Incidental Music

Incidental Music: def. (noun)- music used in a film as a background to create or enhance a particular atmosphere, otherwise known as a score

Sunday, October 28, 2012

First post!

Hello everybody! Welcome to the first post on "Incidentally, Music!" my film score analysis and appreciation blog! Yay! The intent of today's post is to provide a quick introduction to film music and give my two reasons for writing this blog. Here we go!

 First, I'd like to answer a question that I'm sure you've all been asking yourselves every time you see a movie and hear the music playing in the background: Why is that music even there? Well, time for a brief history lesson! For as long as there have been plays performed on a stage, there has been musical accompaniment to the action called incidental music. Its purpose is to give a greater theatricality and depth to the action, inspiring emotion and conveying a specific mood. In ancient Greece, a Chorus and minimal musical instruments such as drums provided the music. In Shakespearean times, the music came from the actors or from a flute or a lute player sitting in the wings. As the orchestra developed, plays received more elaborate incidental music. Fact: Beethoven wrote musical accompaniments for plays. Hear his overture to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's play, Egmont. -Egmont: Overture

When movies came on the scene in the late 1800s, there was no recorded sound. Movies were silent...silent, that is, except for music! This was called photoplay music, and it wasn't often composed specifically for the movie itself. It was usually a compilation of famous classical pieces designed to provide emotion to the voiceless pictures on the screen. When sound was introduced to movies, the composing of a specific musical score gradually became a part of the movie making process. Throughout the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, film music transitioned from old music recycled for the screen to large, extravagant pieces written for the movie itself. This is the film score and it is an integral part of the movies to the present day. The purpose of the film score is the same as the incidental music of old. It plays in the background, not designed to overpower the action, but to enhance it, creating a particular atmosphere, emotion, or mood. To see what that means, watch from 0:15 to 1:40 in this clip from The Empire Strikes Back. Of course, you have the iconic Imperial March at the beginning, but you might be surprised at how the music constantly plays throughout the scene, but you don't really notice it that much. It's sneaky, aiding mood and only coming to crescendos at certain times.

One reason for writing this blog is that I love film music in all its forms, from a simple piano accompaniment in Pride and Prejudice to electronic instruments in The Social Network to a sweeping orchestra score in Casino Royale. I love what music can add to the images on the screen in film so I think the art of composing for movies needs to be appreciated by many more people in this world!

Now, about me. On the left is one of my favorite paintings-Woman at the Piano, painted in 1875 by Renoir, a French Impressionist painter. On the right is a picture of me, taken in the not-so-distant past. Do they look similar? I think so, and I find it slightly eerie and amazing at the same time, because that's really me. The woman at the piano. I have been playing piano for almost 14 years, and I love it so darn much. I hated it at first, but then I got good enough that I started learning how to improvise, how to make up my own music, and in 8th grade, I wrote my first song. After that, my piano and my music writing became the way I expressed my heart, and it is difficult for me to go more than a day without playing, because I feel it. I need to get the music out.

My love for writing and playing music is the second reason I'm writing this blog. If I had all the money in the world, I would drop everything right now, forget my pre-med Bio major, and run as fast as I could to Hollywood to become the female John Williams (He composed for Star Wars, Schindler's List, Jaws, E.T., Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, War Horse, Home Alone, Jurassic Park, Memoirs of A get the idea, He's amazing). Sadly, I don't have all the money in the world. More than that, I'm not going to school at a music conservatory for bright young composers,  I'm not a musical prodigy, and I'm not a man (I'll discuss why THAT point is  significant in another post). So, the odds of being a film composer are quite stacked against me. That's pretty disheartening. But, I've accepted that, I will write music for myself until the day I die, and because I can't be a film composer, I will write this blog and appreciate and enjoy the music of others!

The purpose of this blog will be, quite simply, to analyze and enjoy film scores (and perhaps the occasional video game or television show score, because many popular shows and games get their own composers these days because the budget for them is huge!). I hope to create a forum for discussion about movie music and music writing in general, and I hope you'll join me in that by following this blog! I'll write once or twice a week, and it'll be a little haphazard at first, because I'm just figuring all this out.  Generally, I think I'll talk about one or two scores per post. These scores might be scores from older movies to show you more about the history of movie music, scores that I personally enjoy and want to share, scores from certain movie genres to compare the use of music across genres, or scores from today's box office hits!
Disclaimer: I WILL be talking about some of this music without having seen the movie it belongs to, especially the movies that are in theaters. That might seem strange, but, as stated earlier, I do not have an unlimited amount of money. Therefore, trips to the movies once or twice a week are not within the budget of this blog. I think this will be ok, however, because movie music is designed to convey a specific mood for the movie, and I can often get a feel for that just by watching trailers or clips. For these cases, I promise I will try to see the movie at some point after I talk about its music to see if my perception of the music changes after seeing the entire film instead of just clips.
I might also feature specific composers sometimes, because it's important to acknowledge the makers of the beautiful music! I do have a few favorites that are near and dear to my heart that do not get their due recognition by the award giving entities of the film industry.

So that's it for tonight! Please feel free to comment below and let me know if you have any scores/composers in particular you'd like me to talk about or if you have any questions for me!

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