film score
   HOME

TheInfoList



OR:

A film score is original music written specifically to accompany a
film A film also called a movie, motion picture, moving picture, picture, photoplay or (slang) flick is a work of visual art that simulates experiences and otherwise communicates ideas, stories, perceptions, feelings, beauty, or atmosphere ...
. The score comprises a number of orchestral, instrumental, or choral pieces called cues, which are timed to begin and end at specific points during the film in order to enhance the dramatic narrative and the emotional impact of the scene in question. Scores are written by one or more
composer A composer is a person who writes music. The term is especially used to indicate composers of Classical music, Western classical music, or those who are composers by occupation. Many composers are, or were, also skilled performers of music. E ...
s under the guidance of or in collaboration with the film's director or producer and are then most often performed by an ensemble of musicians – usually including an
orchestra An orchestra (; ) is a large Musical ensemble, instrumental ensemble typical of classical music, which combines instruments from different families. There are typically four main sections of instruments: * bowed string instruments, such as the ...
(most likely a
symphony orchestra An orchestra (; ) is a large Musical ensemble, instrumental ensemble typical of classical music, which combines instruments from different families. There are typically four main sections of instruments: * bowed string instruments, such as the ...
) or band, instrumental soloists, and choir or vocalists – known as playback singers – and recorded by a sound engineer. The term is less frequently applied to music written for other media such as live theatre,
television Television, sometimes shortened to TV, is a telecommunication medium for transmitting moving images and sound. The term can refer to a television set, or the medium of Transmission (telecommunications), television transmission. Television ...
and
radio Radio is the technology of signaling and telecommunication, communicating using radio waves. Radio waves are electromagnetic waves of frequency between 30 hertz (Hz) and 300 gigahertz (GHz). They are generated by an electronic device ...
programs, and
video game Video games, also known as computer games, are electronic games that involves interaction with a user interface or input device such as a joystick, game controller, controller, computer keyboard, keyboard, or motion sensing device to gener ...
, and said music is typically referred to as either the
soundtrack A soundtrack is recorded music accompanying and synchronised to the images of a motion picture, drama, book, television show, television program, radio program, or video game; a commercially released soundtrack album of music as featured in t ...
or
incidental music Incidental music is music Music is generally defined as the The arts, art of arranging sound to create some combination of Musical form, form, harmony, melody, rhythm or otherwise Musical expression, expressive content. Exact definiti ...
. Film scores encompass an enormous variety of styles of music, depending on the nature of the films they accompany. While the majority of scores are orchestral works rooted in
Western classical music Classical music generally refers to the art music of the Western world The Western world, also known as the West, primarily refers to the various nations and state (polity), states in the regions of Europe, North America, and Oceania.
, many scores are also influenced by
jazz Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African Americans, African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with its roots in blues and ragtime. Since the 1920s Jazz Age, it has been recog ...
, rock, pop,
blues Blues is a music genre and musical form which originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1860s. Blues incorporated spiritual (music), spirituals, work songs, field hollers, Ring shout, shouts, chants, and rhymed simple narra ...
, new-age and
ambient music Ambient music is a genre of music that emphasizes Musical tone, tone and atmosphere over traditional Musical form, musical structure or rhythm. It may lack net Musical composition, composition, beat, or structured melody.The Ambient Century by M ...
, and a wide range of ethnic and world music styles. Since the 1950s, a growing number of scores have also included electronic elements as part of the score, and many scores written today feature a hybrid of
orchestra An orchestra (; ) is a large Musical ensemble, instrumental ensemble typical of classical music, which combines instruments from different families. There are typically four main sections of instruments: * bowed string instruments, such as the ...
l and electronic instruments. Since the invention of digital technology and audio sampling, many modern films have been able to rely on digital samples to imitate the sound of live instruments, and many scores are created and performed wholly by the composers themselves, by using music composition software, synthesizers, samplers, and MIDI controllers. Songs such as pop songs and rock songs are usually not considered part of the film's score, although songs do also form part of the film's soundtrack. Although some songs, especially in musicals, are based on thematic ideas from the score (or vice versa), scores usually do not have lyrics, except for when sung by choirs or soloists as part of a cue. Similarly, pop songs that are dropped into a specific scene in a film for emphasis or as diegetic music (e.g., a song playing on a character's car radio), are not considered part of the score, although the score's composer will occasionally write an original pop song based on their themes, such as James Horner's "
My Heart Will Go On "My Heart Will Go On" is a 1997 song recorded by Canada, Canadian singer Celine Dion. The song serves as the main theme music, theme to James Cameron's blockbuster film ''Titanic (1997 film), Titanic'', based on an account of the Titanic, tran ...
" from ''
Titanic RMS ''Titanic'' was a British passenger Ocean liner, liner, operated by the White Star Line, which Sinking of the Titanic, sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on 15 April 1912 after striking an iceberg during her maiden voyage from Southampton ...
'', written for
Celine Dion Céline Marie Claudette Dion ( ; born 30 March 1968) is a Canadian singer. Noted for her powerful and technically skilled vocals, Dion is the best-selling Canadian recording artist, and the best-selling French-language artist of all time. Her ...
.


Terminology

A film score may also be called a background score, background music, film soundtrack, film music, screen composition, screen music, or
incidental music Incidental music is music Music is generally defined as the The arts, art of arranging sound to create some combination of Musical form, form, harmony, melody, rhythm or otherwise Musical expression, expressive content. Exact definiti ...
.


