music The strength of music

Velusion

Basic Member
This is sort of an offshoot of a thread I was just reading.

Music is very illusive to me. Some movies have a nearly continuous score going on yet others have very little or none.

The Exorcist used a little incidental music but nothing much really. Everyone thinks of the Exorcist when they hear Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells yet that music only played for a matter of seconds and only in one scene (two if you count that someone was listening to side 2 in one of the Jesuit dormitory rooms)... In the one scene that the familiar tubular bells came to life, Chris McNeil was simply walking down the street on her way home after work but the music worked so perfectly that I can't imagine the scene without it.

I only bring up the Exorcist because, as a movie, it represents a near perfect in my opinion.

What I really want to discuss is the roll of music in a movie and what it means. Is it just a tradition born in the days of silent movies being shown with a live orchestra in the pit or has it evolved into something more quantifiable? Music is art and art is without bounds yet there must be some guidelines on when and how to use music in a movie. People must have opinions......... No, not really opinions. More like philosophies. A philosophy on what music is to movies and how it should be use.

What are your thoughts?
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff member
Admin
It's an interesting question. It reminds me of the laugh track. At one time, this we the norm for all sitcoms, and it has grown to be an annoyance and something that is not a part of modern comedies. When it's there (usually in network TV sitcoms except Modern Family), it seems out of place, tacked on, and cheesy. It started with live audiences and grew to be canned, cheesy, and out of place.

I bring this up because music is similar. The actors are not hearing the song (in most cases) or score. And it did grow from the live pit as you say. If not played right it could serve a similar fate. It requires THOUGHT! And not be tacked on. I can say I have become more aware of it in some cases, which is not a good thing, meaning, it feels separate. I think music will outlive the laugh track, but if taken for granted as something to add by default it will feel just as out of place. Some elaborate scores almost serve as parody.
 

Scoopicman

Pro Member
indiePRO
I think these examples will better answer your question. What would they be like without their music?

JAWS
STAR WARS
PLANET OF THE APES (original)
PSYCHO (original)
A FIST FULL OF DOLLARS
BLADE RUNNER
HALLOWEEN (original)
STAR TREK TMP (especially the Klingon vs V'GER opening)


Of course, my answer is that it depends on the movie and the mood conveyed. As for those movies, they were elevated to a greatness that could not have been, save for their scores.
 

indietalk

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Scoopicman, agreed! But you have to also adapt to the times. Again my laugh track example (which was at one time just as prevalent as the score to a film). Works flawlessly in the Honeymooners, but sticks out like a sore thumb in Big Bang Theory. Why? It's not as easy as saying it worked for those films so it works today. It requires thought and adaptation to today's audiences imo.
 

Scoopicman

Pro Member
indiePRO
But you have to also adapt to the times
I've noticed that in many 21st century films there are many drones, pads, understated and overstated sounds that are less musical and melodic, but work very well for mood. Next time you listen to something like 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, you'll notice that.

On the other side of the coin, I've talked to people that really miss movies that don't have strong theme music. I'm noticing that there is a musical resurgence in cinema. People are loving the 80's style score to STRANGER THINGS. All the superhero movies have big, bombastic scores. There's also a niche for electronic compoers, like Cliff Martinez (DRIVE, ONLY GOD FORGIVES, THE FOREIGNER, NEON DEMON). BLADE RUNNER: 2049 definitely aped the original score style, but also used more modern VST over-driven synth sounds.

It's a circle. New homages the old.
 
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indietalk

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Definitely some cheesy cliches like the saxaphone/lonely street walk, etc. lol.
 

mlesemann

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On the low budget end, I went with a fairly traditional, instrumental score for my first feature (Surviving Family), with just one small original song right near the end. For my second (Detours), which is a road trip movie, I decided before we shot it that I wanted to license songs from indie singer songwriters that would help to set the tone along the way. We did have some instrumental score, but a lot of it ended up on the (proverbial) cutting room floor during the final edit because it just didn't fit what we were trying to do.
 

Velusion

Basic Member
You guys have given me something to think about. It seems that my original question was what is music to a movie? but perhaps a better question would be what is a movie?

indietalk said
The actors are not hearing the song (in most cases) or score.
I had never really considered that.. The music is there for the audience. It is a part of the theatrics... and Mike is right; the movies on his list would not be the same without their musical scoring.

If a movie hopes to achieve suspension of disbelief then how can that happen if there is music playing? Life does not come with a melodic soundtrack. BUT somehow it works. Movies like Jaws and Gone with the Wind do draw us in. It would seem that the music would be a distraction, but it isn't.. ... Strange.

Proper use of music seems like a large subject. Can anyone think of any examples of movies that used music poorly? I can only think of one; in the Scorsese film Gangs of New York, near the beginning of the film there is a fight between the natives and the immigrants. during the fight, music kicked in that was way too modern for the scene (in my opinion). It sounded like something you'd hear in a cop show or Breaking Bad. I saw the movie at the theater and was instantly distracted. I was sitting there thinking "what's with this music?"...
 

Scoopicman

Pro Member
indiePRO
Suspension of disbelief happens because music talks to our primal moods. It is one of the most defining things in our lives. If I put together your family video, compiled from the last 30 years footage, I woud use your album collection select songs that represented a particular decade or time and that would most likely trigger memories of feelings that you had at the time. It’s the same with movies that are about the 50s or the 70s; they use songs that remind people of that time.
 
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mlesemann

Moderator
Staff member
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Originally posted by IndieTalk
The actors are not hearing the song (in most cases) or score.
Diagetic music takes place within the world of the movie, such as a radio that's visible, a marching band, etc. Non-diagetic music is not part of "their" world - a score, etc.

