the composer as "capturer" or "creator"
Archive of old forum. No more postings.
Please visit our new forum, The MovieMusic Lobby, to post new topics.
Topic: the composer as "capturer" or "creator"
One of our resident film music composers in another thread ("...news event...") hit on something that was once addressed in the other 'board. It is something that continually fascinates and helps me appreciate the art of film scoring:
Does a cue/cues or score capture the mood of an on-screen character or create a mood for the audience to indulge in? For instance, for the famous shower scene in Psycho Herrmann composed music that captured Marion Crane's terror; her terror, in turn, became our terror. In Poltergeist, Goldsmith composed a cue ("The Light") that captured wonder and awe in both Dr. Lesh (Beatrice Straight) and the little boy as she described the loneliness and yearning of the lost souls; their mood, again, became our mood.
On the other hand, think of Herrmann's 'slashing' title music for Psycho and Goldsmith's theme for Carol-Ann. These are sheer mood creators. Powerful ones, too. Get the idea? I think this is neat because you can almost classify any single piece of film music according to probable composer's intents and thus get at the very essence of the function of music in film. And for those of the stand-alone soundtrack "heterodoxy", you can just imagine what the composer was trying to do & create your own movie of the mind.
I love the way Herrmann blurs the line between capturing & creating; his is music of intense duality. Williams is a flat-out mood creator extraordinaire; think of Raiders' "The Map Room" and choral extravaganzas like Jedi's climactic duel!
[This message has been edited by Howard L (edited 25 April 2000).]
posted 04-25-2000 09:36 AM PT (US) Marcelo Ferreyra
"Does a cue/cues or score capture the mood of an on-screen character or create a mood for the audience to indulge in?"
I think that the score does both'.
Usually opening titles create mood
but in the case of capturing the mood
for a scene,perhaps we should call it
enhancing the mood.
But this is when music and film are together.
When we listen to the score alone
the music "captures" the mood that was in the picture.
In other words we can see the scene without
posted 04-25-2000 11:40 AM PT (US) Marian Schedenig
I'm having some problems differentiating between creating and capturing. Like Marcelo said, I think it's first of all about enhancing the mood, sometimes enhancing a mood that isn't clearly noticeable without the score.
A good example would be at the end of the animated Lord of the Rings film, when Theoden discovers the vast Orc army right before the Riders of Rohan arrive. You wouldn't really notice his despair, but the score nearly makes you cry (one of the few moments of real film scoring - as opposed to simple film music - that I noticed as a child).
Or Williams' The Fury, the vision sequences for example. The directing, editing and camera work make you feel weird, but the music enhances it perfectly.
Likewise, another Williams example, the sequences from Jurassic Park, when we first see the dinosaurs. We see how amazed the characters in the movie are, but what fills us, the audience, with awe is the music. Still, it's a feeling that the visuals intend to give us, but cannot do on it's own.
There are a few examples of scores which really set the mood. Magnolia, which I saw just yesterday, has an interesting scoring approach. At one point of the movie, there's a very long rhythmic underscore that just makes a weird effect, sometimes it's even mixed with source songs played in the movie. The usage of Somewhere over the Rainbow in Face/Off, although not original music, is another example.
And then there are examples where the music just gets persuasive. Like in The Rock or Armageddon. Those movies constantly annoyed me, but the score tried to make me feel proud of the heroics of the characters. I don't mind being influenced by the score (as some people seem to do), but I hate it if a score tries to make me appreciate something that I completeley dislike.
posted 04-25-2000 01:15 PM PT (US) Bulldog
This is just going to seem like another criticism of Williams here. I really wish that other composers would score some of the movies I tend to watch...Williams unfortunately just seems to be on the right ones all the time (never thought I find something bad about THAT!).
I've noticed that very seldom in the films Williams scores does he actually write music that GOES BEYOND the mood of the visual--telling us something that we can't infer otherwise. Now, before I ostracize him for this entirely, I should say that directors like Spielberg are much more talented and capable visually than 99% of his peers. So, in trying to defend Williams at the same time that I'm identifying a concern of mine, I want to be as fair as possible (ALWAYS I try).
I'm just trying to think to myself at the moment of times when Williams has gone beyond the visual or dialogue that I can recollect...
I'm not having a good deal of luck.
But I think about Goldsmith--
lots of these "creative" times abound...
(I'll leave the specific scene recollections up to you all out there...)
PLANET OF THE APES
THE WIND AND THE LION
THE GHOST AND DARKNESS
FIRST KNIGHT (more foreshadowing though)
...gosh, as been said before about Goldsmith in virtually every one of these types of threads--too many to name!
In some cases, as said, the director may have preferred Goldsmith to make a more subtle musical statement or something. So the director could have still inferred Goldsmith's "creation"
I gotta run. Hope I didn't leave too much detail out and that I'm not enraging a lot of boarders out there!
posted 04-25-2000 02:49 PM PT (US) Marian Schedenig
Planet of the Apes! A score that virtually DEFINES the mood of a film! Right from the beginning, the score invokes an uneasy feeling that I haven't experienced in any other movie or score.
