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Topic: Writing "Film Music" in a Conservatory

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  1. #1

    Writing "Film Music" in a Conservatory

    Hi,
    i would like to study in conservatory to have a solid background in composition....but i would love to become a film composer...so i was just wondering what you guys think about writing "Film Music" in a conservatory.....do you feel shy about since it's not "classical" music?? Thanks

  2. #2

    Re: Writing "Film Music" in a Conservatory

    I'm not sure shy is the right word. Scared might be more appropriate. Certainly here in the UK the straight music departments still have quite an ivory tower feel to them - they just about concede that jazz is music, but otherwise it's 'squeaky gate' stuff all the way.

    There are two problems I can see. One is that film music is quite predominantly tonal - at least when it needs to be. I actually had a tutor / lecturer who would have failed me outright if I had written anything tonal. This attitude may well have abated somewhat in light of the popularity of people like Arvo Part and John Taverner, but my lecturers were pretty much of the opinion that tonality was exhausted. And to some extent they are right. Most film composers are not actually pushing back the boundaries of music, they're just exploiting the devices that others have discovered. So to some extent you would be deliberately being derivative rather than innovative.

    The other problem is that film music doesn't develop as such. When writing 'absolute' music, the concern is with finding how the ideas want to develop, and discovering the 'musical' logic in your own language - i.e. what expectations are aroused in the listener, and how can you put off fulfilling those expectations for effect? In film music the structure has to follow what's on screen, and therefore usually doesn't hang together too well as music. (There are exceptions - John Williams quite often writes very extensive passages that develop well as music, and make for great soundtrack albums, but some would argue that he doesn't always follow the film very well). For this reason most of my composer / lecturers have been quite dismissive of film music - conceding that it quite often has some great material, but fails to develop it properly.

    So there is certainly a danger, if you submit film scores on a composition course, that you will be told it's inappropriate. On the other hand there are several degrees in film scoring which include as much composition tutoring as they do lectures on SMPTE. Why not look into those.

  3. #3

    Re: Writing "Film Music" in a Conservatory

    Thanks both,
    actually i auditioned at Berklee's film scoring course but was rejected (i think mostly because i know very little about jazz and blues)....so now i'm here again searching a school....i'm looking at Boston Conservatory now..seems intersting.....but i'm a bit scared/shy since until now i've always composed in a "Film Music" style cause that's what i wanna do......dunno so confused

    Prince of Music which school have you choosed?

  4. #4

    Re: Writing "Film Music" in a Conservatory

    I think much alike Pingu here (and in most cases actually )

    Since I'm also teaching in the uni I'm studying (*ahem* was, not is) at a PhD level, I might as well shed some light into things, from the uk perspective...

    I think that, when you enter an educational institution, you do so, that you can challenge yourself, and learn something new. This is very fundemental, otherwise you needn't be there! Especially in an undergrad level, because at a postgrad, things do change a bit.

    Anyways, other reasons include learning the skills, getting the paper, getting the job.

    None of the 3 above will come only from a university, and especially the getting the job part, is almost (95%) irrelavent to the academia, unless you wish to be an academic yourself.

    Problem with film music, exactly as Pingu says, is that it's somehow... "simple", for the eyes of academics. It's not unique, it's pastiche, very largely, and even worst, it's borowing messages from the medium it's been used for: films/computer games/ads/telly/etc. Without the media, the music looses the ability to be... usable, in most cases. Sure, we all buy soundtracks, but very few actually have the power to stand alone, and from those whole albums only a few tracks each time.

    Additionaly, there is little to be taught in all reality. There are not many techniques in "pure" film music, ala Zimmer, although there are tons if you take the Williams road. And those things that should be taught for film music, can be explored individually, and have tons of feedback through the internet.

