From the most-nominated person in the category’s history to an experimental musical collective landing its first nom, the Best Original Score category covers a wide musical swath this year. While notable composers like Alexandre Desplat and Terence Blanchard didn’t get further than the shortlist, nominees Justin Hurwitz and Carter Burwell have been here before, while American band Son Lux and German composer Volker Bertelmann are first-timers. And then there’s the king, John Williams. 

Volker Bertelmann

Bertelmann found a new musical vocabulary for the massive score to Edward Berger’s anti-war epic, using everything from assaultive snare drums to a 100-year-old harmonium he’d gotten from his grandmother. When he distorted the sound and sent it to Berger. “He said, ‘Oh, that sounds like Led Zeppelin. It’s fantastic!’”

Justin Hurwitz

Six years after winning two Oscars for Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land,” Hurwitz is back with his old Harvard roommate for the score to Chazelle’s extravagant “Babylon,” which draws heavily on the jazz of the 1920s. “The music of that era was wilder than what you hear on record,” Hurwitz said, “but we needed it to sound even wilder than that.”

Carter Burwell

Director Martin McDonagh told composer Burwell the music for his film set on an Irish island should not sound Irish. So Burwell used gamelans, low gongs and other non-Irish elements in his sonic palette. “It allowed you to distance yourself a little from the physical reality you’re seeing and view it more like an allegory,” said Burwell.

Son Lux

“It didn’t make sense at all—that was kind of the brand,” said Son Lux’s Ryan Lott of the script to the chaotic, multiverse-hopping “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” The Son Lux collective of Lott, Rafiq Bhatia and Ian Chang wound up recording a “mountain” of music. “It’s a two-hour-and-12-minute film, and there’s an hour and 55 minutes of music, which is bananas,” Lott said.

John Williams

Still active at the age of 91, John Williams has been nominated for Oscars 53 times, the most of any living person. This is his 17th nom for a Steven Spielberg film, beginning with “Jaws” in 1976. It was Wiliams’ idea to use mostly source music for the first hour of the film, and not bring in his gentle score until the key sequence where Michelle Williams dances in auto headlights on a camping trip. 

Steve’s Perspective

Can you bet against 91-year-old John Williams? The maestro has only won five times in his 53 nominations, but three of those have come for Steven Spielberg movies, and sentiment is on his side. But Williams’ score seems minimalist next to the sheer scale of the music for “All Quiet on the Western Front” and especially “Everything Everywhere” and “Babylon,” so maybe size matters.