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Thread: Some thoughts on composing music for films...

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    Administrator Frederik Magle's Avatar
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    Some thoughts on composing music for films...

    I have always been very interested in movies. I enjoy very much watching a good movie and I also enjoy listening to good film-music, so much in fact that I plan on doing music for films myself (I have already started working with Michel a.k.a "Priest" on some projects - more about that later)

    For me, doing a film score is an exciting challenge. Normally when I compose, I have almost complete freedom, the only limits being the instrumentation and lenght of the piece and that's only if the work is a comission. With film-music it's different. Here I have to work closely together with the director and make the music assist and strengthen the impact of the images and the story. The trick (and the challenge, as I see it) is to compose the music so it's a completely integral and effective part of the film - but without loosing it's own caracter and musical qualities. The music must be able to stand alone as well. The best film-composers have the ability to do just that.

    I will mention a few of my favorites:

    Even though he can get a little (or a lot) repetitive at times, I can't get around John Williams. When he's at his best he has a fantastic gift for making catchy and lasting themes. Just think of Star Wars, E.T. and many others.

    The same apllies to the "grand old man" in the businees, Jerry Goldmith. Some of my favorite Goldsmith-scores are: Alien, Patton, Poltergeist and The Omen.

    One of my favorite fim-composers is Elliot Goldenthal. And one of my all time favorite scores is the soundtrack to "Alien 3". The interesting thing is that I didn't like the movie very much, but the score is great! Goldenthal worked, as far as I know, a whole year on this project and did all the orchestrations himself. The result is amazing. Grandious and beautiful at the same time in all the films uglyness and darkness, plus very, VERY intense. Unfortunately the score is out of print (this is not a "popular" soundtrack) but I managed to get a used copy from a small dealer in USA. If you stumble across it, I say buy it!!

    Going in a different direction is the composer Mychael Danna. His blend of middle-east inspiration and "traditional" western symphonic score worked in my opinion very well in the movie 8MM and created the right atmosphere. Creating (and strengthen the) atmosphere is one of the very important tasks for the soundtrack.

    There are of course also the great older film composers such as Korngold, Tiomkin, Prokofiev (!) and others. This is not a complete list (by far) of the composers I respect, but more will follow later.

    Oh, and - btw - welcome to this new part of the forum. It is my Hope it will grow fast and that there will be many great and interesting topics (I have no doubt! )

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    Re: Some thoughts on composing music for films...

    I am So Glad You Have started with Michel aka Priest on Something.!!!!!!!. As I said to You before....When Listening to The Piece You Have already Composed,I am SURE
    You can do it. I agree with Your Comments that The Musical Score Must "Run with The Film and Create & Set Moods(Atmosphere) etc"..BUT Must also be able to "Stand Alone"....At Least The "Theme Part or Overture etc.".. Will be Most Interested in Hearing More about this Later from You Frederik....Good Luck with it. pamadu/Paul.

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    Commodore of Impending Doom II Priest's Avatar
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    Re: Some thoughts on composing music for films...

    When talking about brillian composers... Danny Elfman.

    Combining film and music into a symphony of one isn't an easy task, but with the music Frederik has been making for [e]... well... I think it's going to work out very nice.

    I think it's about both harmony, and the skill to restrain oneself once in awhile. Sometimes when there's drama, it might be obvious to make wild music, but on the other hand it might work even better with an atmosphere close to silence...

    I just saw Robert Rodrigues debut film, El Mariachi(sort of a pilot to Desperado). Low-budget movie, and the acting isn't the best in the world but the atmosphere is the right one. Definately worth checking, especially because of the use of the music.

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    Vice Admiral of Notes, Dots & at times also Slurs corno's Avatar
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    Re: Some thoughts on composing music for films...

    another, albeit in the self-repetitive style like John Williams, composer worth mentioning is Michael Kamen, who, in my eyes&ears, has made some really awsome scores - "Robin Hood: Princes of Thieves", "Mr. Holland's Opus" and "X-men" amongst others - and in combining the symphony-orchestra with rockbands like Metallica.
    But it is also with sadness that I mention Kamen - it was just the other day I learned of his untimely death in November of 2003.

    In memoriam.

    http://www.michaelkamen.com

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    Re: Some thoughts on composing music for films...

    Dear everyone,

    My attention towards the music score of a film has always been substantial.

    And since I saw the first edition of Fantasia, done by Walt Disney and the Disney Studios, especially the use of classical music in film has grasped my interest. Unfortunately Fantasia did not sell very well. Walt Disney’s original idea was to create an edition of Fantasia every year, finishing what was supposed to be a tribute to the great musical artists and creating fascinating effects that would usually not be done in a normal cartoon. Personally I liked the Bach Toccata done with a symphony orchestra much better than with an organ. Not until the year 2000 a new edition of Fantasia was released. I did not like the new edition of Fantasia (Fantasia 2000) very much.
    But however I consider the concept of using classical music and combining it with film aesthetics as a wonderful idea.

    In that regard I believe Kubrick has been an innovator. The soundtrack for ‘A Clockwork Orange’ is incredible, and who will ever forget the use of The Wilhelm Tell Overture for a sex scene, or the twisted electronic edition of Ludwig Van, as Alex is walking through the market. I have also heard that Kubrick wrote the script for ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, based upon the moods that he associated with the soundtrack. The deal between Arthur C. Clarke and Kubrick was to test the different medias: Book and film. And I must really say that I think Kubrick did a great job.

