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 Posted:   Nov 12, 2013 - 6:54 AM   
 By:   Josh "Swashbuckler" Gizelt   (Member)

I think the reason why film music is often singled out as being particularly manipulative is because of all of the other elements that are manipulating the viewer when they're watching a scene (the performances, the lighting and compositions of the shot, the montage, the design, etc.) are ultimately in the service of the diegetic, while the score is recognizably outside the reality of the film.

Notice, however, that nobody complains about a film's score being manipulative if it's doing its job well. This doesn't meant that the audience doesn't hear it (I challenge anybody to watch, say, Once Upon a Time in the West without being aware of the music), only that the audience deems the use of the music to have been appropriate.

It has been postulated that the presence of music in the shower scene of Psycho — even the disturbing, horrifying, screeching cue that is — had a softening effect on the impact of the scene.

Anyway…

Usually — not always, to be sure, but most of the time — a score cue is present to emphasize a particular tone or emotion, or to reference a story point. Both of these uses are essentially narrative in nature. And storytelling devices are like any other tool, they work well for what they're good for.

There are many different kinds of films, a variety of styles, and that's the context by which any approach to music should take. You can't make any sweeping generalizations on this topic because for, outside of genre tropes, it's very difficult to say that what will work for one movie will work for all of them.

As theatrical and home sound reproduction systems get better, there is more of an effort to concentrate on the sonic palette of a film or show. Entire episodes of Breaking Bad are defined by particular soundscapes, for example. A case can be made that those ambient textures can in many ways stand in for a score, sort of as a musique concrete approach — not too dissimilar from the partition sonore Michel Fano would do for Alain Robbe-Grillet films.

On the other hand, we've seen many television series where the initial approach to the music was to make it as themeless and background as possible, only to have the show rely more and more on themes and motives once their dramatic possibilities became apparent. Bear McCreary's work on Battlestar Galactica is actually a good example of this.

 
 Posted:   Nov 12, 2013 - 2:46 PM   
 By:   SpeakerToAnimals   (Member)

There's nothing particularly minimalist about the score for THE CONVERSATION: by the time Hackman discover's the murder scene it's screaming at you.

It's a great score but it doesn't support your case in the way that, say, Burwell's score for NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEM would.

And AMERICAN GRAFFITI showed it was possible to have almost continuous music while remaining entirely within the diegesis.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 12, 2013 - 4:28 PM   
 By:   OnyaBirri   (Member)

I think the reason why film music is often singled out as being particularly manipulative is because of all of the other elements that are manipulating the viewer when they're watching a scene (the performances, the lighting and compositions of the shot, the montage, the design, etc.) are ultimately in the service of the diegetic, while the score is recognizably outside the reality of the film.

Notice, however, that nobody complains about a film's score being manipulative if it's doing its job well. This doesn't meant that the audience doesn't hear it (I challenge anybody to watch, say, Once Upon a Time in the West without being aware of the music), only that the audience deems the use of the music to have been appropriate.

It has been postulated that the presence of music in the shower scene of Psycho — even the disturbing, horrifying, screeching cue that is — had a softening effect on the impact of the scene.

Anyway…

Usually — not always, to be sure, but most of the time — a score cue is present to emphasize a particular tone or emotion, or to reference a story point. Both of these uses are essentially narrative in nature. And storytelling devices are like any other tool, they work well for what they're good for.

There are many different kinds of films, a variety of styles, and that's the context by which any approach to music should take. You can't make any sweeping generalizations on this topic because for, outside of genre tropes, it's very difficult to say that what will work for one movie will work for all of them.

As theatrical and home sound reproduction systems get better, there is more of an effort to concentrate on the sonic palette of a film or show. Entire episodes of Breaking Bad are defined by particular soundscapes, for example. A case can be made that those ambient textures can in many ways stand in for a score, sort of as a musique concrete approach — not too dissimilar from the partition sonore Michel Fano would do for Alain Robbe-Grillet films.

On the other hand, we've seen many television series where the initial approach to the music was to make it as themeless and background as possible, only to have the show rely more and more on themes and motives once their dramatic possibilities became apparent. Bear McCreary's work on Battlestar Galactica is actually a good example of this.


Great post. Thanks!

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 12, 2013 - 4:40 PM   
 By:   follow me   (Member)

I think the reason why film music is often singled out as being particularly manipulative is because of all of the other elements that are manipulating the viewer when they're watching a scene (the performances, the lighting and compositions of the shot, the montage, the design, etc.) are ultimately in the service of the diegetic, while the score is recognizably outside the reality of the film.

Not always is the composition of the shot INSIDE the reality of the film. I seem to remember that Hitchcock once said he would never film a scene like Ralph Thomas did for the remake of "The Thirty-Nine Steps": positioning the camera BEHIND a refrigerator and looking through its back wall showing from within the fridge how someone puts food in it. Nowaydays such "impossible" camera angles seem to be even more frequent than in former times, possibly a result of the "MTV music video" - style.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 12, 2013 - 5:06 PM   
 By:   Gary Mongiovi   (Member)

Anybody here remember Anthony Mann's "The Tall Target", about a plot to assassinate Lincoln before his first inauguration? Brilliant, gripping movie, takes place almost entirely on a train. No underscore. It's one of those now obscure gems that makes you wonder "How come film buffs don't talk about this one all the time?"

