Insisting on seeing music

August 21, 2007

I know that Renewable Music and Loose Poodle have blogged on this topic, but I find myself in a funny quandry if I think too hard about the success of YouTube. I have had a blessed life in having had many, many wonderful premieres and performances of my music, many of which were recorded. However, only a handful of them, some of my GALA cantatas from the early 90s, were ever video-taped. So I guess that puts my music in the pre-YouTube generation and therefore relatively unavailable to that generation. I notice from my own blog’s statistics, that people rarely seem to click the mp3 players to listen to musical examples I’ve put up. This is discouraging to me as I would really like to return to posts with musical examples, but if no one listens to them, why waste my time? I have to find something on YouTube in order to get anyone to listen. Music has to be SEEN nowadays, and not just heard. Does this bode well for live performances? Maybe, maybe not.

Daniel or Peter told me once that they have little use for listening to film music by itself. It wasn’t meant to be listened to that way. My friend David has an enormous film music collection and he listens to it all the time, without the visual images that original inspired it. However, in my flu induced weekend, I decided to revisit the first 3 Harry Potter films. The music, beautifully written and orchestrated, always fits the scene like a glove, and watching how it does so adds another dimension to my appreciation of the movies. Would I want to listen to this score away from the movies? Well, maybe, sometimes, but now agree with Peter and Daniel that it is best appreciated in context.

At UCLA, we offer our students the option of video-taping their recitals, even though they have to pay extra for it. I’m not surprised that they nearly all opt for this.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

citrus August 21, 2007 at 8:03 am

I agree with Peter and Daniel. The purpose of film music is to enhance, support – yes, even lose itself in the film.

We watched a film recently, “Mr. Hule’s Vacation” (or something like that) in which really horrible early film type rinky-dink music was intermingled with loud rock music and brilliantly accentuated the contrast between the highly institutionalized life of vacationing “society” with the two characters who were apart, different and real enough to be outsiders in the best sense of the word. One a bemused observer. The other a weird, but amazingly transcendent participant. Only after viewing the film did we realize the tremendous effect of the music on the theme of reality versus total phoniness in a vacation resort setting.

But the music never called attention to itself. It supported, underlined, and disappeared.

To paraphrase one of my heroes, the music exists for the film, not the film for the music.

Sermon for today…

PK August 21, 2007 at 1:19 pm

Harry Potter, oh yeah. I love sitting in a theatre for those, as not only do you get Williams exquisite tailoring, but it is a rare day that you get to hear such a good orchestra of that size, so well orchestrated and recorded so well, AT SUCH A VOLUME!!! Yummm (expensive music productions so the producer says to the mixer, “You won’t believe what I paid for that music, so let me hear it”, thank you JW).

It is not that I won’t listen to film music on its own, it is that as soon as you seperate music and image it becomes music, not film music. It can be experienced, perceived and judged and discussed as music, but to be film music it has to be experienced in situ. Our brains do something funny to music when it is combined with image, so that almost any music with any image will have a chemical like interaction, affecting each element.

When you post those YouTubes of wonderful 60s hits, it feels so strange, having lived with the songs/recordings almost all my life and never having “watched” them before. I am still enthralled with the Janis Ian.

Brad Wood August 21, 2007 at 1:24 pm

So this situation seems to suggest the intriguing possibility of filmmakers or other imagemeisters of some sort contracting to compose images for existing music. Not that this would be unprecedented, but perhaps the YouTube phenom could make it a seriously proliferating activity.

As usual, these days when one thinks of something it is already happening, so I shouldn’t be surprised if this sort of thing is well underway.

ComposerBastard August 22, 2007 at 4:24 am

hes right. film music isn’t really meant to be listened in that way. then again…is it at all?
* usually its third in volume…right behind dialog and sound FX…unless the director likes you or you have a bull dog of a music editor fighting for you.
*my opinion is that film is like superglue…and any kind of music will stick to it. You’d have to do something really outrageous writing wise to break it.
* FM tends to be derivitive and banal, and quite frankly, boring when listened to alone. It’s not even close in meaning to *ahem art music.
* Most of it is temp tracked, so its totally unoriginal anyway…
* and many more

All these negatives…So what does it leave us?

Well, I think the art and craft is in the spot. Where to put music, how much, and what kind of elements is the hardest most baffling choice to make. Seeing an empty film is numbing. When so many things are going on, and when so many choices can be had…which one has the continuity and is right for the moment at hand? How do you hide the music and the seams? That’s the most interesting part of FM at least when I look @ film.

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