music The strength of music

BazTheHat

Member
Wow, what a great thread!

For me, music can serve a huge range of functions, for instance:

  • Conveying emotion that supports what's happening on screen
  • To move the audience (make them nervous / laugh / cry etc)
  • To set a time period or location
  • To cover boring bits (!)

I've certainly made music for film and, in the spotting stage, gone, "well that looks dull, it needs music." Likewise, I've gone, "that character is really feeling sad but not showing it, let's help show it in the music."

Being a bit old school, I have to say I much prefer music with a theme. The modern take of sound design as music can definitely convey a mood (and there's loads of good examples of that) but even saying the word "Jaws" makes pretty much everyone hear "Da dum. Da dum. Da dum da da da dum da da...".

Can anyone hum the theme tune from Transformers? (The new movies, obviously, not the cartoon...)

As to how to use it - it's a storytelling tool, just like angles, editing, dialogue, lighting, mise en scene. Use it to help tell the story.

And as for diegetic and non-diegetic - the Simpsons have done the best example of that ever.

https://youtu.be/PWMGp1FxkM0
 

Scoopicman

Pro Member
indiePRO
Great example from THE SIMPSONS!


Can anyone hum the theme tune from Transformers? (The new movies, obviously, not the cartoon...)
Baa ba.....Baa ba....Baa ba....Baa ba This is the song I hum:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4gngu-7fDY

REVENGE OF THE FALLEN is one of my fave CDs.


Being a bit old school, I have to say I much prefer music with a theme. The modern take of sound design as music can definitely convey a mood (and there's loads of good examples of that)
You, myself, and a whole bunch of other people love themes. I like a blend of sound design and thematic. The atonal score shift became popular when big video games like RESIDENT EVIL and SILENT HILL were coming out. There was also a glut of movies that were rushed to release, therefore their scores were shallow in that departments.

The industry is rife with last minute composer changes, such as replacing Johan Johansson on BLADE RUNNER: 2049, Howard Shore on KING KONG, Harry Gregson Wiliams on ALIEN: COVENANT, etc. The replacement composer steps in and has to deliver in very short time, sometimes just a couple of weeks.

I recently had to do a score, where I did all an nighter to deliver 20 cues (about 29 minutes worth) in two days, because the producers wanted to make a festival deadline. Music is such an important part of filmmaking, yet the process doesn't get the respect and time that it deserves, because it is often the last part of post-production (save for laying in the tracks).
 

Scoopicman

Pro Member
indiePRO
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.
Listening to scores is probably the best way. I listen to scores the way most people listen to rock, pop, country, rap, etc. Before doing my own music, I used to put my favorite soundtrack bits into my own movies. It was a matter of liking a song and wanting to put it somewhere. Modern director/producers do this with their temp tracks. Everything else is more incidental. You'll also know, when you make something, where scenes feel weak. That's where you need music!

An exercise you can try is to pick any song you like and then cut a sequence to that. Not just one long quadcopter shot, but cut some bits into it. Make the cutting rhythmic. A 4/4 constant beat is one thing, but cutting to an orchestral piece that changes tempo and dynamics can be pretty interesting.

Sometimes I'll order a score (CD, MP3) before the movie comes out. When I see the movie, I have been introduced to character and overall themes, so watching it gives me a deeper feeling than I would have had not having heard the music, prior. This is certainly true of repeated viewings. Listening to the music at home brings me back to cool scenes in the movie.

I can't listen to every score. Some are not that interesting to me. I pick the ones that are and go with those. Usually, they are by a composer who's style I like. If I don't know, I go to Youtube, where someone has most likely uploaded it. If I like it, I get it for myself. I take the dog for a walk and listen on headphones. Heck, thanks to BazTheHat, I'm listening to TRANSFORMERS, while writing this.
 
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Scoopicman

Pro Member
indiePRO

Velusion

Basic Member
Code:
For me, music can serve a huge range of functions, for instance:
Conveying emotion that supports what's happening on screen
To move the audience (make them nervous / laugh / cry etc)
To set a time period or location
To cover boring bits (!)
Good points!

I just watched an episode of Little house on the Prairie. Without the music they used, some of those scenes would have played terribly.

Mike, I do listen to movie scores as they are presented in the movie, not on the Soundtrack CD,, and that's what I'm talking about. Some of the music editor's choices seem so perfect yet so baffling.

