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Once more, with music: what do Lost in La Mancha, Licensed to Kill, and Scout's Honor have in common? Powerful scores by out composer Miriam Cutler. (arts & entertainment).

For film composer Miriam Cutler, the decision to score Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe's Lost in La Mancha was a no-brainer. Cutler, a member of the quirky new wave band later known as Oingo Boingo (which also launched film composer Danny Elfman), was instantly drawn to La Mancha's mix of disaster and farce. "I want to be in a circus one second and be-completely heartfelt the next, to be able to laugh at human nature and our foibles but never be deriding someone," explains Cutler. "This film was totally in that vein."

When Cutler mentions the circus, she's not kidding: She has actually written music for circuses. But the intense brunet has a well-developed serious side. "Humor, for me, is a way to deal with pain," she says. "Quite honestly, when I try to sing a serious song onstage I start crying." Cutler has scored films on the global AIDS crisis and political oppression in Puerto Rico. Her score added to the power of Scout's Honor, the award-winning 2001 documentary about efforts to overturn the Boy Scouts' antigay policies.

Since the early '70s Cutler had used her gifts not just as a performer and a composer of music for commercials but also as a researcher for community activist organizations. But once she began working on feature films, she knew she'd found her calling. "I really get excited about filmmakers who are excited about what they're doing," she says.

Arthur Dong, who worked with her on his documentary about gay bashing, Licensed to Kill, credits her with changing the film's whole thrust. While chatting with Cutler during a break, Dong mentioned that he had been attacked 20 years previously.

"Her mouth just dropped, and she said, `Why don't I know this? We need to know this,'" he says. "She knew that element had to go in. The film's a totally different film because of her."

Today, Cutler she lives in Los Angeles with her partner of 12 years, music journalist and Advocate contributor Michele Kort. Though she says Kort has "introduced the whole concept of balance into my life," Cutler remains a dyed-in-the-wool workaholic. Her biggest regret is that she doesn't have time for all the projects that come her way.

"My work has got to be meaningful. That's what it's about," she says. "You're given this talent; you've got to make something of it. Otherwise, why do it?"

Lehoczky writes regularly for the Chicago Tribune.
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Author:Lehoczky, Etelka
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 4, 2003
Words:405
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