IndieTalk - I know you know this, but maybe not everyone else does :)
 
I only bring up the Exorcist because, as a movie, it represents a near perfect in my opinion.


What are your thoughts?
That's interesting. Can you explain this view? In my opinion its lacking ... I see a weak protagonist's, boring dialog and very slow passing. The 2 minute tubular bells is one of the best parts of the movie.... and that part was just filler.

A lot of my friends think the Excercist was a revolutionary new way of movie making and horror.
Its just my opinion, I also think that the The Trial is a better movie than Citizen Kane. I wish to hear and understand your take on it.
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff member
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Diagetic music takes place within the world of the movie, such as a radio that's visible, a marching band, etc. Non-diagetic music is not part of "their" world - a score, etc.

IndieTalk - I know you know this, but maybe not everyone else does :)
Right! I was just wondering if there will ever come a time where music feels out of place in a film. That's the only reason I brought up laugh track. Our minds are so trained to know that there's not an orchestra in the forest, or a person "in the room" laughing. Time will tell how music plays out but for now, it is very important, and can even "make" the film. As a musician I am definitely not against music in film! These are just things I think about.
 

Velusion

Basic Member
Diagetic music takes place within the world of the movie, such as a radio that's visible, a marching band, etc. Non-diagetic music is not part of "their" world - a score, etc.

IndieTalk - I know you know this, but maybe not everyone else does
hehehe .... I'm pretty sure that everyone except maybe schizophrenics know that "non-diagetic music" is not in their world...

Feutus Lapdance, I will explain my view a little later in the day.
 
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directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
That's interesting. Can you explain this view? In my opinion its lacking ... I see a weak protagonist's, boring dialog and very slow passing. The 2 minute tubular bells is one of the best parts of the movie.... and that part was just filler.

A lot of my friends think the Excercist was a revolutionary new way of movie making and horror.
Its just my opinion, I also think that the The Trial is a better movie than Citizen Kane. I wish to hear and understand your take on it.
I think there are two protagonists in “The Exorcist”.

Chris McNeil is quite strong. She does everything in her power to
discover what is wrong with her daughter, including going to a
priest which appears to be against her personal belief.

Father Karras is strong because he faces his issues of faith head on.

“Boring dialogue” and “slow” are subjective. I cannot argue that you
should find the dialogue interesting. I feel every scene pushes the plot
forward and shows us something about the characters. The dynamic
between mother and daughter is quite realistic. I agree the pacing is
slow. Horror films in the early 1970's were different than today.
Audiences were accustom to the Hammer films and slow build films
like “Psycho”, “The Birds”, “Rosemary's Baby” even “Night of the Living
Dead”. To me that pacing makes the first “action” scene that much
more shocking.

In many ways it was a revolutionary way of making a horror movie.
Nothing like it had been made up to that point by a major studio.
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
Music is art and art is without bounds yet there must be some guidelines on when and how to use music in a movie.
I don't believe there must be guidelines. When and how to use music
is entirely up to the artist with no guidelines. Some filmmakers choose
to use no music at all.
 

Velusion

Basic Member
I agree with you, directorik. I think I worded my statement poorly. What I meant to say is people always find a way to quantify things no matter how mysterious they are. For example; I could see someone giving a lecture on the use of music in film saying "when you transition from one location to another, have the music swell to help usher in the new surroundings"... By saying that they have attempted to quantify the reason that a lot of people put music in places that transition from one location to another... Are they wrong? No. Not really. It 's proven that it does work but does that mean you have to put music there? No... but it doesn't change the fact that people out there will try to figure out the "formula" for music placement... I would never take such proclamation too seriously but I would like to know what others have come up with..

In the 90s I found myself in the presents of a great make up artist who allowed me to take a close look at his work. I marveled at the texture he used around the nose of the particular head I was starring at. I asked him "what made you think to put those little wrinkles on there?" He looked at me and without blinking said "I don't know"... It was the perfect answer. it was honest and true.... I've had other artists give answers like "well, because of the way the muscles under the skin contract along with stretching, wrinkle patters can be predicted and blah blah blah..."

"hey there mr. music editor. What made you think to use that music at that particular moment of the film?" ... "I don't know."

I don't have the insight to know where to put the music. I'm just wondering if there is a book or DVD or lecture that gives ideas to people, like me, who can't "see" the music. Sometimes creativity begins with mimicry.
 

buscando

Member
Maybe search YouTube for some documentaries & special features about movie music, & movie composers past & present. I think a Hitchcock documentary talked about how Bernard Hermann's music didn't show what was happening onscreen, but rather what the characters were feeling. That's one way to do it.

Part of what makes The Exorcist effective is the use of sound, which is related to music. It won Best Sound Mixing among its 10 Oscars. I think there are quiet moments which are suddenly broken by loud sound, pretty jarring & already makes you uneasy even before you see anything scary. So video & audio elements, including music, are all tools you can use to tell your story & heighten the effect/feeling/mood you want the audience to experience.

If you can watch The Great Dictator for the big speech scene, it doesn't have any music. You can compare it to this one where someone added music to it, making it better I think. Thanks to WalterB for posting this recently. If you can watch both versions, you may get an understanding of how music can help a scene.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMKpYxhI2KI
 

Scoopicman

Pro Member
indiePRO
Part of what makes The Exorcist effective is the use of sound, which is related to music.
Definitely! Part of what I wanted to add about "modern" soundtracks is that a lot of the music is atonal and is more like an ambient sound effect. It's hard to tell where the music ends and the sound design starts. In many cases, it is a straight up marriage of the two.
 
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