NP: Don Juan (Richard Strauss; Berliner Philharmoniker/Karajan)
posted 04-25-2000 03:16 PM PT (US) Chris Kinsinger
Bulldog makes an interesting point. For me, the difference between Williams & Goldsmith is like the difference between Van Gogh and Rembrandt. I love them both. Both are equally talented and both produced magnificent works of art. But I find Van Gogh's work more challenging and daring...daring even to be lousy (my favorite painting instructor used to shout, "DARE TO BE LOUSY!" She wanted her students to take risks; to be unafraid).
Williams' music follows a more classicly traditional path, while Goldsmith often takes great risks. I love listening to both composer's works, but I find Goldsmith to be more challenging, more daring.
When it comes to "creating" or "capturing", I don't know which fits better because I see the musical score as an integral ingredient in the whole recipe. Imagine Eggs Benedict without Hollandaise, or a chocolate cake without icing. A Reese's Peanut Butter cup tastes great because of the tiny dash of salt in the recipe. If you've ever combined plain peanut butter with chocolate, you know exactly what I mean. It's that tiny dash of salt that makes the taste perfect.
Sometimes a musical score is like Hollandaise (Star Wars), sometimes like a thick, bold chocolate icing (Herrmann's Mysterious Island), or sometimes it's just that dash of salt (J.N. Howard's The Sixth Sense).
When all of the ingredients are of the highest quality, you've got a classic.
Am I making any sense, or just making everybody hungry?
[This message has been edited by Chris Kinsinger (edited 25 April 2000).]
posted 04-25-2000 06:25 PM PT (US) H Rocco
Fortunately, I'm already full ...
I think I understand the distinction Howard's trying to draw, but I think it's so fine as to be infinitesimal. It is also deeply, deeply subjective (though I thoroughly agree with his examples -- I'm particularly glad he brought up "The Light," a heartbreaking piece of work that's one of my favorite bits in POLTERGEIST.)
"Capturing or creating" -- if I'm getting this distinction right, here's a couple of contrasting examples from the same score, Goldsmith's PAPILLON. Goldsmith must "create" the moments throughout "Gift From the Sea," since there's no dialogue at all, and the action might be completely incoherent without some kind of illustration, which he does masterfully. On the other hand, Goldsmith "captures" the feeling of desolation Papillon feels when he sees the coconut bag break up in "Cruel Sea," and a bit earlier, his elation when he spots old pal Dega during "Reunion" (he also manages to "capture" Dega's feeling of enfeebled panic -- "I wish ya haddna come HERE!")
Perhaps an example of Goldsmith trying to do BOTH in the same cue, and not quite pulling it off (by his own reckoning) was the "Hospital" sequence in PATTON, where he was trying, in a way, to sucker the audience into feeling "what a great guy he was," and then altering the tone dramatically when Patton winds up slapping the soldier. Goldsmith finally decided there was no way to do it properly, and felt they should leave the scene unscored. (I found very touching the anecdote of director Franklin J. Schaffner attempting to find some way to salvage the cue -- it was Goldsmith who finally said, "Frank, it's never gonna work, but I'll put it on the album, okay?" I like Goldsmith's lack of vanity about this, and Schaffner's simultaneous solicitude in trying to save what Goldsmith had written. We will rarely see the likes of that collaboration again. Hell, we rarely saw it before.)
I've never played "The Hospital" against the scene it was written for, but I'd be very very curious to try it.
NP: nothing, but the FSM version of PATTON's somewhere in the pile ...
posted 04-25-2000 07:34 PM PT (US) Chris Kinsinger
I never knew that about Patton.
"The Hospital" is a favorite cue of mine, and you have just now catapulted it into infinity with that wonderful slice of film history.
posted 04-25-2000 10:00 PM PT (US) H Rocco
Christopher, you must not have heard Goldsmith's commentary on the PATTON laserdisc. (Presumably retained on the DVD.) I thought it was an old story ... well, I'm always happy to share.
posted 04-25-2000 10:52 PM PT (US) Bulldog
Williams does really go beyond the visual with that major-key treatment of the Emperor's theme in EPISODE ONE and he creates mood often times in his score for SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.
And Goldsmith does always do both. It's not like he doesn't rely on that visual, etc. either.
That's important to remember.
Help me out here: I was thinking about ST: TMP and couldn't really think of a moment where Goldsmith did what I was describing earlier...I could just be overlooking the obvious....
Aw, shucks, even now I can't just off of the top of my head think very clearly about this.
posted 04-26-2000 05:06 AM PT (US) Marian Schedenig
Originally posted by Bulldog:
Williams does really go beyond the visual with that major-key treatment of the Emperor's theme in EPISODE ONE.
Remember that the official statement is that there is not Emperor's Theme in that cue. Although I can't really believe that. I mean, it IS there, and even if it's a coincidence, they must have heard it. So why say it isn't there?
Still, is this really creating a mood? It's a impressive little hint for those who don't only know the Star Wars storyline well enough, but also the score. But if you don't notice it (and I didn't the first x times I played the CD, then suddenly it sounded familiar), it can't "create" something, I guess.
NP: The Egyptian (Herrmann/Newman)
posted 04-26-2000 07:48 AM PT (US) Bulldog
The answer is no, not really, Marian.
Gotta try and stick up for Williams when I can, as much as I tend to be critical. But it is going beyond the visual with that statement--I don't care what anyone officially says either.
