Jonathan Zalben | Music for Media

Biography | Jonathan Zalben

Jonathan Zalben creates compelling soundtracks for picture drawing on his decades-long experience in music, film, television, and media art. He studied violin and music composition at Juilliard Pre-College, Yale, and NYU. Zalben's media art has been viewed at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, MASS MoCa, Boston Public Library, Sony Wonder Technology Lab in New York City, and art galleries around the world. He won an award for his media art collaboration, Compound Pilot, at SXSW.

Film/TV credits include the Oscar-nominated film Redemption (HBO) directed by Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill, Alone (NY Times Op-Doc) directed by Garrett Bradley, which won the Sundance Jury Award and was shortlisted for an Oscar, There's Something Wrong With Aunt Diane (HBO) directed by Liz Garbus, On Pointe (Disney+) directed by Larissa Bills, Just Before I Go (Starz) directed by Courteney Cox, and No Way Jose (Sony Pictures) directed by Adam Goldberg.

Education and Early Work

Beginning violin at age 9, he studied with Margaret Pardee, Jose Sanchez, Syoko Aki, and Kyung Yu. Chamber Music studies with Mark Steinberg, Lewis Kaplan, and Donald Lituchy, and he has played in orchestras under the baton of Eugene Becker, Eduardo Browne, Alondra de la Parra, Shin-ik Hahm, Tomasz Golka, and Gregory Singer.

At Juilliard, he performed regularly at Lincoln Center and took composition lessons beginning at 14 with Behzad Ranjbaran, who guided him toward his first orchestral composition at 16. He went on to study with Matthew Suttor and Kathryn Alexander at Yale, inspiring him to pursue a career in media art. He continued with graduate studies at NYU, taking composition lessons with Dinu Ghezzo and Marc Consoli.

While at NYU, he worked at a number of commercial underscoring studios, and eventually went on to score narrative and documentary feature films. This took him from New York to Los Angeles, where he spent many years honing his craft, scoring films and playing violin on the soundtracks for numerous major motion pictures. In addition to composing and recording, he also learned the craft of music supervision while working for music supervisors Sue Jacobs in NYC and Jonathan McHugh in LA.

Film and TV Collaborations

Zalben has worked on many film and TV projects on both coasts including Amy Berg's Janis: Little Girl Blue (PBS), Ian Old's Burn Country (Orion Pictures / Samuel Goldwyn Films) starring James Franco, Melissa Leo, and Dominic Rains, Comedy Warriors (Showtime), Sunset Strip (Showtime), The Short Game (Netflix / Samuel Goldwyn Films), The Guest (Universal Pictures / Snoot Entertainment), Cheap Thrills (Drafthouse) starring Pat Healy, Sara Paxton, and Ethan Embry, Gabriel Cowan's 3 Nights in the Desert starring Wes Bentley, Vincent Piazza, and Amber Tamblyn, Bruce Thierry Cheung's Don't Come Back from the Moon starring James Franco, Rashida Jones, and Jeff Wahlberg, and Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror (Lionsgate) starring Snoop Dogg, Danny Trejo, Daniella Alonso, Ernie Hudson, Jason Alexander, and Billy Dee Williams.

He did music programming, creating electronic musical arrangements, for Howard Shore's score for The Catcher Was A Spy (IFC) starring Paul Rudd, Sienna Miller, Jeff Daniels, Guy Pearce, and Paul Giamatti. He scored four New York Times Op-Docs (Alone by Garrett Bradley, The Chosen Life by Dawn Porter, and Hotel 22 and Mother's Day by Elizabeth Lo). Zalben has collaborated on a number of scores with Ruwanga Samath including #RealityHigh (Netflix) and Flock of Dudes (Starz) starring a who's who of LA comedians such as Chris D'Elia, Brett Gelman, Melissa Rauch, Hannibal Buress, Kumail Nanjiani, Marc Maron, Eric Andre, Ray Liotta, Mario Lopez, Jamie Chung, Skyler Austin, Hannah Simone, and Hilary Duff.

Zalben has worked on numerous projects over the past decade with Matthew O'Neill, Jon Alpert, Perri Peltz, and Larissa Bills, at Downtown Community Television (DCTV). In addition to composing the music for Alpert and O'Neill's Oscar-nominated Redemption (HBO), he has both scored and music supervised On Pointe (Disney+) produced by Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, and Sara Bernstein, Finding the Way Home (HBO) produced by J.K. Rowling and narrated by Eddie Redmayne, and Alternate Endings (HBO). He wrote all the original music for 15: A QuinceaƱera Story (HBO) produced by Tommy Mottola, Thalia, Sheila Nevins, and Xochitl Dorsey, and music supervised the Emmy-nominated Cuba and the Cameraman (Netflix) as well as Covid Diaries NYC (HBO) all for DCTV.