Process of creation


Spotting

The composer usually enters the creative process towards the end of filming at around the same time as the film is being edited, although on some occasions the composer is on hand during the entire film shoot, especially when actors are required to perform with or be aware of original diegetic music. The composer is shown an unpolished "rough cut" of the film before the editing is completed and talks to the director or producer about what sort of music is required for the film in terms of style and tone. The director and composer will watch the entire film, taking note of which scenes require original music. During this process, composers will take precise timing notes so that they know how long each cue needs to last, where it begins, where it ends, and of particular moments during a scene with which the music may need to coincide in a specific way. This process is known as "spotting". Occasionally, a filmmaker will actually edit their film to fit the flow of music, rather than have the composer edit their score to the final cut. Director Godfrey Reggio edited his films '' Koyaanisqatsi'' and '' Powaqqatsi'' based on composer
Philip Glass Philip Glass (born January 31, 1937) is an American composer and pianist. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential composers of the late 20th century. Glass's work has been associated with minimal music, minimalism, being built up fr ...
's music. Similarly, the relationship between director
Sergio Leone Sergio Leone (; 3 January 1929 – 30 April 1989) was an Italian film director, producer and screenwriter credited as the pioneer of the Spaghetti Western genre and widely regarded as one of the most influential directors in the history of cine ...
and composer Ennio Morricone was such that the finale of ''
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly ''The Good, the Bad and the Ugly'' ( it, Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo, literally "The good, the ugly, the bad") is a 1966 Italian Epic film, epic spaghetti Western film directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood as "the Good", Le ...
'' and the films ''
Once Upon a Time in the West ''Once Upon a Time in the West'' ( , "Once upon a time (there was) the West") is a 1968 Epic film, epic Spaghetti Western film directed by Sergio Leone, who co-wrote it with Sergio Donati based on a story by Dario Argento, Bernardo Bertolucci, ...
'' and ''
Once Upon a Time in America ''Once Upon a Time in America'' ( it, C'era una volta in America) is a 1984 epic film, epic crime film co-written and directed by Italian filmmaker Sergio Leone and starring Robert De Niro and James Woods. The film is an Italian–American ventu ...
'' were edited to Morricone's score as the composer had prepared it months before the film's production ended. In another example, the finale of
Steven Spielberg Steven Allan Spielberg (; born December 18, 1946) is an American director, writer, and producer. A major figure of the New Hollywood era and pioneer of the modern Blockbuster (entertainment), blockbuster, he is the most List of highest-grossi ...
's '' E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial'' was edited to match the music of his long-time collaborator
John Williams John Towner Williams (born February 8, 1932)Nylund, Rob (15 November 2022)Classic Connection review ''WBOI'' ("For the second time this year, the Fort Wayne Philharmonic honored American composer, conductor, and arranger John Williams, who wa ...
: as recounted in a companion documentary on the DVD, Spielberg gave Williams complete freedom with the music and asked him to record the cue without pictures; Spielberg then re-edited the scene later to match the music. In some circumstances, a composer will be asked to write music based on their impressions of the script or storyboards without seeing the film itself and has more freedom to create music without the need to adhere to specific cue lengths or mirror the emotional arc of a particular scene. This approach is usually taken by a director who does not wish to have the music comment specifically on a particular scene or nuance of a film and which can instead be inserted into the film at any point the director wishes during the post-production process. Composer
Hans Zimmer Hans Florian Zimmer (; born 12 September 1957) is a German film score composer and music producer. He has won two Oscars and four Grammys, and has been nominated for two Emmys and a Tony. Zimmer was also named on the list of Top 100 Living G ...
was asked to write music in this way in 2010 for director
Christopher Nolan Christopher Edward Nolan (born 30 July 1970) is a British-American filmmaker. Known for his lucrative Cinema of the United States, Hollywood blockbusters with complex storytelling, Nolan is considered a leading filmmaker of the 21st century. ...
's film ''
Inception ''Inception'' is a 2010 science fiction action film written and directed by Christopher Nolan, who also produced the film with Emma Thomas, his wife. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a professional thief who steals information by infiltra ...
''; composer Gustavo Santaolalla did the same thing when he wrote his Oscar-winning score for ''
Brokeback Mountain ''Brokeback Mountain'' is a 2005 American neo-Western Romance film, romantic Drama (film and television), drama film directed by Ang Lee and produced by Diana Ossana and James Schamus. Adapted from the Brokeback Mountain (short story), 1997 sh ...
''.


Syncing

When writing music for film, one goal is to sync dramatic events happening on screen with musical events in the score. There are many different methods for syncing music to picture. These include using sequencing software to calculate timings, using mathematic formulas and free timing with reference timings. Composers work using
SMPTE timecode SMPTE timecode ( or ) is a set of cooperating standards to label individual frames of video or film with a timecode. The system is defined by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers in the SMPTE 12M specification. SMPTE revised t ...
for syncing purposes. When syncing music to picture, generally a leeway of 3–4 frames late or early allows the composer to be extremely accurate. Using a technique called Free Timing, a conductor will use either (a) a stopwatch or studio size stop clock, or (b) watch the film on a screen or video monitor while conducting the musicians to predetermined timings. These are represented visually by vertical lines (streamers) and bursts of light called punches. These are put on the film by the Music Editor at points specified by the composer. In both instances, the timings on the clock or lines scribed on the film have corresponding timings which are also at specific points (beats) in the composer/conductor score.