Besides, how could anyone not take credit for such a nifty scoring idea?!!!
posted 04-26-2000 12:05 PM PT (US) Howard L
Oh yes, H Rocco, you are on the right track. When I say "capture" I'm referring specifically to the feeling of a character on-film vs. "creating" or enhancing a mood. One's more internal, the other's distinctly external. Think of the music with the sea and the passing years toward the end of The Ghost & Mrs. Muir as a prime example of Herrmann creating a mood. Perhaps Barry's "Flying Over Africa" in Out Of Africa's an example as well. The line can be blurry. But in terms of the composer as "capturer" (or rather, "captor"), again think of the scene in To Kill A Mockingbird when Jem and Scout discover the soap dolls in the tree ("Tree Treasures" on the soundtrack?). Here Bernstein clearly captured the sense of Jem's & Scout's wonder and amazement.
I don't consider it disparaging to call Williams a masterful mood creator. Barry is another one. There is much to be said for how much what they do brings to a picture. Williams does blur the lines; I think his Empire Of The Sun fits in well here. As would the rest of Bernstein's Mockingbird. But the trick is to pick a cue and see where it might fit. Barry was a captor with his music in Dances With Wolves during the scene when they discover the buffalo carcasses strewn across the ground. His music captured the sense of the tribe's devastation. The rest of the score, or most of it off the top of my head is pure mood material, a mood which he created outright or may have enhanced. Scores of this latter nature lend themeselves to speculation as to what mood another composer might have created for the film, which would more than likely make it a different motion picture experience altogether.
Alex North represents for me one of the consistent captors. He was terrific at composing "psychological music" for individual characters. Can't be by accident that he worked on so many stage-to-screen productions. In terms of creating a mood via opening credits music, one of my favorites is Alfred Newman. But that swirly opening of North By Northwest...damn, that Herrmann's everywhere!
Sure hope I'm not muddying the waters; brainstorming as we roll along...
[This message has been edited by Howard L (edited 26 April 2000).]
posted 04-26-2000 04:17 PM PT (US) H Rocco
This is quite an esoteric thread, but probably that's why I like it, and so I hope we can keep it rolling a while.
Howard, you mentioned GHOST & MRS. MUIR -- a movie I've never seen, though I have the Varese album (the OST, not the Bernstein, though I had that one once, it got lost in the mail). I'm stealing this observation entirely, but I read an analysis of the score MANY years ago, by a fellow named Steven J. Lehti (you wouldn't be lurking here, wouldja Steve?), who observed that Mrs. Muir's failed love affair is traced very carefully through the score ... that at first the music signifies her hope and genuine love, and then when it turns out to be a sham, we get that gorgeously sad and beautiful piece ("Andante Cantabile" -- that's the title right, not sure -- don't kill me Howard, the CD is upstairs.)
Anyway, Lehti wrote (this is all from my own memory) that the "Cantabile" piece incorporates the same hopeful qualities of certain of the earlier cues, and then Herrmann uses the same motifs to show that the whole love story was just in Mrs. Muir's own lonely mind. Not having seen the movie, again, I can't speak for this, although I adore "Cantabile." (A rerecorded version also appears on Varese's rerecording of FAHRENHEIT 451, another CD well worth having.)
Enough technical detail for the moment ... I'm still trying to find the proper EMOTIONAL details that might meet Howard's criteria ... okay, here's one, from THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL: the amazing melancholy waltz-like music Goldsmith wrote for Schaffner's THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL (1978, Oscar nominee, as well it should have been -- actually between that and CAPRICORN ONE and THE SWARM, he could have been nominated for anything -- of course the award went to Giorgio Moroder for MIDNIGHT EXPRESS -- )
anyway, I was referring to a SPECIFIC scene in BOYS FROM BRAZIL: Olivier interviewing the excellent Rosemary Harris, coquettish and subtly hilarious as one of the wives of the murdered men Gregory Peck has ordered to be killed. It's a long sequence (on the album, it comprises part of "Frau Doring"). As Goldsmith knew well, it can be difficult to score dialogue scenes, and yet he managed to pull this off absolutely: a sort of sadness, a sort of resignation, and a sort of flirtatiousness on the part of Frau Doring, coyly flashing her legs (middle-aged but still splendid) to Olivier, at least twice. And in particular, the passage Goldsmith wrote under her reflection about what a mean bastard her dead husband was: "Who killed him? God killed him!" Said with no rancor at all, and Goldsmith's music, long notes for strings and winds, reflects precisely what she must be feeling, the string writing in particular is amazing. (Trying to write this, I remember once again how difficult and subjective writing about music can be.) Goldsmith isn't above a bit of mickeymousing here: she manages to show her ankles flirtatiously one last time during the interview sequence, and Goldsmith inserts a sweet, funny little violin squiggle.
I haven't seen this movie in a long time, but thinking about it makes me want to go rent it. (Too late, the stores are all closed at this hour. Maybe tomorrow. I'd rather see it again widescreen, however.)
I'll point out that of the three examples I've recently given, all three, PATTON, PAPILLON and THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL, were collaborations between Jerry Goldsmith and his favorite director and good friend, Franklin J. Schaffner.
NP: THE FINAL CONFLICT
posted 04-26-2000 10:23 PM PT (US) joan hue
Howard, I’ve been musing about this post for several days,
pondering the difference between “capture” and “create.”
The sagacious comments above probably decipher the differences
better than I, but here is “mom’s” take on it.