He writes all the music for Axios (HBO) a docuseries that has featured many major modern figures in tech, sports, journalism, and politics, including Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, James Clyburn, Stacey Abrams, Roger Stone, Pete Bannon, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, Mike Pence, Kevin McCarthy, Pete Buttigieg, Adam Schiff, Gavin Newsome, Andrew Cuomo, Hakeem Jeffries, Jared Kushner, Frank Serpico, Eric Swalwell, Edward Snowden, Cornell West, Bob Woodward, Mary Barra, John Boehner, Tim Cook, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Sundar Pichai, Mark Zuckerberg, Leon Panetta, David Petrus, Mitt Romney, Andrew Yang, Ben Carson, Julian Castro, Michael Dukakis, Billie Jean King, John Kerry, Charles Koch, Larry Kudlow, Jon Ossof, Tom Perez, Anthony Fauci, Roxane Gay, Franklin Graham, Joe Manchin, and Vladimir Zelenskiy among many others.

Multimedia Work

Zalben has created over a dozen multimedia installations and performances. Among these projects, he directed and produced a performance/installation called WTC at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's 15 Nassau space in commemoration of the attacks on the World Trade Center. WTC is in the Artists Registry collection of the 9/11 Museum. Zalben's Candy Cane and The Civil War are in the ArtBase collection of Rhizome, an affiliate of The New Museum.

He created sound and music for Aziz + Cucher's multi-channel video installation You're Welcome and I'm Sorry at MASS MoCa and has received grants from the Experimental TV Center through the New York State Council on the Arts, American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's Manhattan Community Arts Fund and Swing Space Program, US Navy, and the National Academy of Sciences.

His multimedia work has been presented at the Boston Public Library during Boston Cyberarts, Art Without Walls in Central Park, Knitting Factory, PS122, 3LD, HERE Art Center, Ontological Theater at St. Mark's Church, LA Center for Digital Art, LA Downtown Artwalk, and Galapagos Art Space.

He was a research fellow at the US Department of Energy, Argonne National Laboratory and has also been in residence at the Studio for Electro-Instrumental Music (STEIM) in Amsterdam.

Zalben is experienced in interaction design and physical computing and holds a U.S. patent for a muffler that reduces noise through a series of tuned domes.

Company and Contact

Zalben is the founder and owner of First Frame Music a company for music supervision, licensing, and score, which has a diverse roster of artists and a catalog of over 3,000 musical works. You can find his contact info here.

Professional Affiliations

He serves on the Steering Committee for The Society of Composers and Lyricists (The SCL) as well as the East Coast and Education Committees for The Guild of Music Supervisors (GMS). He has served as a judge in music and sound for the News and Doc Emmys for many years, and has also served on committees for the International Documentary Association (IDA) and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC). Zalben is on the faculty at The New School's Media Studies Master's Program and CUNY Brooklyn College's Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema.


"Zalben has devised his own eloquent monument to 9/11...a cathartic moment of great beauty...ephemeral and haunting...The brilliance of Zalben's WTC is that it not only reminds us not to forget but also reflects on the nature of memory itself in its absolute fragility." - Les Hunter, on WTC

"Without my music supervisor, Jonathan Zalben, there would have been absolutely no way that it would have ever gone down. I owe a lot to him." - Icon vs. Icon Q&A with Adam Goldberg, director, No Way Jose

"Zalben's music and video work is an inspiring example of how computer technology and the Internet are expanding the boundaries of video and music." - Matthew Ross, The Daily Reel

"The ace in the hole for us was Jonathan Zalben. That guy found some of the greatest (and cheapest!) tracks for us to use that were perfect for the movie. Music will only make a good movie better." - Huffington Post Q&A with Morgan Spurlock, director, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

"Zalben lends the show a mysterious and mellow score that accentuates the beautiful stage pictures while creating some mental pictures of its own." - Richard Hinojosa,

A Few Facts

Zalben played violin as a sideline musician on a Martin Scorsese picture
He was a contestant on Cash Cab.
Zalben patented a design on a muffler for lawn mowers and leaf blowers.
He played violin with The Dirty Projectors.
He went to Snoop Dogg's birthday party which doubled as the wrap for Hood of Horror.