Wednesday, October 18, 2006

More Movie Music

Just some questions, no firm opinions at all: is there a useful distinction to be made between the film music of composers who specialize in film music and those who come to film music from outside? Does the film music of Shostakovitch, Thomson, Copland, Glass, or Takemitsu fall into a different category than that of Korngold, Hermann, or any one of the Newmans? Does coming from inside or outside of the film branch give a composer a different perspective on the conventions of the genre?

And: What can be usefully said about the concert music composers who failed to break into the movies -- Schönberg and Stravinsky, for starters -- is that failure due to a mismatch in musical or personal temperaments? A variety of expressionism, with a real debt to Schönberg has become a familar trope in film music, but it seems to me to be more an import of external stylistic features than any deep structure (which shouldn't be surprising: musical concepts of coherence and closure take a back seat to those of film narrative, effect, and pacing*). On the other hand, with the exception of the famed disneyized dinosaurs, Stravinsky seems to have had less impact on film music.

(I've set aside the music of those composers working in experimental film environments, which are presumably less constraining).

* On the other hand, why can't you try to have it both ways? There was an interview somewhere recently with a Hollywood blockbuster composer who mentioned starting a job with some fibonacci-derived materials, and then giving them up in favor of more or less improvising to the screen image. While there's nothing necessarily good or bad about using fibonacci sequences in music, I believe that there was something terribly empty in the gesture of just giving up on the potential for a score to incorporate structural relationships of both music and film genres. What a loss!

1 comment:

Trevor Murphy said...

I am surprised to see you write that Stravinsky had less impact on film music! To my ears, much of the orchestral film music before 1980 consists of chewing and re-chewing the sonorities of 'Firebird' and 'Rite of Spring'. Burbling bass clarinets, tinny, dissonant muted brass... much of it in the service of cheesy cop movies.