To me the verbs “capture” and “create” when used in a musical
context imply different compositions. A composer who “captures”
musically is portraying what is visually on the screen; he is intensifying
the scene, tonally or atonally reflecting the plot, or exacerbating, softening,
or mimicking the emotions. He is writing to the HEART of the scenes. He
dovetails his music to the on-screen visuals.
To “create” I think goes to the SOUL of the movie and may be a more
difficult composition. (I think so...maybe..I’m having an attack of the
ambiguities here. ) Sometimes composers and directors don’t want
a score to musically portray optics and emotions. They want music
to send a different sensation to the audience. I read somewhere that
when Hollywood tested The Lost Weekend with what they thought were
some emotionally appropriate temp tracks, the audiences LAUGHED at
the movie as if it was a comedy; however, Miklos Rozsa had ideas on
the type of music that needed to be created for Ray Milland’s tragedy,
and the rest is history. We know the musical sounds of love, terror,
fear, stalking, death, God, western action, fist fight action, sadness, etc.
I love the way most composers “capture” these emotions, and some
certainly are creative and reinvent these sounds all the time. To “create”
means genesis, originate, birth, invent, and to me that happens rarely.
This rarity IMHO makes this a harder composition to write. For me the
best example is Goldsmith’s Planet Of The Apes. I honestly feel that
the audience would have laughed out loud at the first image of the apes in
rubber faces riding horses to round up mute humans, but Goldsmith’s
unusual, unique score “created” the grim tone so necessary for this film. I
don’t believe the “standard” action score would have had this impact.
Enough rambling, Joan. Go to bed.
NP Nothing..sweet dreams. Good Night You Princes of the East Coast!
[This message has been edited by joan hue (edited 26 April 2000).]
posted 04-26-2000 10:37 PM PT (US) Howard L
YES Joan, thank you! You're a great editor. Neat having an English teacher around. Hope you don't type in red, though.
Someone over at that other 'board (sigh) mentioned that the opening of Lost Weekend was temped with Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" which caused the audience yucks. The thread then turned into Newman and his Gershwinesque "Street Scene" piece, a snippet of which opened the movie of the same title. Anyway, perhaps Rozsa's theremin theme "captured" Birnham's alcoholic demons, whereas his highly Gershwinesque (think of the walking theme in American In Paris--the symphony) opening and closing music created a "this one of the 8 million stories in the Naked City" mood.
(I think I just mixed a metaphor)
Damn, I saw Boys Of Brazil at least 3 times & can't recall the exact stuff H's bringing up. But it sounds right. The Patton trumpets certainly express a captured mood--I'm pretty sure! Goldsmith comes as close as Herrmann, IMHO, as anyone could get when it comes to an outright fusion of the capturing/creating criteria. There's a lot more going on in this music when you hone in on the cinematic bases. I mean try defining Obsession. It's one HUGE Herrmann-as-captor experience viz a viz the Cliff Robertson character. Same could be said for Vertigo re Stewart role, although it's harder for me to tell if Herrmann was actually more captor than creator. If he were the former, how might you describe Scotty's mood? Difficult to say. And yet if the latter, what mood, per se, did it put the audience in? I just know that I react strongly, in any case.
I'm starting to understand why I admire and respect Herrmann so much on a more-analytical level, too.
[This message has been edited by Howard L (edited 27 April 2000).]
posted 04-27-2000 06:37 AM PT (US) Chris Kinsinger
Excellent, Joan, except that you don't know the difference between "musing" and...
AHA HA HA HA HAAAAAAA!!!
(A private Howard L Joke.)
posted 04-28-2000 09:30 PM PT (US) joan hue
The question put me definitely in a museful mood, so I mused; you go ahead and "mull" around, dear Chris. I love to coin words!
posted 04-28-2000 10:06 PM PT (US) H Rocco
Goldsmith on PATTON again: he successfully tangled with Schaffner on the "Cemetery" sequence: Schaffner wanted the music to come in during the opening shot, with the jeep driving up. Goldsmith insisted the trumpets -- the echoing reverb quality of which is supposed to mimic Patton's belief in his own reincarnation, the militaristic brass literally echoing away (one of the most brilliant pieces of characterization any composer ever came up with) -- Goldsmith insisted that the trumpets come in at the PRECISE moment Scott stands up and begins his monologue about having been here before, and as Goldsmith said, "that way you KNOW he's been transported back into time."
I think another example of Goldsmith "creating" a moment is in the underrated film with another old collaborator, director John Frankenheimer: THE CHALLENGE (1982). There's one scene where Scott Glenn's character is making friends with the little Japanese boy who lives on Toshiro Mifune's compound, and there's a little moment during the cue when Mifune's "daughter" observes this unlikely palship -- Goldsmith here inserts a shimmering string figure from the opening of the film, meant to underline the woman's obvious sudden interest in Glenn (probably she's watching the two hit it off and thinking "good daddy material"). Without the music, the budding love story wouldn't be quite so obvious, since Frankenheimer cuts it as tersely as he always does.
