Sunday, 10 February 2013

Expressing The Inexpressible

It seems appropriate that this week we take a focus and look at music in film, and specifically, film scoring. I had a great session with William's Lullaby composer, Paul Barton this weekend. He has laid out a score from beginning to end and it is now about fine-tuning what is there and adjusting some of the works, but he is definitely rounding home on what is a monumental achievement for a young musician -- a complete, feature length film score!

And it really is beautiful. I can't wait to share some of it with you. Paul has perfectly captured the tension, mystery, beauty and tragedy that is William's Lullaby. How do you express grief through music? How do you describe the innocence of a child and contrast that with the jaded reality of an adult through musical phrases? Paul's done it. I feel confident in saying that I think it's really going to blow a lot of people away and I hope this turns out to be a big opportunity for Paul in the future. He has certainly put forward the effort.

As I write this, however, I find it hard to describe the working relationship between a Director and a Composer. In all honesty, it is quite a difficult process to come up with the score for a film. It's very difficult and rather strange to describe music that simply does not exist yet, and to try and have working discussions with another collaborator based on that. A lot of it comes down to expressing feelings and emotions, but that can be dangerous too. You can be too on the nose with a score and that is something we tried very hard to avoid with William's Lullaby.

I love music in film. I think it can make or break a film. Music can save a film that is headed for disaster. It can elevate to a level beyond what it was originally capable of. It can also ruin a potentially good movie. Wrong cues, over-scoring, under-scoring. It's quite a delicate process. It's no wonder so many young filmmakers gravitate to copyright music for their film projects -- only to be discouraged when they find out they can't use it. The Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" adds just that perfect amount of spark, cheeky sarcasm and intensity to a scene about slimy Wall Street business dealers. Although Glee seems to be a little trigger happy with their iPod now, that opening scene in the pilot set to Earth, Wind and Fire's "Shining Star" had just the right kind of attitude to introduce you to a new set of characters. Or how about the brilliant use of Crystal Blue Persuasion in the latest episode of BREAKING BAD?

Or this unbelievable use of The Rolling Stone's "Thru and Thru" in The Sopranos:

I think Scorsese is brilliant with his use of licensed music, from the very beginning with Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore: 

To his incredible choices of music cues in Goodfellas. Note this scene where with one music cue, one perfectly paced push-in and the brilliance of De Niro's silent acting, we quickly realize everything going through this character's head:

But using pre-existing music is all well and good. And there will be a touch of that in Lullaby. Those songs evoke feelings of their own and using them in a scene is a great way of making your audience feel a certain way based on that song. There has to be a reason you paid thousands of dollars for it, right?

What about an original score? That's tricky. We're now talking about music people have not heard yet; music that audiences will not have a pre-exisiting connection with; music that should not over-state or under-state a scene. I found this brilliant round-table discussion with the 2012 Oscar nominated film composers. If you have the time to watch it, or are able to play it in the background while you do your laundry, cook or read this and other articles, I recommend it:

These are the big guys! The masters. They usually stand before an orchestra of 100-200 musicians, in front of a gigantic screen projecting the picture-locked film which they play along to. An example of an orchestral film scoring session can be seen here:

Paul doesn't have the luxury of an orchestra like that. Our scoring sessions, and his work-flow is similar to the scoring of the Oscar-nominated film Beasts of the Southern Wild. It's quite incredible what technology can do now. Take a look:

Lots of surprises to come with the music of William's Lullaby. We are working hard to make it a very powerful and visceral experience for you, the viewer.

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