The following year, the award was divided into two subcategories: Music (Original Score) and Music (Scoring), the latter honoring not composers of original material but rather musicians responsible for adapting and arranging music for other sources.

The 1942 awards ceremony introduced two new category subdivisions: Music (Score of a Dramatic Picture) and Music (Scoring of a Musical Picture). The following year, the former would be renamed Music (Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture). It would remain this way for the next 20 years, the sole exception coming in 1958, when the category was simplified to Music (Score).

From 1963 to 1966, the award was split into two new subcategories: Music (Substantially Original Score) and Music (Scoring of a Music-Adaptation or Treatment). In 1967, the former was changed to Music (Original Music Score). In 1969, the subcategories were renamed yet again: Music (Original Score for a Motion Picture (Not a Musical)) and Music (Score of a Musical Picture – Original or Adaptation).

1971 was the only year the award would be divided into Original Score and Original Song Score. From 1972 to 1976, the award was divided into the subcategories of Original Dramatic Score and Original Song Score and Adaptation. From 1977 to 1983, they became Original Score and Original Song Score and Its Adaptation or Adaptation Score (exempting 1979, when the latter category was simplified to Adaptation Score, and 1981 and ’82, when there were no subdivisions). In 1984, the latter was renamed Original Song Score or Adaptation Score; one year later, it was known simply as Original Song Score.

From 1986 all the way through to 1995, there were no subcategories; it was known simply as Best Original Score. From 1996 to 1999, the award was split into the categories of Dramatic Score and Musical or Comedy Score. Subcategories were removed yet again in 2000, and it has remained this way ever since. Currently, the award category is known as Music (Original Score).

While I certainly don’t appreciate all this renaming and subdividing, I’m thankful the Academy has consistently recognized the cinematic importance of music.

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