"Capturing" a moment ... perhaps Ennio Morricone's astonishing "The Ecstasy of Gold" from THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY. The mounting thrill, panic and, yes, ecstasy of Eli Wallach's character as he races towards what he hopes will be his destiny. However, there may be a fine line to be drawn -- I don't know for sure if Morricone was writing and recording his Leone scores BEFORE the movie was shot, as I know he did later. Capturing from a script and capturing from an image are slightly different prospects. This is one reason why so many Japanese movie scores are kind of layered-on sounds, rather than obviously timed to the image -- schedules were so short, they tended to write the scores without seeing ANY of the film. Akira Ifukube, in particular, is exemplary of this -- far more of a creator than a capturer, since he rarely knew WHAT he was capturing. On the other hand, there's his breathtaking "Makoto's Theme" from UNDERSEA BATTLESHIP, but I won't go into detail since most of you probably never saw it.
NP: PLANET OF THE APES
posted 04-28-2000 11:20 PM PT (US) joan hue
H Rocco, I really enjoyed your examples of CREATING using
PATTON and THE CHALLENGE. Those movies and your
explanation so clearly model what my “musing” ramblings were
trying to say.
I also agree that Morricone “captured” Eli Wallach’s, “thrill, panic,
and ecstasy” with his Ecstasy Of Gold theme; therefore, I was very
surprised to read that he “may” have written the score from the script
before the actual movie was filmed. (Never heard of that practice,
H R, although you have hinted at that custom in some of your
Japanese postings. It hadn’t clicked with me before. Unusual idea.)
While I agree with the emotions you posted about Wallach,
I also felt he was borderline “nutso” or paranoid.
In the middle of the EoG theme, the pounding, almost jogging
rhythm and melody stop, and the soprano sings a minor key melody that
almost sounds deranged; Wallach halts and scans the cemetery with
demented eyes that depict his paranoia and almost out-of-touch-with-
reality state, and then he resumes running as the music shifts back to the
main theme. It is a brilliant piece of scoring with music paralleling his
movements and mental state. If Morricone wrote that piece BEFORE
filming, then I would speculate that Leone filmed that particular scene
to FIT the previously written score, or that Morricone has a uncanny
sense of the optics of the movie from just reading a script. Amazing.
I’m curious about one thing, H R. Same director and same composer
for PATTON and PAPILLON. I haven’t seen PATTON in ages, but
I do remember a lot less music than in PAPILLON. I’m curious as
to why. Of course, I realize they are two very different pictures; however,
W.W.II movies or any war movie often lends itself to extensive filmscores.
Was it Goldsmith’s idea to use an extremely limited score? Would
more music have lead him to capturing and reflecting instead of creating?
Or perhaps that director wanted a different slant on this particular W.W.II
movie so evaded the ubiquitous war filmscores? Just, as always, very curious.
NP: Still pounding out Cherry 2000
posted 04-29-2000 08:38 AM PT (US) DANIEL2
The film composer emphasizes, and occasionally anticipates.
posted 04-29-2000 10:11 AM PT (US) Howard L
...and the Williams/Spielberg collaboration is a prime example of just that. Spiely said as much with words to the effect that "I created visuals, in instances, AFTER hearing the music" per Close Encounters LP liner notes. Perhaps the analogy of what-came-first-the-music-or-the-lyrics lends food for more thought.
Morricone as captor: Once Upon A Time In America with the music underscoring an older Noodles/DeNiro in the mausolem as he discovers the names of his friends
...as creator: (1) same scene, pan-flute cue prior to the discovery; (2) same music as captor but a jaunty arrangement underscoring the scene when Patsy prepares to purchase a charlotte russe. Yummy all 'round.
[This message has been edited by Howard L (edited 29 April 2000).]
posted 04-29-2000 01:03 PM PT (US) H Rocco
Joan, I wrote a great big answer to your PATTON/PAPILLON question before, and then the computer failed on me, the message didn't go through, and I got so IRRITATED that I simply never went back. Until now. "Fit of pique," as they call it in the psych classes. Here we go again though, I guess I owe you one.
PAPILLON has roughly 10-15 more minutes of music in it than PATTON does, which is kind of interesting, given that PATTON is half an hour longer. However, PATTON is also much more carried by dialogue than is PAPILLON. Enormous sequences of PAPILLON are not carried by dialogue, but by music -- however, equally, enormous sequences are carried without anything but sound effects and the occasional line (the solitary sequence goes on for something like twenty minutes.)
PAPILLON was filmed more or less in sequence, and the script was adjusted day by day. It's quite amazing the picture has any coherence at all, given the manner in which it was filmed. And the more surrealistic sequences, such as nearly everything that happens in South America (particulary the "Gift from the Sea" section) could ONLY have been carried by the music. For such a masterpiece as PAPILLON really is, it was crafted in such a weird and haphazard fashion, it's amazing it's even watchable. (I would put another masterpiece, SEVEN SAMURAI, in the same category -- oh, the stories I could tell you about that one.)
PATTON was a vaster and more complicated shoot than PAPILLON, but it started with a more specific script (from two unutterably different writers -- not collaborators -- Francis Coppola and Edmund H. North.) It had been planned more succinctly, and I think director Franklin J. Schaffner had a MUCH better idea of what he was going to do with each scene. Hence, there are fewer visually-carried illustrative sequences ... of course Schaffner was a brilliant visualist, one of his generation's best, but he didn't have to RELY on the music as much in PATTON. PAPILLON has several sequences, all written and shot more or less on the fly, that wouldn't make ANY sense without music. It may very well be a rare ACTUAL case of the old adage, "the music saved it."
posted 04-30-2000 08:48 PM PT (US) joan hue
Thanks H R, for the explanation. Makes very good sense.
