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Topic: Movie scores VS. Orchestral Pieces...

  1. #1

    Movie scores VS. Orchestral Pieces...

    Hello my fellow GPOers!

    Well, since there are so many composers here who have an awesome amount of expierence, I figured I would ask more questions about compositions. I really appreciate the info I've gotten so far, it's helped out so much!

    I have a question about what the differences between a movie score, by let's say, John Williams and an orchestral piece by Dvorak, Saint-Saens, or some other non- movie- scoring composer. I do realize that each composer has his/ her differences and specific characteristics, but I can't really understand what the difference is. When I listen to a score by Danny Elfman, like Edward Scissorhands, I think it sounds just like a classical orchestral piece. When I listen to Rimsky- Korsakov, I think that most of his stuff would fit great in many movies. You see? Any info is appreciated.

    Captain Hook (if you see Pan let me know!)

  2. #2
    Senior Member Styxx's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    West Seneca, NY

    Re: Movie scores VS. Orchestral Pieces...

    I see your point and have often pondered the same question. Let me say that if movies were back then, all the great composers would have had their respective works involved one way or another. Yet, without quoting, there have been some movies that have used music of the great composers from time to time.
    Look at Midnight Cowboy.

    I see what you mean though....

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Central Point, Oregon

    Re: Movie scores VS. Orchestral Pieces...

    Quote Originally Posted by rgames
    The primary disctinction is in the fact that the "hollywood" style requires the focus and structure to come from the movie; the music provides support for this structure. "Stand-alone" or "classical" music must create the structure and maintain the interest of the listener all by itself.
    Very true. And for me this helps distinguish the great film composers from the good film composers. The great film composers' music makes for enjoyable listening with or without the movie. For me, Thomas Newman, John Williams and Danny Elfman frequently fall into that category. The good film composers can still write great scores that support and enhance a movie, but aren't that interesting to listen to when isolated. Horner, Zimmer, Shore, Debney, Newton-Howard, etc., are all fine film composers, but when I listen to their soundtrack CD's, they tend to sound more like "movie music." (with some exceptions, of course)

  4. #4

    Re: Movie scores VS. Orchestral Pieces...

    There you have the 2 most important differences above (form & focus). Another major difference is the instrumentation. While classical pieces seldom used "modern" or strange instruments, in film music you have an "everything goes" scenario. Modern film composers like Davis and Rona make use of synthesizers in their compositions, but even as far back as the most famous Hollywood film scores like Ennio Morricone's The good, bad & ugly they were not restricted to synphony orchestras.

  5. #5

    Re: Movie scores VS. Orchestral Pieces...

    Basically, there is NO difference sonically from a film score or music composed for the concert stage. What difference there is, lies in what motivated the composer to make his compositional and orchestration choices. For a film, those choices will of necessity be to support the drama/action/comedy as dictated to the composer by the film makers. There is also a personal element for the composer, but basically they must conform to the director's vision.

    You mention Rimsky-Korsakov. Much of his output consisted of a popular form of composition at that time (before film) called the 'tone poem' or tone painting style. This was music intended by the composer to invoke a certain mental imagery or emotional feeling, not unlike the requirements of film scoring but with a freedom for the composer to express whatever and however he chooses.

    I miss that type of orchestral writing from today's composers for concert music. In fact, we don't have very many successful composers of 'serious' music outside of film these days.

    I'm sure that, despite what another person mentioned about composers then being involved with film. if it existed, I believe what we have today is a sad state of affairs where the only successful outlets for many talented composers is in Hollywood scoring circles and possibly some jazz/pop avenues.

    Why sad? Because of the aforementioned restrictions on composers to write to suit the film, instead of the true freedom to compose whatever the heck they wanted to.

    Even Danny Elfman is apparently loosing his hearing from too many loud bombastic Hollywood action scores. In a recent interview he spoke of this and his need to suspend this type of work and maybe do a nice quite love story score or something.

    Not too many of today's composers could cope as well as Beethoven did with deafness.......

  6. #6

    Re: Movie scores VS. Orchestral Pieces...

    Well, I couldn't enjoy Wagner until I started to listen to his works as movie scores ... then everything fell into place

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Kauai, Hawaii, USA

    Cool Re: Movie scores VS. Orchestral Pieces...

    Interesting comment about Wagner, Araziphal. But you DO realize that the bulk of Wagner's musical output was opera (or, in his term, "music drama") and therefore, to truly understand the whole gestalt of his music you need to see the piece (and hear the worlds, albeit with sub- or super-titles for most folks who don't understand sung German)?

    There are some excellent Wagner "opera" DVDs (the complete "Ring Cycle" from the Metropolitan Opera production, for example) on which to cut your cinematic/opera teeth and I highly recommend that experience to any who would like to see the roots of cinematic music (long before there was cinema). The "underscore" in various scenes where there is no singing (several instances in "Tristan and Isolde" for example) sets the example for high drama of the score which well could have been the "model" for composers to come along in the 1930s and beyond.

    imho ... KevinKauai

  8. #8

    Re: Movie scores VS. Orchestral Pieces...

    Agreed, but then again, most pre-Wagnerian operas were like musicals; you could listen to a lot of arias without feeling them to be part of a larger whole. Every now n then there was an orchestral outbust (betrayed lover or something storming on the stage) and another self-sufficient piece would begin...

  9. #9

    Re: Movie scores VS. Orchestral Pieces...

    Lemme first express that I am a beginner... A rookie. With that said...
    In my opinion, a motion picture score is a response to an image from a motion picture while a classical orchestral composition is a vision from the mind of the composer or a response to an experience of the composer, the latter example being less restricted. A motion picture score only exists to help say what the story is saying or perhaps fill in a blank that the story failed to provide on its own. Both types of music are BIG on themes.
    Motion picture scoring (at least the names you mentioned) is based on the composition and orchestration techniques of the classical masters that we hear so much about... especially names like Bach, Wagner, Ravel, and Debussy (I use the term classical loosely much like everyone else these days). Especially Bach's counterpoint and harmony techniques.

    Note: when studying John Williams... look at him as an innovator like Debussy and not a classical composer. Also, orchestrator Steve Bartek, is an important ingredient in that "Danny Elfman" sound. Lastly, you have some awesome equipment. check out some library books.

  10. #10

    Re: Movie scores VS. Orchestral Pieces...

    Quote Originally Posted by seanmccoy
    Very true. And for me this helps distinguish the great film composers from the good film composers.
    Very True. NOT.
    Fact is, film music is becoming a important factor in "merchandising", generating extra income for the producers. Therefore they ask composers to write (or rearrange) the music in a way suitable for publishing a sound track CD or even squeeze in a song aiming the charts. IMHO this is a very bad developpment. It leads to overloaded film scores, where movie and music compete instead of supporting each other...
    Lets not forget: a movie is a complete piece of (hopefully) art. No single element has to stand alone. You can only appreciate the quality of a film music if you watch the movie without.

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