When was the last time you listened to music in a movie? It’s a really good question and one that is very relevant to us at Topline Music as well as all you budding media composers. How far are we supposed to notice the music in a movie? It may have been said, rumoured possibly by Alfred Hitchcock, that if the music is doing the same thing as the on-screen action, they cancel each other out. Or indeed, the best music score is the one you don’t actually notice. The double harps, vast choirs and impossibly sweeping strings may well be accused of committing the worst possible crime; that of drawing attention to themselves and damaging the entire film experience. In fact, I like the idea of working towards the principal that if the music and the film are doing very different things, you’re onto a winner, at least before the committee of post-production butchers get hold of it!
One great example is in 2001: A Space Odyssey where we see great images, planets and spinning spaceships with the music of Straus’ Blue Danube. There is also that amazing crop duster scene in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest where there is actually no music, no theme, no orchestral action, just the sound of the plane and the bleak sound effects.
The romantic themes in Blade Runner and the extraordinary sweeping synthesisers from Vangelis. The hypnotic groove of Lalo Shifrin’s theme for Mission Impossible that pulls you in and creates excitement and action and at the time, the only really cool track in 5/4. These are brave, different and exciting. There have been times when watching certain Spielberg movies like Hook and Star Wars, you reach around 45 minutes where you just want the music to STOP! Let something else create the energy and action. It’s all too much and all doing exactly the same thing!
Juxtapose that to the original Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies written by Carl Starling (inventor of the click track) and played by the 50-piece Warner Brothers House Symphony Orchestra. He averaged one complete score a week for twenty-two years! Musical sprints with xylophones, clarinets playing semitones apart in twelve tone runs, farting trombones, fast action and musical explosions, bursts of energy that would give most musicians a heart attack to sight read and play, but amazing all the same. Beautiful musical anarchy and something to be studied.
Here at Topline Music we’d like to think we’ve got all the bases covered (or should that be basses?). We have cartoon pieces, animation sequences, brooding underscores and some great action tracks. But more to the point is the fact that we can provide music for the obvious and also the not so obvious. It’s clear to see that music should represent a more subtle and brave approach to post production, whether it be in TV, Film, Advertising, Animation. The question is are we brave enough to make a difference and create the unusual so that the music is adding creatively to the full production experience without being obvious and annoying?
Probably the best compliment would be: “You know, I didn’t really notice the music!”