I do know that editors use to sometimes cut in a scratch track of existing music just to give the help convey the feeling and energy of the story until the composer came in to write the score.. A little off subject but I remember reading that George Lucas cut Star Wars IV using Holst's THE PLANETS on the scratch track. Interesting thing though is that some of John Williams' score sounded extremely close to Holst's Mars.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0bcRCCg01I
 
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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.
Here is an interesting one that crosses into both Diagetic and Non-diagetic music.

Breathless; starring Richard Gere.
Jessie is a slick Vegas boy who steals cars. He defines himself with the use of music by Jerry Lee Lewis. He gets in a stolen car then goes flying down the road listing to Jerry Lee Lewis on the car stereo.... Later, when he's in a jam, he pulls it all together by going into his Jerry Lee Lewis act; Singing and dancing. He is, in a way, delusional....

At the end of the film, he and his girlfriend are on the verge of getting away from the cops but they show up. The have him. He stands there in the middle of the street. A gun lies on the road before him. His girlfriend standing on the side crying. There is no hope.. So what does he do?


Watch

https://youtu.be/sziz4bCzkYU


There is something very poignant about this scene and the use of music. It brings me to tears very time.. Mike is right; music is very important, or can be....
 
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Dj1987

Member
sometimes music alone is capable of telling a story, realizing how complicated it is to know how to mix images and sound

jaws is the best example
 

Cole McLeod

Member
As a fan/reviewer/composer of film music, I just thought I'd pop in with my 2 cents.

I think thematic, "storytelling" scores are a wonderful thing, and I hope they never go away. The marriage of film and music is one of the greatest forms of artistic expression in my books.

That being said, the music needs to fit the project. Hyper-realistic/found footage movies can't really get away with a score, and that's fine. Fantasy/high concept films can be lush and bombastic, and people love it! No one wants to hear Star Wars without Williams' contributions. So I think, like all things, balance and situation awareness are needed. The film score as a concept should never go out of style :)
 

pedramyz

Member
I think as far as storytelling goes music is one of the most visual arts . (In some scenarios they even surpass movies and books ).

But I don't think there is ( or there will ever be ) specific tips and tricks on how and when to use the music in movies. Unlike movies, music can not be dissected into pieces for examination.Music is an extremely intuitive form of art. Therefore they should be used in an intuitive way too. That's probably the only rule you'll ever need when you want to use music in movies.
 
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I think as far as storytelling goes music is one of the most visual arts .
Ah, no… Music is a sonic/aural art - you don't see it at all. Yes, sound and visuals an complement each other, but you can close your eyes and still experience music. It's almost impossible to "close" your ears.


But I don't think there is ( or there will ever be ) specific tips and tricks on how and when to use the music in movies.
Basics - music accents action and supports emotion. The rest is entirely subjective.


Unlike movies, music can not be dissected into pieces for examination.
Sorry, but music can be broken down into its component parts. That was the whole point of music school, studying how music was constructed/composed. There are very distinct rules for most genres of music - tonality/instrumentation, compositional rules, etc. As an example, Baroque music uses traditional/classical European instruments (strings, brass, woodwinds, keyboards [harpsichord & organ] and some percussion) and you cannot use parallel fifths. It is even broken into early, middle and late eras. All genres of music have distinctive characteristics which can be categorized/systematized.
 

pedramyz

Member
Ah, no… Music is a sonic/aural art - you don't see it at all. Yes, sound and visuals an complement each other, but you can close your eyes and still experience music. It's almost impossible to "close" your ears.
Whenever you listen to music you visualize certain things. That's what I meant by visual art.


Sorry, but music can be broken down into its component parts. That was the whole point of music school, studying how music was constructed/composed. There are very distinct rules for most genres of music - tonality/instrumentation, compositional rules, etc. As an example, Baroque music uses traditional/classical European instruments (strings, brass, woodwinds, keyboards [harpsichord & organ] and some percussion) and you cannot use parallel fifths. It is even broken into early, middle and late eras. All genres of music have distinctive characteristics which can be categorized/systematized.
Of course all musics can be deconstructed and of course you can categorize musics by deconstructing their components. I'm talking about the aesthetic value of music. no one evaluates the worth of a certain piece by scrutinizing layers of instruments and tones. A music either gets you or it doesn't. as simple as that. Even some false tones can sometimes be conceived as beautiful.

