I've taken some good natured ribbing, and received some amusing messages about my principle that melody is King, so i thought i'd expand on this, and invite some discussion.
I've heard it said that film is not a symphony. I've also heard that film music today can often be cues between pop songs, and in notable recent output from the system that may well be true.
In my studies here in Russia, i've seen many films (and to be fair, not all of the early stuff is glorification of the soviet system) and much of the music is thematic and redolent with that of which i speak, melody. Often, popular folk tunes make appearances in one orchestral guise or another, almost inviting the audience to sing along and enjoy a heightened degree of participation. Many of the composers made the transition from concert to film, and shostakovich himself wrote music for 41 films.
And colleagues here and elsewhere have impressed on me the importance of understanding the structure of film music is different, more a collection of pieces to strengthen the emotive sense of a scene, give the action more oomph, and paint an aural landscape that encompasses the beauty of a wideshot, than a structured 'symphonic' layout with beginning, middle and end.
But even so, i wonder if the absence of a definable melody in film is lessening the experience. And the inclusion of a set of pop songs, each with it's own thing to say, for me, muddies the waters further, as audiences don't have one melody to associate with the images they see. I think of films that have a melody or defineable theme, and i'm transported back in time, as recent output seems to have moved away from the musically important principle (IMO), melody is king. Good examples for me are Psycho, with it's repetitive, sinister strings to a more modern day Star Wars, or ET.
We remember the melodies because they are so strong in relation to the images. And importantly, if we, as musically aware listeners get the theme, then the ordinary man in the street is more likely to hear a tune they can whistle, hum, or sing, recalling the images in their heads, and reliving the film or parts of it, all over again.
And the strength of a good melody is clarified in concert music too. Some composers have concentrated on melody, structuring the orchestration to vary, modify, and mould, and yet retain the theme in an understandable way. Others have explored harmonic variation in new and interesting ways, with melody not so obviously discernable. We listen as musicians, admiring or admonishing as our creative ears tell us, and to be fair, much of what was written at the beginning and middle of the 20th century goes past the understanding of those ordinary folk who don't listen as we do.
But, for me, good melody with images gives an important aftertaste to a cinematic experience. It provides the watcher/listener with a continuation of the experience whenever they choose. It's my opinion that modern film suffers from the lack of definable, unique melodic intention, and the stock impression of block harmony, and yes, those drums, is actually detracting from the process. Rather than the watcher/listener getting a lasting experience, they lose the impression quickly, and don't retain the experience to the same level. Now i say this not to start a battle about the worth of film music vs Concert because that's a time worn arguement that has merit and lack of merit on both sides.
But i do wonder if the film industry is missing a trick at the moment by not paying more attention to input of a different kind from composers, who may have that defineable after-experience melody just waiting to get played, and provide the punter with lasting memories.
Naturally, i will use this to strengthen my point that melody is king. And the orchestration that goes with that melody should reflect an individualilty that complements the melody, not an imitation of that which has gone before, somehow manhandled into a place, as an uneasy compromise between harmonic confusion, and less than brave producers.
Yes, for me, a good melody is the key to a lasting impression, and practically, a great sales tool for modern film. Trailers are a separate entity, or so the studios would have us believe, but the single biggest thing that trailers in general lack is a definable theme or melody. Melody, more than anything, has the power to get people interested, and as they find themselves whistling that tune or hearing it in their head over and over, they are far more strongly compelled to live the experience. Had i seen the trailer for ET that included the music for the flying theme, i would have been far more likely to pay my money and see the rest of the film.
Perhaps the money men of today have forgotten this as they command composers to ride a particular 'style' to it's death in the dust of boredom through repetition, because i'm sure there are writers for film out there with great melodies already written, that aspire to include those themes in a fresh cinematic experience.........
In concert music, we are spoiled for melody, as the masters from the past had among their principles that which is the most important of all, and never forgot it.
Melody IS King.