Written click track

A written click track is a method of writing bars of music in consistent time values (i.e. 4 beats in :02⅔ seconds) to establish a constant tempo in lieu of a metronome value (e.g. 88 Bpm). A composer would use a written click if they planned to conduct live performers. When using other methods such as a metronome, the conductor has a perfectly spaced click playing in his ear to which he conducts. This can yield stiff and lifeless performances in slower more expressive cues. One can convert a standard BPM value to a written click where X represents the number of beats per bar, and W represents time in seconds, by using the following equation: \frac(x)=W Written clicks are expressed using 1/3 second increments, so the next step is to round the decimal to either 0, 1/3, or 2/3 of a second. The following is an example for 88 BPM: \frac(4)=2.72 ''2.72 rounds to 2.66, so the written click is 4 beats in :02⅔ seconds.'' Once the composer has identified the location in the film they wish to sync with musically, they must determine the musical beat this event occurs on. To find this, they use the following equation, where bpm is beats per minute, ''sp'' is the sync point in real-time (i.e. 33.7 seconds), and B is the beat number in 1/3 increments (i.e. 49⅔). \frac+1=B


Writing

Once the spotting session has been completed and the precise timings of each cue determined, the composer will then work on writing the score. The methods of writing the score vary from composer to composer; some composers prefer to work with a traditional pencil and paper, writing notes by hand on a staff and performing works-in-progress for the director on a piano, while other composers write on computers using sophisticated music composition software such as Digital Performer, Logic Pro, Finale, Cubase, or Pro Tools. Working with software allows composers to create MIDI-based demos of cues, called MIDI mockups, for review by the filmmaker prior to the final orchestral recording. The length of time a composer has to write the score varies from project to project; depending on the post-production schedule, a composer may have as little as two weeks or as much as three months to write the score. In normal circumstances, the actual writing process usually lasts around six weeks from beginning to end. The actual musical content of a film score is wholly dependent on the type of film being scored and the emotions the director wishes the music to convey. A film score can encompass literally thousands of different combinations of instruments, ranging from full symphony orchestral ensembles to single solo instruments to rock bands to jazz combos, along with a multitude of ethnic and world music influences, soloists, vocalists, choirs and electronic textures. The style of the music being written also varies massively from project to project and can be influenced by the time period in which the film is set, the geographic location of the film's action, and even the musical tastes of the characters. As part of their preparations for writing the score the composer will often research different musical techniques and genres as appropriate for that specific project; as such, it is not uncommon for established film composers to be proficient at writing music in dozens of different styles.


Orchestration

Once the music has been written, it must then be arranged or orchestrated in order for the ensemble to be able to perform it. The nature and level of orchestration varies from project to project and composer to composer, but in its basic form the orchestrator's job is to take the single-line music written by the composer and "flesh it out" into instrument-specific sheet music for each member of the orchestra to perform. Some composers like Ennio Morricone orchestrate their own scores themselves, without using an additional orchestrator. Some composers provide intricate details in how they want this to be accomplished and will provide the orchestrator with copious notes outlining which instruments are being asked to perform which notes, giving the orchestrator no personal creative input whatsoever beyond re-notating the music on different sheets of paper as appropriate. Other composers are less detailed, and will often ask orchestrators to "fill in the blanks", providing their own creative input into the makeup of the ensemble, ensuring that each instrument is capable of performing the music as written, and even allowing them to introduce performance techniques and flourishes to enhance the score. In many cases, time constraints determined by the film's post-production schedule dictate whether composers orchestrate their own scores, as it is often impossible for the composer to complete all the required tasks within the time frame allowed. Over the years several orchestrators have become linked to the work of one particular composer, often to the point where one will not work without the other. Once the orchestration process has been completed, the sheet music is physically printed onto paper by one or more music copyists and is ready for performance.


Recording

When the music has been composed and orchestrated, the orchestra or ensemble then performs it, often with the composer conducting. Musicians for these ensembles are often uncredited in the film or on the album and are contracted individually (and if so, the orchestra contractor is credited in the film or the
soundtrack album A soundtrack album is any album that incorporates music directly recorded from the soundtrack of a particular feature film or television show. The first such album to be commercially released was Walt Disney's ''Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ( ...
). However, some films have recently begun crediting the contracted musicians on the albums under the name Hollywood Studio Symphony after an agreement with the
American Federation of Musicians The American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM/AFofM) is a 501(c)(5) trade union, labor union representing professional instrumental musicians in the United States and Canada. The AFM, which has its headquarters in New ...
. Other performing ensembles that are often employed include the
London Symphony Orchestra The London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) is a British symphony orchestra based in London. Founded in 1904, the LSO is the oldest of London's orchestras, symphony orchestras. The LSO was created by a group of players who left Henry Wood's Queen's ...
(performing film music since 1935) the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra (an orchestra dedicated mostly to recording), the BBC Philharmonic, and the Northwest Sinfonia. The orchestra performs in front of a large screen depicting the film, The conductor and musicians habitually wear headphones that sound a series of clicks called a "click-track" that changes with
meter The metre (British English, British spelling) or meter (American English, American spelling; American and British English spelling differences#-re, -er, see spelling differences) (from the French unit , from the Greek language, Greek noun , "m ...
and tempo, assisting to synchronize the music with the film. More rarely, the director will talk to the composer before shooting has started, so as to give more time to the composer or because the director needs to shoot scenes (namely song or dance scenes) according to the final score. Sometimes the director will have edited the film using "temp (temporary) music": already published pieces with a character that the director believes to fit specific scenes.


