Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Very quick post: I have had a hard day which has not finished yet, and I am just doing a tiny post about why using an MP3 player is similar to composing film music.

Brian Micklethwait posted on how film music is an echo of Classical music, in that "serious" music in the 20th century has shrunk to something steadily less accessible to most people being listened to by smaller and smaller groups of people. And yet, at the same time, huge numbers of people are listening to quite accessible orchestral music in the form of film soundtracks.

Alan Little follows up with the following

Here's a half-formed Big Thought: film music is a return to musical normality. Throughout most of human history in most societies (including our own), music has mainly been a mood-altering adjunct to other activities, generally religious ceremonies and/or dancing. (Religious ceremonies and dancing having also been much the same thing throughout most of human history). What western classical music has tried to do in the last two hundred years is take music out of the temple, off of the dancefloor and make listening an end in itself, a quasi-religious act in its own right. An interesting experiment that, in the long run, didn't work.

Alan also goes on to say that most of his favourite film music is actually derived from American folk music rather than from classical music.

And these reasons are, I think, why I am so interested in film music when I am rather less interested in music on its own. There is a great art to getting the music of a film right in order ti emphasize the acting, the mood, and every other aspect of the film. The music is almost as important as the acting and the visuals. Get it wrong, and you get the whole film wrong.

The other thing that is interesting is just so completely how film music lacks what may be described as genre snobbery. It is possible to construct a film soundtrack entirely out of classical music. It is also possible to construct a film soundtrack entirely out of rap songs. It is also possible to construct a film soundtrack out of all sorts of intriguing combinations of different genres. None of these ways is considered artistically superior to the others. It's all about getting the movie right.

And, oddly, I have discovered another newer way in which the point of music is to be a background to other activities. I have ripped my entire CD collection onto my hard disc. I also have an MP3 player. Before I go out in the morning, I have to decide what music I am going to listen to that day. Therefore I have to come up with a paylist that fits my basic mood, the places I am going to, the weather and various other factors. There is an art to this. I suspect it is almost like putting a film soundtrack together. Of course, I don't know how my day is going to turn out, but in many cases I suspect a film composer doesn't know how the film is going to turn out when he is writing the music for a film.

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