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, December 16, 2012

Part One: The Players (Plus a Predicatably Glowing Score Review)

Good evening, Internet!  I'm beginning a series on the actual process of scoring a film. This is Part One: The Players. Who is actually involved in scoring a film? The simplified answer is lots and lots of people! Today, I'll provide a list of the major players-not all of these roles will be needed depending on the scale of the film.

Everyone, I present Peter Jackson with a pipe
The Director: A director's artistic and dramatic vision guides much of the movie making process. He/she has an enormous amount of input on the tone and mood of the score and on the final combination of film and music. 

The Producer: The money that pays the music makers! The director wants it, the producer makes it happen. He/she is often in close communication with the director's desired composer before the director and composer even meet to discuss the film.
Howard Shore, looking somewhat tortured
The Composer: A composer usually (though not always) comes into the movie making process after filming is done. The director and composer meet to discuss the score and the movie, and then the composer gets down to writing music! 

The Orchestrator: Interestingly, the composer is not always the individual who writes the score. The composer comes up with the main themes and melodies. The orchestrator takes those melodies and translates them into a larger group of instruments while trying to keep the artistic vision of the original piece written by the composer. Sometimes, the composer and the orchestrator are the same person-Howard Shore, the December Composer of the Month, both composes and orchestrates all of his work. 

A little bit of a mess
The Music Historian/Researcher:  Depending on the movie, the director might hire this person to research instruments or sounds from a certain time period so that they can help the composer and orchestrator match the score to the time period of the film. This person might also find unique instruments to use in the score if the composer want to have a distinct sound that stands out. This job can also be done by the composer.

The Copyist: This person makes neat copies of the composer or orchestrator's manuscript so it's playable by musicians. Not as easy as it sounds, because the manuscript could look something like this →

The Music Makers: They actually play the music!  For "The Hobbit," this would be the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Orchestra Contractor: Orchestra contractors are the agents and talent scouts of the orchestra world. It's their job to make sure that that musicians are found, hired, and brought into the studio or scoring stage to perform the score. 

The London Philharmonic
The Conductor: The composer and/or orchestrator is usually the conductor too, but not always! Sometimes, another person is brought in to conduct the orchestra for the composer.

The Recording Engineer: Recording engineers are incredibly important. They prepare the studio or sound stage for a recording session, operate the mixing console (the big board with all the switches on it), and maintain the studio equipment and instruments. During the recording process, the recording engineer manipulates each track that's recording and mixes them together while tweaking tone, intensity, and tempo, applying effects, and editing the sound. That's a lot of jobs! (Which is why there are often multiple recording engineers involved) 

The Music Mixer: This person is basically the recording engineer, but working after the recording process. Mixers take the final recordings and listen to them again, adjusting and mixing the different instruments or voices together until the balance is perfect. This is especially important if the instruments or singers recorded at different times. The recording engineer can do this job too, depending on the size and budget of the film and the specific requirements.

Sound engineers hard at work
The Mastering Studio: The final mix of the score is sent off to the mastering studio. When you master a recording, you correct any imbalance that might be left in the final mix by taking all the sound levels and making them even and smooth, so that it sounds lovely coming out of a sound system in a theater or out of the ear buds on your headphones. Again, depending on the size and budget of the movie, the recording engineer might also master the music. 

The Music/Sound Editor: This person takes the final mastered tracks and fits them into the final cut of the movie. They make sure that the score serves to enhance the film rather then detracting from the action, putting music in the right places and adjusting the levels of sound at any given point in the movie.

This is just a brief list of people who could be involved in the scoring process. All of these people could have any number of assistants helping them do their jobs. Basically, scoring a film is a big deal and takes a lot of work from many people! Next week, I'll talk more about orchestrating and what that entails. 

Now for the first December score review! 

"The Hobbit," composed, orchestrated, and conducted by Howard Shore: 9.5/10
After seeing the movie and listening to the score as much as I could for the past two weeks, I'm rating this one high. My gushing praise of Howard Shore's work on Lord of the Rings last week probably made this a predictable outcome, but seriously, this score is wonderful. Why? Because it doesn't exactly copy the Lord of the Rings! Sure, some of the main LOTR themes pop up here and there, but only when recurring characters or ideas from the first three films are mentioned. The rest of it is entirely new for an entirely new set of characters on an entirely new adventure! I'm so glad. It would have been so easy for Shore to completely revive all the old music and use that to drive his score. But he didn't! Instead, he took variations on his old themes and expanded them into new melodies! Yay! 

My favorite new theme is the "Misty Mountains" melody, hands down, no competition. Every time it plays during the movie. I want more. It's grand, mysterious, mournful, and longing. The whole idea of the movie, without giving too much away, is that this group of dwarfs are on a quest to reclaim their conquered homeland, and without their home, they really don't have a place to belong. I get all of that from the "Misty Mountains" theme. It first comes in at the beginning of the film, when the dwarves all start singing it in low, deep voices filled with emotion and determination. It sent chills down my spine. It comes up multiple times throughout the film. In one particular scene, the adventuring group is traveling over these gorgeous mountains and the theme blares out in horns and heavy drums with high strings playing arpeggios behind them. It made the scene incredibly thrilling. 

My favorite tracks on the score? Well, if I have to choose...1)"Misty Mountains" in which the dwarves sing in deep and captivating voices. 2) "The World is Ahead," in which you hear both the Misty Mountains theme and the Bilbo Baggin's theme music that completely encapsulates the quirkiness and endearing nature of his character. 3) "Over Hill," the music that plays on in the moment on the mountains I described above. 4) "My Dear Frodo," in which you hear the Dwarf Lords theme and a lot of the action music that will come up throughout the movie. But, honestly, I don't really have a favorite track. I like them all. 

Purchasing suggestion? Buy it all. In fact, buy the extended edition of the soundtrack like I did, because it has tracks like "Erebor" and "The Dwarf Lords" that are super great.

Side Note: See the movie too. I was originally upset with Peter Jackson for splitting the Hobbit into three movies, but he put SO much detail into this movie that I've forgiven him. In fact, he added things that will actually make the Hobbit movies flow directly into the LOTR movies, which I really like. Also, the acting is spot on and the world of the film, including sets, costumes, and scenery, is just astounding. I don't mind Jackson making money off me if he's going to deliver beautiful films like this! 

That's all I have for you tonight! Comment below with thoughts on the Hobbit score/movie and on the scoring process! Next week, look for a post on orchestration and another score review or two :)

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