    When challenged by my students, who keep complaining why they are pushed to contemporary roads, while they hate it, I am weary to explain that they *have* to learn about everthing while in undergrad, so they can later choose, and avoid ignorance. But I'm sure not to dismiss their attempts, or dreams! Still if I was to mark a "film composition" for a class of composition, after having taught contemporary techniques, Ligeti, Birthwisthle (who I can't even spell yet ), Stravisnky, Boulez, serials, and whatever else anyone could imagine, then I would be highly dissapointed to see a track in Bb major. It would mean that all my efforts to "open your head" and make sure you can choose for yourself, failed.




    One very important thing to keep in mind:

    No degree, no college, no university, will get you a job, or a career!

    Don't expect to go and pay £3000 or something, for 2 years and then find your way into the industry. This is NOT how it works, nor how it should be! Otherwise the industry would be full of rich people.

    I hope I'm making sense here...

  5. #5

    Re: Writing "Film Music" in a Conservatory

    Quote Originally Posted by Prince of Music
    I've never understood why a composer would want to write music for such a tiny audiance.
    For the sake of artistic integrity. For some poeple, music is art, not a popularity contest to see who can appeal to the lowest common denominator.

  6. #6

    Re: Writing "Film Music" in a Conservatory

    Quote Originally Posted by nikolas
    I think much alike Pingu here (and in most cases actually )

    Since I'm also teaching in the uni I'm studying (*ahem* was, not is) at a PhD level, I might as well shed some light into things, from the uk perspective...

    I think that, when you enter an educational institution, you do so, that you can challenge yourself, and learn something new. This is very fundemental, otherwise you needn't be there! Especially in an undergrad level, because at a postgrad, things do change a bit.

    Anyways, other reasons include learning the skills, getting the paper, getting the job.

    None of the 3 above will come only from a university, and especially the getting the job part, is almost (95%) irrelavent to the academia, unless you wish to be an academic yourself.

    Problem with film music, exactly as Pingu says, is that it's somehow... "simple", for the eyes of academics. It's not unique, it's pastiche, very largely, and even worst, it's borowing messages from the medium it's been used for: films/computer games/ads/telly/etc. Without the media, the music looses the ability to be... usable, in most cases. Sure, we all buy soundtracks, but very few actually have the power to stand alone, and from those whole albums only a few tracks each time.

    Additionaly, there is little to be taught in all reality. There are not many techniques in "pure" film music, ala Zimmer, although there are tons if you take the Williams road. And those things that should be taught for film music, can be explored individually, and have tons of feedback through the internet.

    When challenged by my students, who keep complaining why they are pushed to contemporary roads, while they hate it, I am weary to explain that they *have* to learn about everthing while in undergrad, so they can later choose, and avoid ignorance. But I'm sure not to dismiss their attempts, or dreams! Still if I was to mark a "film composition" for a class of composition, after having taught contemporary techniques, Ligeti, Birthwisthle (who I can't even spell yet ), Stravisnky, Boulez, serials, and whatever else anyone could imagine, then I would be highly dissapointed to see a track in Bb major. It would mean that all my efforts to "open your head" and make sure you can choose for yourself, failed.




    One very important thing to keep in mind:

    No degree, no college, no university, will get you a job, or a career!

    Don't expect to go and pay £3000 or something, for 2 years and then find your way into the industry. This is NOT how it works, nor how it should be! Otherwise the industry would be full of rich people.

    I hope I'm making sense here...

    thanks....i know that a school will never get you into the industry....i just want to be in a place where i can learn as much as possible and meet people who love music...

  7. #7

    Re: Writing "Film Music" in a Conservatory

    Of course, and that;s the right attitude, but keep in mind this:

    If you enter a music university/college/conservatory, and claim that you only love film music, thus you will be handing in "essays" or compositions, which resemble film music, you won't be actually learning THAT much!

    Other than that, Tom (because I didn't see it earlier): It has to do with what you want to do, and how you want to say it. There are 1000s of ways to say something, and 1000s of ways to express it. You may want one way, I want another. If 1 person, only 1, understands what my "avant garde" (although I don't fancy avant garde actually) piece is, then I've done my job correctly! If I can get millions to enjoy it, even better, of course

  8. #8

    Re: Writing "Film Music" in a Conservatory

    Quote Originally Posted by aLfR3dd
    but i'm a bit scared/shy since until now i've always composed in a "Film Music" style cause that's what i wanna do...
    Because most film music is just oh-so-original, and because it could NEVER be a massive simplification of music written by serious composers long ago (oh no, that just couldn't be true), I can give you a film scoring class right now, and save you a lot of money!