Elements of a film score

Most films have between 45 and 120 minutes of music. However, some films have very little or no music; others may feature a score that plays almost continuously throughout.


Temp tracks

In some instances, film composers have been asked by the director to imitate a specific composer or style present in the temp track. On other occasions, directors have become so attached to the temp score that they decide to use it and reject the original score written by the film composer. One of the most famous cases is
Stanley Kubrick Stanley Kubrick (; July 26, 1928 – March 7, 1999) was an American film director, producer, screenwriter, and photographer. Widely considered one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, his films, almost all of which are adaptations of nove ...
's '' 2001: A Space Odyssey'', where Kubrick opted for existing recordings of classical works, including pieces by composer György Ligeti rather than the score by Alex North, although Kubrick had also hired Frank Cordell to do a score. Other examples include '' Torn Curtain'' (Bernard Herrmann), ''
Troy Troy ( el, Τροία and Latin: Troia, Hittite language, Hittite: 𒋫𒊒𒄿𒊭 ''Truwiša'') or Ilion ( el, Ίλιον and Latin: Ilium, Hittite language, Hittite: 𒃾𒇻𒊭 ''Wiluša'') was an ancient city located at Hisarlik in prese ...
'' (Gabriel Yared), '' Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl'' (Alan Silvestri), Peter Jackson's ''
King Kong King Kong is a fictional giant monster resembling a gorilla, who has appeared in various media since 1933. He has been dubbed The Eighth Wonder of the World, a phrase commonly used within the franchise. His first appearance was in the novelizat ...
'' (Howard Shore), and '' The Bourne Identity'' (Carter Burwell).


Structure

Films often have different themes for important characters, events, ideas or objects, an idea often associated with
Wagner Wilhelm Richard Wagner ( ; ; 22 May 181313 February 1883) was a German composer, theatre director, polemicist, and conductor who is chiefly known for his operas (or, as some of his mature works were later known, "music dramas"). Unlike most op ...
's use of leitmotif. These may be played in different variations depending on the situation they represent, scattered amongst incidental music. The themes for specific characters or locations are known as a motif where the rest of the track is usually centered around the particular motif and the track develops in line with the motif. This common technique may often pass unnoticed by casual moviegoers, but has become well known among genre enthusiasts. One prominent example is
John Williams John Towner Williams (born February 8, 1932)Nylund, Rob (15 November 2022)Classic Connection review ''WBOI'' ("For the second time this year, the Fort Wayne Philharmonic honored American composer, conductor, and arranger John Williams, who wa ...
' score for the ''Star Wars'' saga, and the numerous themes in ''Star Wars'' music associated with individual characters such as
Darth Vader Darth Vader is a fictional Character (arts), character in the ''Star Wars'' franchise. The character is the central antagonist of the Star Wars original trilogy, original trilogy and, as Anakin Skywalker, is one of the main protagonists in the ...
,
Luke Skywalker Luke Skywalker is a fictional Character (arts), character and the protagonist of the Star Wars original trilogy, original film trilogy of the ''Star Wars'' franchise created by George Lucas. Portrayed by Mark Hamill, Luke first appeared in ''S ...
, and
Princess Leia Princess Leia Organa is a fictional character and one of the main protagonists in the ''Star Wars'' franchise, portrayed in films by Carrie Fisher. Introduced in the Star Wars (film), original ''Star Wars'' film in 1977, Leia is princess of th ...
. Similarly, the music of the ''Lord of the Rings'' film series featured recurring themes for many main characters and places. Another notable example is
Jerry Goldsmith Jerrald King Goldsmith (February 10, 1929July 21, 2004) was an American composer and conductor known for his work in film and television scoring. He composed scores for five films in the '' Star Trek'' franchise and three in the ''Rambo'' fran ...
's Klingon theme from '' Star Trek: The Motion Picture'' (1979), which later composers in the ''Star Trek'' film series quoted in their Klingon motifs, and which was included on numerous occasions as a theme for Worf, the franchise's most prominent Klingon character. Michael Giacchino employed character themes in the soundtrack for the 2009 animated film '' Up'', for which he received the Academy Award for Best Score. His orchestral soundtrack for the
television series A television show – or simply TV show – is any content produced for viewing on a television set which can be broadcast via over-the-air, satellite television, satellite, or cable television, cable, excluding breaking news, television adverti ...
'' Lost'' also depended heavily on character and situation-specific themes.


Source music

" Source music" (or a "source cue") comes from an on screen source that can actually be seen or that can be inferred (in academic
film theory Film theory is a set of scholarly approaches within the academic An academy (Attic Greek Attic Greek is the Greek language, Greek dialect of the regions of ancient Greece, ancient region of Attica, including the ''polis'' of classical Athen ...
such music is called " diegetic" music, as it emanates from the " diegesis" or "story world"). An example of "source music" is the use of the Frankie Valli song "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" in Michael Cimino's '' The Deer Hunter''.
Alfred Hitchcock Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock (13 August 1899 – 29 April 1980) was an English filmmaker. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in the history of cinema. In a career spanning six decades, he directed over 50 featur ...
's 1963 thriller '' The Birds'' is an example of a Hollywood film with no non-diegetic music whatsoever.
Dogme 95 Dogme 95 is a 1995 avant-garde filmmaking movement founded by the Denmark, Danish directors Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg, who created the "Dogme 95 Manifesto" and the "Vows of Chastity" ( da, kyskhedsløfter). These were rules to create ...
is a filmmaking movement, started in Denmark in 1995, with a manifesto that prohibits any use of non-diegetic music in its films.


