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INTRODUCTION TO FILM MUSIC
INTRODUCTION

 

Let me say this straight away: not every composer is the ideal composer for every film–this applies in principle to the film industry. This is because every composer follows a different style, has a different approach and a different vision of how he or she wants to compose the music and how it should be used in the film. We recommend that directors and producers listen carefully to the composer’s existing soundtracks and think carefully about whether they like his or her style.

Film music is very complex. Each film can be interpreted differently and there is no “right” or “wrong”. But there are basic “rules” that help to make the film more understandable for the audience. For example, with the design of the tempo and the pauses.

Film music is often misunderstood. The composer does not compose the music for the picture, but the composer creates an independent story (a second level of story) that runs parallel to the film. He or she therefore play a decisive role in determining what the audience should feel, because the composer works from the audience perspective and not from the film perspective. If this second level of story is well composed, it will fit into the picture again.

In that moment, film music becomes boring when happy music is composed in a happy scene and dramatic music is added in a dramatic scene. For a single scene in the whole movie this effect might be desired; but if used throughout the entire movie, it could get boring. On the other hand, film music becomes exciting in those moments when it doesn’t use clichés throughout but deals with the respective themes of the film.

Let’s look at an example.

You have a kissing scene and the protagonist is allowed to kiss his big love for the first time. This moment is probably eagerly awaited by the audience. But the film music can express a second level: Will love last forever? Is an unhappy future already predicted?

One can also add a dramatic note to a happy scene. In this way the film gains additional emotionality and depth. In a dramatic scene in which the protagonist is dying, the soundtrack could well suggest that he or she survives and that there is still hope for him or her.

A film cannot or does not want to answer many of the audience’s questions immediately. But the film music can clarify certain questions the audience may have. If the viewer wants to know whether the great love will last forever, the score can answer yes or no.

Film music further describes the topic and helps the viewers to orient themselves temporally. The title music can be used to highlight or hint at important scenes that have to do with the main story. Questions can–as already mentioned–be answered, but they can also leave the viewers in the dark for a long time and lead them down the wrong path.

Our tip: Don’t contract with a composer whose work doesn’t suit your taste. Even if composers try to write new music for each film and they want to reinvent themselves, a certain style remains. After all, a composer’s sound makes up his or her value.

THE SYMBIOSIS BETWEEN DIRECTOR AND COMPOSER
COOPERATION

The director and the composer must form a close symbiosis based on partnership. The closer they work together, the better the soundtracks (usually) will be. It requires a lot of know-how from a respective director to express their self well and constructively to bring his or her vision closer to the composer.

Often, composers have their own vision and a personal perspective on the film, which evoke new and previously unimagined emotions and possibilities. It therefore requires much trust in the composer in order to allow their vision and inspiration to come true. It is often worthwhile to support the composer in the best possible way–without losing the original vision. But also, very clear visions for the director’s style and instruments can be very inspiring for the composer. They help to compose the desired soundtrack.

Our tip: Many filmmakers have taught themselves how to make films. However, they have little experience with film music. Such directors should trust the composer, who can then incorporate their constructive feedback. Most composers will introduce you to the subject. In short: It is helpful to inform the composer about the respective experience with the music before the production.

This text was written by Raphael Sommer and is based on his experience as a film music composer. These tips and examples are intended as a brief introduction and do not apply to every film, situation or production process. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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