A protégé of Randy Newman, he earned a DMA in Composition at USC’s Thornton School, where he studied with Donald Crockett and Stephen Hartke.
As a guitarist, he has performed onstage as opening act for The Who at the Hollywood Bowl; recorded studio sessions for Island/Def Jam, and Universal Records; and had songs featured on ABC’s Scrubs, MTV, and VH-1.
His music has been acclaimed by the Miami Herald, the San Francisco Examiner, and the LA Times, helping establish him as a composer with the unique ability of incorporating a large diversity of musical influences into his captivating compositions, which reflect his multi-cultural upbringing in Central America and the United States.
His work for the performing arts has been featured by some of the most prominent ensembles and soloists, including Arturo Sandoval, Colin Currie, Chanticleer, Cavatina Duo, the Chicago Sinfonietta, the American Composers Orchestra, and the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet; commissioned by the Simon Bolivar Youth Symphony and the American Wind Symphony; recorded by Varêse-Sarabande, BMG, Warner, Sony, Naxos, and Cedille labels; and awarded by the Herb Alpert Foundation, the Guitar Foundation of America, BMI, and twice by ASCAP.
He has served as Composer-in-Residence with the Miami Symphony Orchestra, and was a musical consultant for “Invitation to World Literature,” an educational series funded by the Annenberg Foundation and produced by WGBH. He is a voting member of the Television Academy (EMMY’s), the Recording Academy (GRAMMY’s), the Society of Composers and Lyricists (SCL), and is a sought out guest composer and lecturer throughout the Americas.
Carlos is currently scoring the upcoming Netflix Mini-Series THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT, starring Anna Taylor-Joy, as well as the FOX Series FILTHY RICH, directed by Tate Taylor, and starring Kim Cattrall.
He is Assistant Professor and Director of the Media Writing and Production Program at the acclaimed Frost School of Music at the University of Miami, and is represented by Amos Newman and Bradley Rainey at William Morris Endeavor Entertainment (WME).
Carlos Rafael Rivera went all Debussy when he sat down to compose the slow movement of The Whirler of the Dance. (Guitarist) Izquierdo placed it in soft moonlight.
Yet the most arresting manipulation of voice and sound came in Motet for 12 Singers by Carlos Rafael Rivera. The motet consisted almost exclusively of the five sacred syllables of the Tibetan Buddhists: Bhyo, Hum, Om, Hsi, Kye. Its effects ranged from pitch-bending, drone and glissando to the most percussive elements of speech, in which the singers were in fact not singing at all but were exploding single consonant sounds from those five syllables to create continually diverse sound effects.
Come for the top-shelf talent involved, stay for the lead performances, crisp photography, and lovely music (courtesy of T Bone Burnett and Carlos Rafael Rivera).
Prominent in the first scene was a buzzing effect in the strings, and in the sober second a clarinet solo. The work ends with motoric and assertive music that recalls Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” The performance was warmly received and Rivera was present to take a bow.
Composer Carlos Rafael Rivera layered a silky yet haunting string melody over the gritty images created by Method Studios, giving the Netflix drama a flair reminiscent of its premium channel competitors.
Yet, as Frank is a genuinely top screenwriter, the dialogue is choice, and Neeson is compelling as the protagonist, credible and authoritative in a way few Hollywood leading men could ever be. Possibly even better is Carlos Rafael Rivera’s moody score.
This is a charming, relatively lightweight concerto, with plenty of attractive melody and color, and its appeal to the Knight Concert Hall audience, which applauded it enthusiastically, is clear.
...From the new recording were the complex rhythmic games of Carlos Rivera's Cumba-Quin--with the composer present for a well-deserved bow--...
…exposed the nostalgia, sorrow, and hope that characterize music from the folkloric tradition of the Sephardic Jews.
The score for Godless is really excellent. It’s credited to composer Carlos Rafael Rivera, who previously did the score for another Scott Frank project, the Liam Neeson vehicle A Walk Among the Tombstones.
Even after six chapters, it’s testament to how good it all looks – and how evocative Carlos Rafael Rivera’s score is – that you’ll never skip the opening credits.
Carlos Rafael Rivera’s score is probably the only TV music of the year that I can remember other than the music of ‘Stranger Things’— it’s that memorable and hooky.
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