Artistic merit


Music criticism

The artistic merits of film music are frequently debated. Some critics value it highly, pointing to music such as that written by Erich Wolfgang Korngold,
Aaron Copland Aaron Copland (, ; November 14, 1900December 2, 1990) was an American composer, composition teacher, writer, and later a conductor of his own and other American music. Copland was referred to by his peers and critics as "the Dean of American Com ...
, Bernard Herrmann, and others. Some consider film music to be a defining genre of classical music in the late 20th century, if only because it is the brand of classical music heard more often than any other. In some cases, film themes have become accepted into the canon of
classical music Classical music generally refers to the art music of the Western world, considered to be #Relationship to other music traditions, distinct from Western folk music or popular music traditions. It is sometimes distinguished as Western classical m ...
. These are mostly works from already noted composers who have done scores; for instance,
Sergei Prokofiev Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev; alternative transliterations of his name include ''Sergey'' or ''Serge'', and ''Prokofief'', ''Prokofieff'', or ''Prokofyev''., group=n (27 April .S. 15 April1891 – 5 March 1953) was a Russian composer ...
's score to ''
Alexander Nevsky Alexander Yaroslavich Nevsky (russian: Александр Ярославич Невский; ; 13 May 1221 – 14 November 1263) served as Prince of Novgorod (1236–40, 1241–56 and 1258–1259), Grand Prince of Kiev (1236–52) and Grand P ...
'', or
Vaughan Williams Ralph Vaughan Williams, (; 12 October 1872– 26 August 1958) was an English composer. His works include operas, ballets, chamber music, secular and religious vocal pieces and orchestral compositions including nine symphonies, written over ...
' score to '' Scott of the Antarctic''. Others see the great bulk of film music as meritless. They consider that much film music is derivative, borrowing heavily from previous works. Composers of film scores typically can produce about three or four per year. The most popular works by composers such as
John Williams John Towner Williams (born February 8, 1932)Nylund, Rob (15 November 2022)Classic Connection review ''WBOI'' ("For the second time this year, the Fort Wayne Philharmonic honored American composer, conductor, and arranger John Williams, who wa ...
are still far from entering the accepted classical canon, although there is a growing appreciation for the broader contribution of composers such as Williams among some classical composers and critics; for example, the Norwegian contemporary classical composer
Marcus Paus Marcus Nicolay Paus (; born 14 October 1979) is a Norwegian composer and one of the most performed contemporary Scandinavian composers. As a classical contemporary composer he is noted as a representative of a reorientation toward tradition, tonal ...
has said that he considers Williams to be "one of the great composers of any century" who has "found a very satisfying way of embodying dissonance and avant-garde techniques within a larger tonal framework" and who "might also have come the closest of any composer to realizing the old Schoenbergian icutopia that children of the future would be whistling 12-tone rows." Even so, considering they are often the most popular modern compositions of classical music known to the general public, major orchestras sometimes perform concerts of such music, as do pops orchestras.


Preservation efforts

In 1983, a non-profit organization, the Society for the Preservation of Film Music, was formed to preserve the "byproducts" of creating a film score, including the music manuscripts (written music) and other documents and studio recordings generated in the process of composing and recording scores which, in some instances, have been discarded by movie studios. The written music must be kept to perform the music on concert programs and to make new recordings of it. Sometimes only after decades has an archival recording of a film score been released on CD.