I have to admit that I was surprised the hear that Papillon had
only about 10-15 more minutes of music. I rented it after
reading an article on it in FSM; I guess I was so intent on the
music and its relationship to the film that I thought the score
was longer. Strong dialogue exists in Patton, and the movie
works, but I wonder if Goldsmith might have wanted to add a bit
more music here and there, especially in some action sequences.
Howard, I loved your Noodles-Once Upon A Time In America-
example in the mausoleum. That incident shows an almost
simultaneous usage of captor/creator music, something that is
rarely done. That whole score and the movie are marvelous.
I wish I could come up with other examples of the symbiotic
or simultaneous usage of captor/creator music in films, but
I seem to be stumped. . At first I thought about Williams’ Jane Eyre,
when she leaves Thornfield and dashes across the moors. The
tempo of the love theme is increased and changes to minor key;
however, that is a device often used by composers to show thwarted
emotions or devastation. It really isn’t a twin or conjoining usage of the
concepts of capturing and creating. I’ll ponder this for a while. This
is a fascinating, intriguing idea. If anyone else thinks of these linking examples,
please post them.
NP The Natural
[This message has been edited by joan hue (edited 30 April 2000).]
posted 04-30-2000 10:15 PM PT (US) Howard L
The Natural. Wonderful. Randy Newman is also pure creator.
Let's see if we can narrow this down into a thesis: A composer brings atmosphere to/enhances atmosphere in a picture through music that either captures an on-screen individual character's feelings or creates a mood directly aimed at the audience, or a combination of both.
posted 05-01-2000 10:55 AM PT (US) debi
Been reading this thread with great interest. Well said! H Rocco, I hadn't heard that Goldsmith story either, so thanks. Clearly, many cues are composed but ultimately not used because they didn't "work." I had heard of another instance where an unused cue was included on the soundtrack at the director's insistence--but, like you, I have the feeling that's pretty rare. And a huge compliment.
I would say Tom Newman is a "creator." His scores are organic--you know a lot about the movie before a word is spoken or an action taken, just from the music. Or as Howard L would put it: he "brings atmosphere to…creates a mood directly aimed at the audience."
[This message has been edited by debi (edited 01 May 2000).]
posted 05-01-2000 01:19 PM PT (US) Howard L
"The Natural. Wonderful. Randy Newman is also pure creator."
But sometimes he plays the captor; the music underscoring the home runs in Wrigley Field and New York, respectively, captures Roy's and then the team's and fans' sense of triumph. As Roy is rounding the bases at the end, however, Newman returns to creator.
posted 05-13-2000 01:27 PM PT (US) H Rocco
Let's keep this one awake.
debi, I agree with you about Thomas Newman -- in fact, it seems to me he's rarely "captured" a moment at all, it's not within his style. "Suds on the Roof" from SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION is the first exception I can think of. On the other hand, the playful mouse music from THE GREEN MILE is a clear example of "capturing."
Carter Burwell is a composer who seems to be entirely a creator, rather than a captor. Even the most compassionate piece from my favorite score of his, MILLER'S CROSSING -- the cue is "The Long Way Around" -- is more about atmosphere than character. Or maybe I'm completely wrong about that. For once, I might be wrong. Relish that admission, it won't happen again.
posted 05-13-2000 06:43 PM PT (US) Lou Goldberg
The cliche about film music is that it's supposed to communicate subtext, let you know something of what the characters are experiencing in addition to what is being acted out on the surface. Capturing a character's emotion.
However, in most cases, I believe the use of music in film is more practical. Music meant to fix flaws in performance and pace or to communicate locale. Since film is aimed at emotionally moving an audience, I would think that most of its uses would be in that direction. Creating a mood.
Of course, I'm not so sure you can easily make a clear cut distinction. A cue writen to capture the inner state of a character is still communicating information that might also influence an audience's reaction. Take the sting cue for instance. That sharp one or two note slam can refer to the sudden shock that a character feels but it also makes the person in the audience jump too.
I think most film music creates a mood for the audience rather than captures the mood of a charcter or if it does capture the mood of a charcter that is done only when that approach will be the right one to tell the audience something that will effect them. Capturing emotions strikes me as a cerebral and intellectual approach while creating a mood is more visceral.
If one read's Andre Bazin's article on Maurice Jaubert, he quotes Jaubert as saying something along these lines: that film music should never try to match the feelings of the characters but should match instead the visual image and the pace of the editing. That's like having a music that has little to do with the story but a lot to do with the form the film is unfolding in. A pretty abstract idea that I'm not certain even Jaubert could follow while composing.
In the Music for the Movies documentary on Herrmann, Elmer Bernstein talks about the emotional vs intellectual approach saying that a British warship might be scored by Rule Britannia which communicates intellectually about it or scored with something else that tells you something other about the warship (say, heroic strains if the ship is on the right side, ominous ones if it's the enemy).
Unlike many of the previous posts on this topic, I can't think off the top of my head just what cues or composers tend to capture vs create. But certainly, the idea of using themes or leitmotives and associating them with characters captures something about those characters as opposed to chase music or other generic forms of scoring which are meant to create a mood.