Gary

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 12, 2013 - 5:43 PM   
 By:   dan the man   (Member)

It bores me to death people who keep on saying if you really want a realistic film there should be no film score. Well then in real life there is no editing, and people acting the way they do on film do not act that way in life either. A film is a film and film music is a vital part of the whole experience.

 
 Posted:   Nov 13, 2013 - 2:22 AM   
 By:   Jehannum   (Member)

Why is it only music is manipulative, and why is it a bad thing? What about the acting? The editing? The script? The songs? The whole thing is meant to be manipulative. That's what story telling is about ...

Maybe this attitude shows a fear of music's effect being deeper.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 13, 2013 - 4:42 AM   
 By:   OnyaBirri   (Member)

A film is a film and film music is a vital part of the whole experience.

It may or it may not be, depending. I've encountered too many situations where the lack of music added to the film's overall effect.

 
 Posted:   Nov 13, 2013 - 5:22 AM   
 By:   OnlyGoodMusic   (Member)

How would you know, unless you'd seen the same scene with original music added?

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 13, 2013 - 5:26 AM   
 By:   OnyaBirri   (Member)

How would you know, unless you'd seen the same scene with original music added?

I know based on my satisfaction with the experience. I could also mentally trade actors or imagine the film with different lighting. If there's no score and I love the movie, I don't have to wonder "what if."

 
 Posted:   Nov 13, 2013 - 5:42 AM   
 By:   Ray Faiola   (Member)

One of the notable golden age films (not counting early talkies) that is sans musical score is Robert Siodmak's PHANTOM LADY. There are critical source cues (including that jam session!) but there is no thematic underscore. In fact, I think Salter made a mistake using "I'll Remember April" for the entire main titles. The song had no relevance and a more effective approach would have been some introductory chords and then no music (a la the final dubbing on the main titles to CAGED).

 
 Posted:   Nov 13, 2013 - 5:55 AM   
 By:   OnlyGoodMusic   (Member)

How would you know, unless you'd seen the same scene with original music added?

I know based on my satisfaction with the experience. I could also mentally trade actors or imagine the film with different lighting. If there's no score and I love the movie, I don't have to wonder "what if."


That makes no sense. Had Hitchock's PSYCHO been released without music for the shower scene, as originally planned, you would probably have said: "Oh, that's more effective without music". Only a direct comparison between the same scene with and without music can tell you which of the two is more effective.

You're whole argumentation, if you can call it that, is useless for film analysis.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 13, 2013 - 6:16 AM   
 By:   follow me   (Member)

How would you know, unless you'd seen the same scene with original music added?

I´m not OnyaBirri, but I have seen enough scenes in films which were ruined by film music. Imagine a thriller, a night scene, a man walking along a dimly lit, deserted street, sound of rain, of footsteps, sound of a car in the distance, then a dog barking. Now add music and the whole atmosphere is destroyed immediately and completely...

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 13, 2013 - 6:26 AM   
 By:   Vermithrax Pejorative   (Member)

>>>>>> Now add music and the whole atmosphere is destroyed immediately and completely... >>>>>>>

Or heightened exponentially. Depends on your outlook.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 13, 2013 - 6:26 AM   
 By:   follow me   (Member)

It bores me to death people who keep on saying if you really want a realistic film there should be no film score. Well then in real life there is no editing, and people acting the way they do on film do not act that way in life either.

That´s not a good argument. A film is a film even without music and just because there is editing and acting does not necessarily mean that we have to make a film even more "artificial" by adding music! Mind you, I love film music and most films gain a lot by adding a score, but not all films all the time...and certainly a good composer should know when a scene works better without music.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 13, 2013 - 6:31 AM   
 By:   follow me   (Member)

Or heightened exponentially. Depends on your outlook.

No, depends on the scene. If you want opera, you have to go to the opera! wink

 
 Posted:   Nov 13, 2013 - 8:53 AM   
 By:   PhiladelphiaSon   (Member)

THE BIRDS has always been effective, to me, sans score.

 
 Posted:   Nov 13, 2013 - 8:55 AM   
 By:   OnlyGoodMusic   (Member)

That´s not a good argument. A film is a film even without music and just because there is editing and acting does not necessarily mean that we have to make a film even more "artificial" by adding music!

Another wrong-headed argument. Editing is as much a manipulation as camera work or music. They all belong to the TECHNIQUE of film-MAKING, and from the very start!

 
 Posted:   Nov 13, 2013 - 8:58 AM   
 By:   OnlyGoodMusic   (Member)

THE BIRDS has always been effective, to me, sans score.

Again, do you really think that's an argument AGAINST the potential use of music in that film???? MANY critics have complained about the lack of music, and if you will, since the artificial bird shrieks are "composed", the film actually HAS music. Remy Gassmann, an avantgarde composer, and Oskar Sala, the trautonium player for the film (and himself also a composer) were involved in the creation of this electronic "score".

And even if the film is effective without an acoustic/orchestral score, does that mean it couldn't be MORE effective with such music????

Some of the people on this board who profess to be film music lovers seem not to have grasped the first thing about the role of music in films, nor of film technique itself.

Seriously.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 13, 2013 - 9:09 AM   
 By:   Ado   (Member)

Since this is a film score site, I am going to say, no it is not effective ever.

I think Lumet did this quite a few times - for his minimal style with lots of talking I guess he felt that music was in the way. But I love underscores, so I cannot stand the silence, and I think without it you are missing some emotions that the score elicits that nothing else can do.

 
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