History

The origins of film music are disputed. According to Kurt London, film music "began not as a result of any artistic urge, but from a dire need of something which would drown the noise made by the projector. For in those times there was as yet no sound-absorbent walls between the projection machine and the auditorium. This painful noise disturbed visual enjoyment to no small extent. Instinctively cinema proprietors had recourse to music, and it was the right way, using an agreeable sound to neutralize one less agreeable." On the contrary, film historian James Wierzbicki asserts that early film showings (such as the Lumier brothers’ first film screening) would have been social events to the capacity that they had no need to mask the sounds of a projector mechanism. As these early films began to move out of exhibition spaces and into
vaudeville Vaudeville (; ) is a theatre, theatrical genre of variety show, variety entertainment born in France at the end of the 19th century. A vaudeville was originally a comedy without psychological or moral intentions, based on a comical situation: ...
theaters, the role of film began to shift as well. Given that vaudeville theaters typically employed musicians, it is likely that this is the point when it became commonplace for film to be accompanied by music. Audiences at the time would have come to expect music in the vaudeville space, and as such live musical accompaniment to films grew out naturally. Before the age of recorded sound in motion pictures, efforts were taken to provide suitable music for films, usually through the services of an in-house pianist or organist, and, in some cases, entire orchestras, typically given cue sheets as a guide. A pianist was present to perform at the Lumiere brothers' first film screening in 1895. In 1914, The Oz Film Manufacturing Company sent full-length scores by Louis F. Gottschalk for their films. Other examples of this include Victor Herbert's score in 1915 to '' The Fall of a Nation'' (a sequel to ''
The Birth of a Nation ''The Birth of a Nation'', originally called ''The Clansman'', is a 1915 American Silent film, silent Epic film, epic Drama (film and television), drama film directed by D. W. Griffith and starring Lillian Gish. The screenplay is adapted from ...
'') and Camille Saint-Saëns' music for '' The Assassination of the Duke of Guise'' in 1908. It was preceded by Nathaniel D. Mann's score for '' The Fairylogue and Radio-Plays'' by four months, but that was a mixture of interrelated stage and film performance in the tradition of old
magic lantern The magic lantern, also known by its Latin name , is an early type of image projector that used pictures—paintings, prints, or photographs—on transparent plates (usually made of glass), one or more lens (optics), lenses, and a light source. ...
shows. Most accompaniments at this time, these examples notwithstanding, comprised pieces by famous composers, also including studies. These were often used to form catalogues of photoplay music, which had different subsections broken down by 'mood' and genre: dark, sad, suspense, action, chase, etc. German cinema, which was highly influential in the era of silent movies, provided some original scores such as Fritz Lang's movies '' Die Nibelungen'' (1924) and ''
Metropolis A metropolis () is a large city or conurbation which is a significant economic, political, and cultural center for a country or region, and an important hub for regional or international connections, commerce, and communications. A big ci ...
'' (1927) which were accompanied by original full scale orchestral and leitmotific scores written by Gottfried Huppertz, who also wrote piano-versions of his music, for playing in smaller cinemas. Friedrich W. Murnau's movies '' Nosferatu'' (1922 – music by Hans Erdmann) and '' Faust – Eine deutsche Volkssage'' (1926 – music by Werner Richard Heymann) also had original scores written for them. Other films like Murnau's '' Der letzte Mann'' contained a mixing of original compositions (in this case by Giuseppe Becce) and library music / folk tunes, which were artistically included into the score by the composer. Much of this influence can be traced further back to German Romantic forms of music.
Richard Wagner Wilhelm Richard Wagner ( ; ; 22 May 181313 February 1883) was a German composer, theatre director, polemicist, and conductor who is chiefly known for his operas (or, as some of his mature works were later known, "music dramas"). Unlike most o ...
’s ideas on
Gesamtkunstwerk A ''Gesamtkunstwerk'' (, literally 'total artwork', translated as 'total work of art', 'ideal work of art', 'universal artwork', 'synthesis of the arts', 'comprehensive artwork', or 'all-embracing art form') is a work of art that makes use of al ...
and leitmotif in his operas were later picked up on by prominent film composer Max Steiner. Steiner and his contemporary Erich Korngold both immigrated from Vienna, bringing with them musical structures and ideologies of the late Romantic period. In France, before the advent of talkies,
Erik Satie Eric Alfred Leslie Satie (, ; ; 17 May 18661 July 1925), who signed his name Erik Satie after 1884, was a French composer and pianist. He was the son of a French father and a British mother. He studied at the Conservatoire de Paris, Paris Conse ...
composed what many consider the first "frame by frame" synchronous film score for director René Clair's avant-garde short '' Entr'acte'' (1924). Anticipating "spotting" techniques and the inconsistencies of projection speeds in screenings of silent films, Satie took precise timings for each sequence and created a flexible, aleatoric score of brief, evocative motifs which could be repeated and varied in tempo as required. American composers Virgil Thomson and
Aaron Copland Aaron Copland (, ; November 14, 1900December 2, 1990) was an American composer, composition teacher, writer, and later a conductor of his own and other American music. Copland was referred to by his peers and critics as "the Dean of American Com ...
cited Satie's music for ''Entr'acte'' as a major influence on their own forays into film scoring. When sound came to movies, director Fritz Lang barely used music in his movies anymore. Apart from Peter Lorre whistling a short piece from Edvard Grieg's ''
Peer Gynt ''Peer Gynt'' (, ) is a five- act play in verse by the Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen published in 1876. Written in Norwegian, it is one of the most widely performed Norwegian plays. Ibsen believed '' Per Gynt'', the Norwegian fairy tale o ...
'', Lang's movie '' M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder'' was lacking musical accompaniment completely and '' Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse'' only included one original piece written for the movie by Hans Erdmann played at the very beginning and end of the movie. One of the rare occasions on which music occurs in the movie is a song one of the characters sings, that Lang uses to put emphasis on the man's insanity, similar to the use of the whistling in ''M''. Early attempts at the synchronization of sound and image were failures, in large part due to mechanical and technological limitations. Phonographs, the only medium available for recorded sound in the early twentieth century, were difficult if not impossible to synchronize with the rotation of film projectors. In the cases where an attempt was made, sound was further limited by an inability to properly amplify it. However, in the 1920s improvements in radio technology allowed for the amplification of sound, and the invention of sound on film allowed for the synchronization thereof. A landmark event in music synchronization with the action in film was achieved in the score composed by Max Steiner for David O. Selznick's 1933 ''King Kong.'' A fine example of this is when the aborigine chief slowly approaches the unwanted visitors to Skull Island who are filming the natives' sacred rites. As he strides closer and closer, each footfall is reinforced by a background chord. Though "the scoring of narrative features during the 1940s lagged decades behind technical innovations in the field of concert music," the 1950s saw the rise of the
modernist Modernism is both a philosophy, philosophical and arts movement that arose from broad transformations in Western world, Western society during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The movement reflected a desire for the creation of new fo ...
film score. Director Elia Kazan was open to the idea of jazz influences and dissonant scoring and worked with Alex North, whose score for '' A Streetcar Named Desire'' (1951) combined dissonance with elements of blues and jazz. Kazan also approached
Leonard Bernstein Leonard Bernstein ( ; August 25, 1918 – October 14, 1990) was an American conductor, composer, pianist, music educator, author, and humanitarian. Considered to be one of the most important conductors of his time, he was the first America ...
to score ''
On the Waterfront ''On the Waterfront'' is a 1954 American crime drama film, directed by Elia Kazan and written by Budd Schulberg. It stars Marlon Brando and features Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb, Rod Steiger, Pat Henning, and Eva Marie Saint in her film debut. The ...
'' (1954) and the result was reminiscent of earlier works by
Aaron Copland Aaron Copland (, ; November 14, 1900December 2, 1990) was an American composer, composition teacher, writer, and later a conductor of his own and other American music. Copland was referred to by his peers and critics as "the Dean of American Com ...
and
Igor Stravinsky Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky (6 April 1971) was a Russian composer, pianist and conductor, later of French (from 1934) and American (from 1945) citizenship. He is widely considered one of the most important and influential 20th-century clas ...
with its "jazz-based harmonies and exciting additive rhythms." A year later, Leonard Rosenman, inspired by
Arnold Schoenberg Arnold Schoenberg or Schönberg (, ; ; 13 September 187413 July 1951) was an Austrian-American composer, music theorist, teacher, writer, and painter. He is widely considered one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. He was as ...
, experimented with atonality in his scores for '' East of Eden'' (1955) and '' Rebel Without a Cause'' (1955). In his ten-year collaboration with
Alfred Hitchcock Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock (13 August 1899 – 29 April 1980) was an English filmmaker. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in the history of cinema. In a career spanning six decades, he directed over 50 featur ...
, Bernard Herrmann experimented with ideas in ''
Vertigo Vertigo is a condition where a person has the sensation of movement or of surrounding objects moving when they are not. Often it feels like a spinning or swaying movement. This may be associated with nausea, vomiting, sweating, or difficulties w ...
'' (1958) and '' Psycho'' (1960). The use of non-diegetic jazz was another modernist innovation, such as jazz star
Duke Ellington Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (April 29, 1899 – May 24, 1974) was an American Jazz piano, jazz pianist, composer, and leader of his eponymous Big band, jazz orchestra from 1923 through the rest of his life. Born and raised in Washington, D.C ...
's score for
Otto Preminger Otto Ludwig Preminger ( , ; 5 December 1905 – 23 April 1986) was an Austrian-American theatre and film director, film producer, and actor. He directed more than 35 feature films in a five-decade career after leaving the theatre. He first gai ...
's '' Anatomy of a Murder'' (1959).