    Kubrick however was not the only director who had a mad obsession about creating the right musical mood for his films and working opposite – first creating/finding the music then doing the film. Even more fascinating, I believe, was the cooperation between Morricone and Sergio Leone. Leone usually had Morricone compose most of the score. He would then put up giant speakers on the set, as the actors played out the scene. Some say that working this way resulted in the brilliant duels of the westerns where the actors seem to follow the exact mood of the tense music. Morricone composed more than 75% of the soundtrack for ‘Once Upon a Time in America’. I love the theme of this film, as it repeated throughout the film in a number of different ways. The boys whistling, a band playing, as plain soundtrack and so on.

    I have done a bit of directing myself and I enjoy being inspired by the music, when I am writing. I am not certain which way around I wan to work, but I sure use music as a creative step. Well that’s all folks!


    Niels Kjær Olsen
    Director, Producer, Musician

    Mobile phone: (+45) 26 52 14 60
    Mail: niels@opusmedia.dk
    Messenger: filter_niels@hotmail.com

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    Re: Some thoughts on composing music for films...

    Dear Spider/Niels....What a GREAT First Post.!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Look forward to more. In your last paragraph "I sure use music as a creative step"...Never a TRUER word spoken!!!!!
    cheers. pamadu/Paul.

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    Commodore of Impending Doom II Priest's Avatar
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    Re: Some thoughts on composing music for films...

    Welcome aboard my dear friend, Spider.

    There's many ways to take the feel of the music into writing or other sort of work.

    Usually when I'm working, I'm listening to mind-numbing electronica. No vocal. In this way of working the music gets me going but does not distract my senses. It just fills them with a beat.

    Of course a musical masterpiece fills your head with impressions, ideas and if the music is good enough, your mind will accompany the music with scenes, standing perfectly clear.

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    Re: Some thoughts on composing music for films...

    Thank you very much Pamadu. I too am looking forward to engage more actively in the forum.

    I agree with you Priest, sometimes vocal can be distracting for a creative process. But I believe there is also a great distinction between different kinds of vocals.

    I find the vocal of for example trip hop more instrumental than the vocal of most pop music, and therefore less distracting. When saying instrumental I refer to the voice of the singer being almost anonymous as a voice, and present more as a part of the entire musical mood. As an example I would use Portishead versus Britney Spears. Not that I do not very much enjoy Britney, I do, but she can be distracting in a number of ways.

    If I were to make the same comparison in classical music, and I not very happy to do so, as I have never really been very happy for vocals in classical music, it would perhaps be between Mozart/Dvorak versus Puccini.

    I believe the use of vocal has to be a bit sublime and interact in the right manner with the instruments of the band or the orchestra to bring forth the right mood. I think a lot of music blindly uses a great voice not taking into consideration what the tuning, the feeling and the atmosphere of their composition is.

    As I mentioned I have not heard a lot of vocal classical music, but I am very fascinated by the way that Dvorak has used the vocal in his mass Stabat Mater, where the voices has become instruments. Compared to Puccini’s Turrandot Nessun Dorma where the vocal is grandiose and to my opinion not very satisfying. Perhaps the experience of Dvorak is also supported by the fact that these works are in Latin, melancholic, and supposedly the low level of lingual understanding, contributes to the experience of the voice as an instrument.

    Anyhow! I follow your lead to mind numbing electronica, although I am not sure how to combine mind numbing with a creative writing process. I too love the energy that this music motivates in me. Unfortunately I have lost my favourite electronic music – Manrec no. 5. Written by Thomas Blakman (correct spelling?).

    Hope I have made myself partly understandable! And please excuse me if I have made some inexact references.

    Niels Kjær Olsen
    Director, Producer, Musician [opus]media

    Mobile phone: (+45) 26 52 14 60
    Mail: niels@opusmedia.dk
    Messenger: filter_niels@hotmail.com

  9. #9
    Commodore of Impending Doom II Priest's Avatar
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    Re: Some thoughts on composing music for films...

    Spider wrote:

    Not that I do not very much enjoy Britney, I do, but she can be distracting in a number of ways.


    Your so right about this...

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    Apprentice, Piano Spider's Avatar
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    Re: Some thoughts on composing music for films...

    I won't even get into commenting on Christina Aguilere. However... well... I hope you know what I mean!

  11. #11
    Commodore of Impending Doom II Priest's Avatar
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    Re: Some thoughts on composing music for films...

    No... I got distracted.

  12. #12
    Administrator Frederik Magle's Avatar
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    Re: Some thoughts on composing music for films...

    Welcome to MIMF, Spider! As pamadu said, what a GREAT first (and second) post! I'm sorry that I haven't been able to reply before but I'm in the middle of a major project with a deadline coming up very soon. I will be back posting (and replying to your posts) soon and I hope you will stay around and continue to contribute to the forum with your thoughts and input!

  13. #13
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    Re: Some thoughts on composing music for films...

    I certainly will. And will see each other on friday the 13'th.

    Spider

  14. #14
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    Re: Some thoughts on composing music for films...

    hi.....the last person posted a while ago but i thought i would post anyway...first of all my favorite soundtrack is the clint mansell composed reqium for a dream soundtack......the movie is nothing without it yet it can stand alone...it is very repetitive but so clever in that it holds back just enough for the main theme never to get to the point of over use while at the same time each time you hear it it is a chilling as the first time you hear it....

    i also have a question.....how does one stumble into this field? i imagine it would be an incredibly difficult thing to do so where do you start...?

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    Commodore of Impending Doom II Priest's Avatar
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    Re: Some thoughts on composing music for films...

    also the soundtrack for Requiem for a Dream, by Darren Aranovski has sort of the same thing to it. One little title melody that is like the general theme in the whole movie.

    The tune is twisted in a lot of ways during the movie, fitting to each single scene.

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