NP: La Califfa (Ennio Morricone)
[This message has been edited by Lou Goldberg (edited 14 May 2000).]
posted 05-14-2000 01:13 AM PT (US) Howard L
Lou, I think your response supports the thesis in that whether he captures or creates he still brings to or enhances atmosphere in a picture. And yes, the capture approach would seem to be more cerebral and most certainly less utilized. --Which may not matter when you're talking bottom line but is intriguing fodder for ongoing film score analyses i.e. Why? You may have answered that.
BTW and by all means throw in a famous cue and see if it can be classified. Let me now toss in M. Steiner's Tara theme from GWTW, particularly the scene when Scarlett vows never to go hungry again. IMHO the theme may bear the title of Tara but to me it captures her strong sense of determination within not to surrender to adversity. In this theory the theme musically expresses a cinematic theme which recurs throughout the picture: Tara as source of strength and comfort/a reason to go on.
[This message has been edited by Howard L (edited 15 May 2000).]
posted 05-14-2000 08:16 PM PT (US) Bulldog
I definitely think it's more difficult to create than to capture.
Why do you like leitmotif scores?
Those are what seem generic to me.
[This message has been edited by Bulldog (edited 16 May 2000).]
posted 05-16-2000 12:33 PM PT (US) logied
This almost gets into, Is film scoreing a craft
or an art. When I look at what a film composer does, to me they are capturers. That is what they are being payed to do capture what you see and improve on the emotion that is present. If I listen to a
score without seeing the picture, what I feel
is their creation while they were capturing
for the purpose of the work.
They are both, they are capturers by purpose
and creators by result.
posted 05-16-2000 01:40 PM PT (US) Howard L
In a general sense, yes. But in the specific parameters we've come to adopt the idea of capturing being more cerebral has merit when based under the assumption that the composer sat there and perhaps studied a specific character or characters first, in either the context of a scene or the entire film, and then composed. (Hmmmm. Create a mood by underscoring events or capture a mood by underscoring characters?) It's important that it be a deliberate process if you're looking to praise a composer for true inventiveness & sophistication.
To illustrate, think of an English class dissecting a short story. This literary form is a haven for themes, allegory and all sorts of technique within a compact product, as opposed to a full-blown novel. You then write a paper praising the author for several things, each opinion supported by a specific passage. Now that's fine and you're giving the author credit for producing an enjoyable work, but did the author deliberately craft his story around the things you've cited or was something a product of happenstance? Have you posited an interpretation, for example, that is of your own making and not the author's? I can imagine some authors saying "I meant to do that" and taking credit for unwitting results!
Either way, the author put the spin into motion and deserves credit for that alone. And along this reasoning, when a film composer successfully captures as well as creates he deserves even more credit...and maybe greater respect, too.
"Why do you like leitmotif scores?"
I'm not sure if that question was directed at me but I'll tackle it just the same. I'm also not sure if it's a matter of "liking" this kind, although leitmotifs tend to be melodic and I do like melodic cues. And good melodies are certainly not easy to come by. I think folks opposed to leitmotifs in general view them as redundant passages. Not me. Using Herrmann again, I look at his talent for orchestra coloration and what I hear is anything but boring, and if it is redundant, per se, I don't think there's anything wrong with redundancy in beauty. He looked down on those of his fellow composers who didn't orchestrate their own work, and I think it's because he had especially good cinematic instincts and a keen sense for how music impacted the motion picture experience, and it was a source of deep pride (though not a humble pride, ostensibly!). The same goes for Goldsmith, esp. in deference to the Schaffner/Goldsmith collaboration cited by H Rocco in other threads.
[This message has been edited by Howard L (edited 16 May 2000).]
posted 05-16-2000 03:53 PM PT (US) Boris
Wasn't Bernard Herrmann both "capturer" AND "creator"?
Or, was he an "elevator"?
Has there ever been another film music composer who so boldly dominated the films he scored?
He took the visions of Hitchcock & Harryhausen and catapulted them to extraordinary heights.
posted 05-16-2000 08:40 PM PT (US) Lou Goldberg
If that leitmotif question was aimed at me, I think that themes or motifs which are meant to be played when a character appears or that are supposed to be associated with that character even when he or she is not there (i.e., in Anna Karenina scored by Constant Lambert, when Anna thinks of her son, his motif plays even though he is not on the screen at that point) should give us some idea of how to view that character (think Jafar's motif from Rozsa's Thief of Bagdad). I like it especially when the theme or motif changes as the character changes. I think a theme or motif should try to capture the internal personality of a character. What I called cerebral is simply that one must make a mental connection between the music and what it represents. But that's only one function of film music. Another is to create a rush in the audience, or a feeling of defeat or sadness or joy or whatever. I would think the best motifs or themes would be ones which could do both at the same time. I immediately think of Williams--Ben's Theme or Leia's or the Raider's March which not only tells us of the purity and strength of Indiana Jones but is rousing enough to create a thrill just listening to it.
The thing is that I don't think we can look at this in a restrictive way. Music in a film can communicate to an audience covering a lot of different situations in a variety of ways with a vast range of techniques. One score can use a lot of different approaches--the character goes to Rio, there's rumba and samba music, then he gets involved in a chase with chase music, then as he's been beaten, slow low chords based on his theme to capture his pain, etc. This is music that captures in one instance, creates in the next. Music is a sound that moves people emotionally. Part of this is caused by form and its connection to the mind, the mind locating a pattern and realizing the inventiveness of the composer in playing with where the threads go. But some of this is more direct, the body reacts to a cello playing one sustained note. In film, music in relation to an image actually can communicate more about that image than if the image were run without the music. But in a more direct way, the music can effect an audience's emotions just because it is music.