    "Epic" CGI-blockbuster:

    Opening credits: two alternating slow solemn trombone chords (you know what chords I'm talking about... they seem to be on every movie released now)

    Action: taiko drums, add extra random percussion, maybe some foot stomps here and there, and once in awhile, use that sample of a deep male chorus going "Rrrruhhh!" you know what sample I'm talking about.

    Everything else: random drone of strings, maybe a horn solo once in a blue moon.

    Important wisdom 1...reaffirm the first 2 notes of the minor scale every chance you get, especially with ff unison horns moving upward and holding the top note. Failure to comply will result in a gulag stint.

    Important wisdom 2... If all else fails: taiko drums + ripoff Carmina Burana.

    "Suspense/thriller/murder mystery/light horror"

    Only one thing is needed to make the powers-that-be happy: soft strings alternating between half-step transpositions, using either a slow tremelo between two notes, or an arpeggio on a certain pattern (you know the one). Add celesta twinkles if needed.

    Important rule: if you are scoring a "car driving" scene, especially a helicopter shot, and you do NOT use the above passage, you will be sent to prison. It is simply required.


    I tire of this... class dismissed.

    (Note: do not take this post seriously, even though it's factual)

  9. #9

    Re: Writing "Film Music" in a Conservatory

    Quote Originally Posted by Von Richter
    Because most film music is just oh-so-original, and because it could NEVER be a massive simplification of music written by serious composers long ago (oh no, that just couldn't be true), I can give you a film scoring class right now, and save you a lot of money!

    "Epic" CGI-blockbuster:

    Opening credits: two alternating slow solemn trombone chords (you know what chords I'm talking about... they seem to be on every movie released now)

    Action: taiko drums, add extra random percussion, maybe some foot stomps here and there, and once in awhile, use that sample of a deep male chorus going "Rrrruhhh!" you know what sample I'm talking about.

    Everything else: random drone of strings, maybe a horn solo once in a blue moon.

    Important wisdom 1...reaffirm the first 2 notes of the minor scale every chance you get, especially with ff unison horns moving upward and holding the top note. Failure to comply will result in a gulag stint.

    Important wisdom 2... If all else fails: taiko drums + ripoff Carmina Burana.

    "Suspense/thriller/murder mystery/light horror"

    Only one thing is needed to make the powers-that-be happy: soft strings alternating between half-step transpositions, using either a slow tremelo between two notes, or an arpeggio on a certain pattern (you know the one). Add celesta twinkles if needed.

    Important rule: if you are scoring a "car driving" scene, especially a helicopter shot, and you do NOT use the above passage, you will be sent to prison. It is simply required.


    I tire of this... class dismissed.

    (Note: do not take this post seriously, even though it's factual)

    AHAHAHAH very funny ....how much do i have to pay? hope it's cheaper than Berklee eheheh ....btw i know you're right....a lot of times when i watch a movie i start laughing since music it's predictable and often boring.......i just would love to be the next copland but i don't think i have all that talent so i'm scared that the professors in a conservatory will not like my "simple" tonal music (or sending it for being admitted)......but i would love to learn more and i do like classical music ....i was just thinking of the possible reaction of the professors...sorry 4 my english



    Important wisdom 2... If all else fails: taiko drums + ripoff Carmina Burana.
    AAAGAGAGHAHAHAHAHAHAAHHAAH

  10. #10

    Re: Writing "Film Music" in a Conservatory

    Why not try some books, and some libraries, and some scores first?

    I could recomend some things to begin with... Most things also CAN be used in film music, and several composers have ripped off stuff from there.

    But listening to music, while seeing scores, along with having some refference to techniques, is a great start!

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