Composers


Academy Award nominees and winners


Box office champions

The following list includes all composers who have scored one of the 100 highest grossing films of all time but have never been nominated for a major award (Oscar, Golden Globe etc.). * William Alwyn – '' Swiss Family Robinson'' (1960) * Joseph DeBeasi – '' American Sniper'' (2014) * David Buttolph – '' House of Wax'' (1953) * Brad Fiedel – '' Terminator 2: Judgment Day'' (1991) * Alexander Janko – '' My Big Fat Greek Wedding'' (2002) *
Bill Justis William Everett Justis Jr. (October 14, 1926 – July 16, 1982) was an American pioneer rock and roll musician, composer, and arrangement, musical arranger, best known for his 1957 Grammy Hall of Fame song, "Raunchy (instrumental), Raunchy". As a ...
 – '' Smokey and the Bandit'' (1977) * Harald Kloser – '' The Day After Tomorrow'' (2004),
2012 File:2012 Events Collage V3.png, From left, clockwise: The passenger cruise ship Costa Concordia lies capsized after the Costa Concordia disaster; Damage to Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, New Jersey as a result of Hurricane Sandy; People gather ...
(2009) * Heitor Pereira – '' Despicable Me'' (2010), '' The Smurfs'' (2011), '' Despicable Me 2'' (2013) * Trevor Rabin – '' Armageddon'' (1998), '' National Treasure: Book of Secrets'' (2007) *
Thomas Wanker Thomas Wander, (Graz, 19 April 1973) also credited as Thomas Wanker, is an Austrian-born film composer, composer for film and television. While his original plans were to play piano in a jazz band, as a teenager he took notice of the emotional re ...
 – ''
2012 File:2012 Events Collage V3.png, From left, clockwise: The passenger cruise ship Costa Concordia lies capsized after the Costa Concordia disaster; Damage to Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, New Jersey as a result of Hurricane Sandy; People gather ...
'' (2009) *
Pharrell Williams Pharrell Lanscilo Williams (; born April 5, 1973) is an American record producer, rapper, singer, and songwriter. Alongside close colleague Chad Hugo, he formed the Hip hop music, hip hop and Contemporary R&B, R&B production duo the Neptunes i ...
 – '' Despicable Me'' (2010), '' Despicable Me 2'' (2013) * Chris Wilson – '' My Big Fat Greek Wedding'' (2002)