NP: The Best Years of Our Lives (Hugo Friedhofer)
[This message has been edited by Lou Goldberg (edited 16 May 2000).]
posted 05-16-2000 11:35 PM PT (US) Bulldog
I suppose I am uncovering a problem I find with leitmotif-dominated scores (I guess, especially John Williams leitmotif scores...that's just where I'm coming from in my experience).
Leitmotivic scores tend to lack coherent musical unity, which I think needs to be a staple characteristic of film scores.
Take THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. I can only think of one instance in which an off-camera musical quote takes place (Yoda's theme during the lightsaber duel), and the music was not used (for good reason--it didn't really capture the mood).
But in the meanwhile, there's isn't the kind of flow and unity to be found in an adventure score like THE BLUE MAX. There's slightly choppy cuts in the score to the Imperial March somewhat often. (Although these are not nearly as choppy as the "action music" cuts in RAIDERS between themes.)
EMPIRE is a collection of themes--themes that *enhance* the feel of the characters--but don't really tie the story together. And there are instances of cues of music that are just mood cues (not really coherent) like "The Asteroid Field" or "Hyperspace." Despite the appearance of "The Imperial March," the blunt of the music in these cues are unrelated to anything else in the score. And should not Chewbacca have a theme too?
It's not BAD, per se, just not superb.
Again, I think Goldsmith demonstrates a mastery of his field here.
His theory to film scoring, not that anyone here doesn't know this, involves writing a flexible theme that represents the spirit of the film--the film's basic message. Part of Goldsmith's genius is sometimes *creating* a vision that the filmmakers can't see or never had originally intended. He has an uncanny sense of finding what a film is all about and writing scores that convey that musically.
If Goldsmith can't do it with one theme, he writes themes based upon others that, put together, sum up the film well. The key here is that these themes are constructed upon each other.
Think LEGEND, PATTON, STAR TREK-THE MOTION PICTURE, THE MUMMY (!), the aforementioned THE BLUE MAX, RAMBO III, THE WIND AND THE LION...where the themes flow so well that *sometimes*, even on album, they are easily mistakable for one another.
That's not a bad thing; the music should have an indigenous fit to each film. And another key is that there's NO mistaking a theme from LEGEND for a theme from THE MUMMY, for instance.
Just the other day I hummed SUPERMAN's theme only to hear--as I anticipated--"I love STAR WARS!"
I can barely think of a dramatic leitmotif score that I would say is *very* effective or noteworthy. I love LIONHEART's score and SUPERMAN's score; there's a flow to both and both have the feel of direction and musical coherence/relationship, etc. LIONHEART, Kevin Mulhall notes, isn't really even a true-blood leitmotif score in the fact that the themes are rhythmically related and the main theme has several associations.
Just to say it, from what I understand leitmotif scores to truly be (note LIONHEART and LEGEND liner notes--blame their authors if otherwise ), leitmotif scores must have themes with clear character/place, etc. associations and the themes must be musically independent.
One of the few things I have real trouble verbalizing is my distaste for this style of scoring. Leitmotivic scores are very complicated I guess...and therefore very hard to criticize. Sorry I cannot do my position better justice.
Also sorry this seems like another Williams-bashing. I don't know what I can really say, except that this is my opinion and I try to give Williams the benefit of the doubt. I just don't think he's a good film composer. After all, he wasn't really trained to be one. I like a few of his scores, particularly his pre-STAR WARS scores where he didn't seem to be obsessed with distinguishing himself by a nearly immutable style. THE REIVERS comes to mind especially. THE FURY is a good score, too. JAWS (which could be characterized like LIONHEART)is great as well. Oscar-worthy if not Oscar-deserving. The themes are well-developed, and there's a distinct feel to JAWS' music. (I liked JAWS 2's music better than the music of the original, yet it is scatter-brained.) JAWS and JAWS 2 goes from great to less-than-great the way that THE LOST WORLD is a vast improvement as score over JURASSIC PARK.
This has gone on long enough. Go ahead, crucify me--it's gotta be coming.
posted 05-17-2000 07:35 AM PT (US) Howard L
I agree that Herrmann is the consummate capture/create composer and that Goldsmith is right behind. One of the reasons I'm so interested in this topic is that I've been trying to qualify why I might respect a certain composer or respect him more. It's just too easy to say So-and-So's great without defining what you mean by great. This thread is but one aspect.
I think a wonderful example of a fusion of the capture/create elements thoughout an entire score is To Kill A Mockingbird. An overt capture sequence was mentioned earlier; let me add the scenes when Jem tells Dill the legend of Boo Radley and when Jem sits alone on the porch and hears the night sounds and owl screech. The music in these two scenes perfectly captures the terror of childhood fantasies. And yet the entire score...ah, just listen.
Something else that I think helps distinguish the elements and supports the thesis: Although the music usually comes after the film, we know the reverse sometimes occurs. Re the latter I believe the music will be of the creative mode and seldom, if ever, of the captive because the creative is just that whereas the captive is wholly interpretive.
posted 05-17-2000 09:51 AM PT (US)
Old Infopop Software by UBB