Friday, September 19, 2014

Movies: to Score or not to Score?

The simple fact that films typically have a musical score always seems to slip right by me when I'm actually making any kind of short film or TV show myself. It's just not something that I would typically think about. Good audio? Sure. Sound effects? Yeah, why not. But never a score. This lead me to thinking, hey, who says that films need to have any kind of music or instrumentality at all? That, in turn, lead me to google, which lead me to some interesting websites, which lead me here, to this blog post.

As behind-the-scenes as they typically are, we all know the names of a few movie composers: Hans Zimmer (please click that link for your own sake), Danny Elfman, and of course, the legendary John Williams. Their scores don't just add noise to all of their respective films: they add feeling, and set a tone for any given scene or even the movie as a whole  If you need an example for a really amazing score that is spot on in terms of creating an entire atmosphere for a film, look no further Howard Shore and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It doesn't just add tension or give scenes a certain flavor: it's music that like, I could actually see hobbits playing out on their front porches. Or whatever hobbit holes have instead of porches. Dirt clods? I don't know. 

 But what I'm curious about is if some films rely too heavily on composers and a musical score in order to fix what would otherwise be a weak script. Recently, there was a video going around the internet called "Star Wars without Williams." While it was meant to be funny, it also pointed out something pretty important: this throne room scene is super awkward without music. What was once a jovial and triumphant scene is now just echoey and weird. Don't get me wrong, I like Star Wars as much as the next guy or gal, but Audio (and script) - wise, Lucas kind of dropped the ball here. 

On the opposite side of things, however, is it possible to have a good film without any scoring at all? Sure. Just check out No Country for Old Men, The Birds, and 90% of Castaway. The key to scoring films, as I'm slowly but surely finding out, is to balance a good script with subtle yet powerful music. Emphasize certain emotions or themes that you want to have emphasized, while at the same time making sure that your film could still be successful without the music shoving those emotions down your throat. If you're looking for some more interesting info on how composers mess with our emotions, you check out a BBC article on that very topic right here.

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