And for emotions, there is no definitive answer what kinds of musics relate to certain emotions. For example, romantic songs can be used to portray violence ,... . You may think a score will instigate a certain specific emotion in the audience, where in reality, maybe only a handful of the audience will get the same vibe from the score as you did. The extreme intuitive nature of music disables us from pin pointing it's AESTHETIC rules. Therefore when it comes to using music in movies the best way to go with it is your intuition.
 
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Benny Wollin

Pro Member
indiePRO
The extreme intuitive nature of music disables us from pin pointing it's AESTHETIC rules.
This is a valid point. An analogy to architecture works quite well. There are a LOT of rules and conventions about writing music, and they're important (like the structure of a building). But ultimately, what matters more than the building not falling over is how it feels/works. And that can't be quantified as easily.

I remember reading a quote about Hitchcock, saying he didn't want music whenever we see the boat in "Lifeboat" - because there's no place for an orchestra in the middle of the ocean. To which the composer replied: "Where's the camera?" ---> A camera compels us to look a certain way, music compels us to feel a certain way. Music and acting have gone hand in hand since ancient Greece at least, I don't think that's going to change. :)
 

cr0000

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..

(...)

"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.
Hey, really interesting topic and it actually made me sign up here :)

I think like someone said earlier it does make sense that music enhances the feeling and purpose of the narrative simply because music evokes emotions. Also, I dare to assume that almost every single person has some personal connection to music, their memories to certain people or times in life etc. And despite this very subjective character, you still have very objective aspects e.g. in music psychology that explains what effect music has in listeners (harmonies, key, speed, speechiness etc.). So I think that you actually CAN quantify the use of music in visual content.

I am actually working with a team on an AI-based technology that combines those two sides (subjective music experiences and objective music data) to analyze and visualize the emotional effect of songs - so what you're saying, it can make you "see" music. For exactly that use case that you've mentioned above @Velusion, how do you choose a specific song or even a specific part of a song for a certain scene (in film or gaming) even if you are not an experienced music supervisor.
 
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TheMusicBox

Member
Has anyone mentioned Guardians of the Galaxy yet? The way they incorporate the hits of 'Awesome Mix Vol.1' into the soundtrack is inspirational. And also the fact they turned the production process on its head, having Tyler Bates write some of the score first so Gunn could film to the music, as opposed to Tyler scoring to Gunn's film.

Quite an innovative and interesting way of doing things I think.
 
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Has anyone mentioned Guardians of the Galaxy yet? The way they incorporate the hits of 'Awesome Mix Vol.1' into the soundtrack is inspirational. And also the fact they turned the production process on its head, having Tyler Bates write some of the score first so Gunn could film to the music, as opposed to Tyler scoring to Gunn's film.

Quite an innovative and interesting way of doing things I think.
Than I recoment you watch starfish. Soundtrack and the way the tape music is used is realy good in this movie.
 
Music is a tool in a filmmaker's box just like any of our other tools and we are free to use it however we so please. Sometimes a big bombastic score is exactly what the audience needs and sometimes silence is golden. The hypothetical scenarios and how one might creatively approach it are limitless.

Me, personally, I'd feel remiss making a movie without music. But maybe that's because I'm also a musician. And so yes, I'll admit that personal tastes as to how the music is received will always be a thing, I will say this:

One of our closest genetic relatives, the gibbons, communicate with each other through song. They literally sing at each other. The oldest known human art is older than our species (we're not the only species or subspecies of humans who have ever lived). One of the things that makes Homo sapiens unique is the placement of our voice box -- that thing that allows us to sing (and speak).

My point? Though we'll never know this to be true or untrue, I have a sneaking suspicion that music is older than our species. I think it's in us to make and listen to music at the genetic level. I mean, how many people do you know who don't listen to music?

Music cuts to the core of our emotions. You don't even need words to convey emotions, organized sound can do that. To believe that it is somehow a distraction, I just can't really entertain that thought. And when people say it's best when it goes unnoticed, yeah, maybe that's true sometimes. But when Chris Pratt makes a funny joke, do you not notice it? When Tarantino writes brilliant dialog, do you not notice it? When Roger Deakins wows us with gorgeous cinematography, do we not notice it? Does that somehow make any of those things less good because we noticed them? No. Sometimes drawing the audiences attention to the music is EXACTLY what you should do. There are no rules. Make your own.
 
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