I'm sorry, venerated composer
Scoring a movie is a seriously weird task. I want to draw attention to the wonderful choices that great composers have made, the meh choices that meh composers have made, and most importantly, how these choices impact the story unfolding before your eyes. Through these examples, you will learn (or more likely, you'll watch as I learn) what film composers do to emotionally manipulate you and maybe how they could do it SO much better. I will honor each of the respectable composers discussed herein by throwing out their music and replacing it with a
relevant and poignant silly track of my own.
(Disclaimer: I don't claim ownership of any of this video footage, or any audio used in conjunction that has not been written/produced/published by me.)
sorry, John Williams (part one)
John Williams is perhaps the most prolific (and successful) film composer ever, and one of the most well-versed, thoughtful, and talented musicians of our time. End of discussion.
One of my favorite J-Will scores is for the way underrated Speilberg sci-fi (and "neo-noir"...?) movie Minority Report (2002). So many subtle, emotional moments in a score that uses a broad pallate of techniques to create a modern, totally un-cliche sound, and, and, I want to be John Williams when I grow up. Feast upon this delicious action scene, and pay attention to how frantic and important it feels because of the music:
Turns out I haven't stopped seeking out sci-fi, action, or crime drama in any way (yes film industry, more of these please) but I've noticed a trend in the music. Maybe it's okay that trailers sound bombastic, epic, and driving; but some composers seem to be fixed on the idea that 4-5 notes, a chord or two, and a bunch of vaguely ethnic drums is all you need for your action scene, or maybe your giant "action scene" of a movie. Let's not "fake" intensity (with what can only be referred to as "Brass Whomps") when you can get it organically from great string writing and innovative orchestration. Okay so maybe just this one time:
(sorry about the egregious lack of sound effects coming up)
Sorry, John Williams from Alec Galambos on Vimeo.
Not naming any names, but you and I both know what's going on here. Don't let these hotshot hollywood composers swindle you with their big brass sounds (re: Whomps) and agressive bass drums. Take a step back and listen to some John Williams, realize how much more exciting it is, and then join me in brainstorming a way to make sure he lives forever.
(If it weren't on this blog, I'd think my track would be what you hear on loop while you're waiting in line for a roller coaster. But if you do like that feeling, get it here by itself.)
sorry, Bill Conti
In 1999, Bill Conti (also known for such awesome as Rocky and The Right Stuff) wrote a dynamic, beautiful score to The Thomas Crown Affair, a sexy movie starring James Bond and Rene Russo. The instrumentation varies throughout, but one of my favorite moments is right at the beginning. The opening credit sequence features a piece for multiple pianos, recorded as layers on top of each other:
For me, the multiple 'layers' of piano (and how they interact with each other) add complexity and depth to this scene, which focuses on the inner workings of Thomas "James Bond" Crown's mind. To try and understand what makes this track so great, I broke it down and rebuilt it using the most versatile, emotional instrument I know - the voice. Although, in lieu of a versitile, emotional voice, I used my own:
Sorry, Bill Conti from Alec Galambos on Vimeo.
Okay so maybe piano was a better choice here. The voice definitely draws attention to the complexity though - you can hopefully hear the individual layers a lot more clearly this way. Maybe this means I should eventually look at an example of how multi-part vocals can actually work really well in a score... (cliffhanger!)
(If you'd like to see how this works, here is my written score for Bill Conti's original track, and my standalone vocal recording.)