Relation with directors

Sometimes, a
composer A composer is a person who writes music. The term is especially used to indicate composers of Classical music, Western classical music, or those who are composers by occupation. Many composers are, or were, also skilled performers of music. E ...
may unite with a director by composing the score for many films of a same director.
John Williams John Towner Williams (born February 8, 1932)Nylund, Rob (15 November 2022)Classic Connection review ''WBOI'' ("For the second time this year, the Fort Wayne Philharmonic honored American composer, conductor, and arranger John Williams, who wa ...
' professional relationship with
Steven Spielberg Steven Allan Spielberg (; born December 18, 1946) is an American director, writer, and producer. A major figure of the New Hollywood era and pioneer of the modern Blockbuster (entertainment), blockbuster, he is the most List of highest-grossi ...
and
George Lucas George Walton Lucas Jr. (born May 14, 1944) is an American filmmaker. Lucas is best known for creating the ''Star Wars'' and ''Indiana Jones'' franchises and founding Lucasfilm, LucasArts, Industrial Light & Magic and THX. He served as chairm ...
is one of the most prominent in film history, with Williams scoring all but five of Spielberg's films, and all the installments of both of Lucas' blockbuster franchises (''
Star Wars ''Star Wars'' is an American epic film, epic space opera multimedia franchise created by George Lucas, which began with the Star Wars (film), eponymous 1977 film and quickly became a worldwide popular culture, pop-culture Cultural impact of S ...
'' and ''
Indiana Jones ''Indiana Jones'' is an American media franchise based on the adventures of Indiana Jones (character), Dr. Henry Walton "Indiana" Jones, Jr., a fictional professor of archaeology, that began in 1981 with the film ''Raiders of the Lost Ark''. ...
''); Williams won all five of his Oscars in his collaborations with the two. Additionally, Danny Elfman did the score for all the movies directed by
Tim Burton Timothy Walter Burton (born August 25, 1958) is an American filmmaker and animator. He is known for his gothic fantasy and horror films such as '' Beetlejuice'' (1988), '' Edward Scissorhands'' (1990), '' The Nightmare Before Christmas'' (199 ...
, with the exception of '' Ed Wood'' (score by Howard Shore) and '' Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street'' (score by
Stephen Sondheim Stephen Joshua Sondheim (; March 22, 1930November 26, 2021) was an American composer and lyricist. One of the most important figures in twentieth-century musical theater, Sondheim is credited for having "reinvented the American musical" with sho ...
). Another documented instance is the relationship of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross with David Fincher.


Production music

Many companies provide music to various film, TV and commercial projects for a fee. Sometimes called library music, the music is owned by production music libraries and licensed to customers for use in film, television, radio and other media. Examples of firms include Warner Chappell Production Music, Jingle Punks, Associated Production Music, FirstCom Music, VideoHelper and Extreme Music. Unlike popular and classical music publishers, who typically own less than 50 percent of the copyright in a composition, music production libraries own all of the copyrights of their music, meaning that it can be licensed without seeking the composer's permission, as is necessary in licensing music from normal publishers. This is because virtually all music created for music libraries is done on a work for hire basis. Production music is therefore a very convenient medium for media producers – they can be assured that they will be able to license any piece of music in the library at a reasonable rate. Production music libraries will typically offer a broad range of musical styles and genres, enabling producers and editors to find much of what they need in the same library. Music libraries vary in size from a few hundred tracks up to many thousands. The first production music library was set up by De Wolfe Music in 1927 with the advent of sound in film, the company originally scored music for use in silent film. Another music library was set up by Ralph Hawkes of Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers in the 1930s. APM, the largest US library, has over 250,000 tracks.


See also

* AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores * List of film score composers * List of film director and composer collaborations * '' Score'', a 2016 documentary film about film scores * '' Film Score Monthly''


References


Further reading

* Andersen, Martin Stig.
Electroacoustic Sound and Audiovisual Structure in Film
. ''eContact! 12.4 — Perspectives on the Electroacoustic Work / Perspectives sur l’œuvre électroacoustique'' (August 2010). Montréal: CEC. * Dorschel, Andreas (ed.). ''Tonspuren. Musik im Film: Fallstudien 1994–2001''. Universal Edition, Vienna 2005 (Studien zur Wertungsforschung 46). . Scrutinizes film score practice at the turn from the 20th to 21st century. In German. * Elal, Sammy and Kristian Dupont (eds.).
The Essentials of Scoring Film
. ''Minimum Noise''. Copenhagen, Denmark. * Harris, Steve. ''Film, Television, and Stage Music on Phonograph Records: A Discography''. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 1988. . * MacDonald, Laurence E. (1998
''The Invisible Art of Film Music: A Comprehensive History''
Scarecrow Press. . * Holly Rogers and Jeremy Barham, ''The Music and Sound of Experimental Film''. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. * Slowik, Michael. ''After the Silents: Hollywood Film Music in the Early Sound Era, 1926–1934.'' New York: Columbia University Press, 2014. * Spande, Robert
"The Three Regimes – A Theory of Film Music"
Minneapolis, 1996. * Stoppe, Sebastian, ed. ''Film in concert: film scores and their relation to classical concert music''. Glückstadt: Verlag Werner Hülsbusch, 2014. . * Stubblevine, Donald J. ''Cinema Sheet Music: A Comprehensive Listing of Published Film Music, from ''Squaw Man'' (1914) to ''Batman'' (1989)''. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 1991. . * Various contributors iki
Films with Significant Electroacoustic Content
. ''eContact! 8.4 — Ressources éducatives / Educational Resources'' (September 2006). Montréal: CEC.


External links

; Film music organizations
Film Music Society

International Film Music Critics Association
; Journals (online and print) *
Film Music Magazine
' *

' *
The Journal of Film Music
' *
UnderScores : le magazine de la musique de film
' ; Education *
International School for Film Score Composition and Production
' ; Language * {{Authority control