|my philosophy and approach to scoring music for film, and my musical training background|
Philosophy and approach
Film-making is a collaborative effort from start to finish. It is about bringing a shared vision to life on the screen. As a composer, my job is to take into consideration, first and foremost, the ideas of the director, producer, and screen-writer (many times they are all the same person) and get as close to that vision as possible. Unlike other musical compositional processes, the goal of a film-music composer is not to write an opus of profound genius which stands alone as a great work, but to simply write music that will serve the film in the best way possible and to lend his talents to achieving the bigger picture of producing a great movie. I always set about writing the best music that I can for any given film, just so long as it serves the film completely and is true to the story. The joy that I get from writing music for a well put together film stems from the inspiration that I get from the subject matter on the screen. It is an artistic process as well as an exercise in problem solving. Often times, the problem is "how to bring out, through music, that which the film hasn't been able to convey." It is a challenge that I always look forward to.
My approach in many instances is to simply establish a tone for the film at first. Is it a drama? Is it a comedy? Are there recurrent themes in the story that need to be highlighted with the music? Does the film require an ever evolving score to parallel the storyline or is each scene its own vignette to be dealt with separately? These are all questions that I ask myself and the film-makers that I am collaborating with. In many cases, I will choose to have conversations with the film-maker in order to get inside his head and find out what kind of music he hears going with his film. Just like analyzing a piece of literature, I attempt to try and understand the direction of the film and motivations of the characters so that I can set the music accordingly. In some cases, a film just needs music to carry momentum, but many times the score is required to almost be an extra character of the film or an addition to the canvas on which everything is taking place. No matter what, the score must serve the film entirely and these are all areas of concern for me when I approach writing music for film. It is about the film, first and foremost, for it is my firm belief that no matter how good the music is, what does it matter if the end result doesn't produce a great movie?
My training as a composer for film began before the advent of more accessible home recording studio technology. It wasn't that long ago that composers where still dependant on recording their music in professional studios. During this time, midi (musical instrument digital interface) technology was still less than desirable for creating realistic sounds and live instruments were still the norm when recording any given piece. To this day, it is still more desirable to use live instruments, however the sound files that are currently available are leaps and bounds better when used properly and can often be adequate substitutes for the real thing, not to mention far less expensive when considering the bottom line; the budget for the film.
Today, and for the better part of the last 6 to 7 years, I have had a fully functioning home studio set up that can do many of the things that a professional recording studio can. The obvious advantage to you, the film-maker, is that you are now able to cut out the middle man if you hire a composer who is completely self-sufficient. The advantage to me, I don't have to rely on an engineer to record my stuff. I am in complete control of the process and am able to fully achieve producing exactly what I am hearing, and the score that you need, in half of the time that it would usually take.
Since my early training was during a period where audio technology was still inaccessible to the larger consumer, the writing process that I have been trained to use, not just the recording process, is more in line with the tradition that has been current for the better part of film-making history. Many composers, throughout the life-span of film-making, have used a method known as the calculator method for scoring film. This method demands that the composer meticulously time each piece according to the time code of the film for any given scene that he is writing for. The composer measures every scene and takes into account the key points of the scene and action therein by marking those specific spots down to the frame. He then establishes a tempo for the scene (speed of the beats for the music that he is writing for the scene) and calculates how these beats line up with the key points in the scene. After that, he meticulously writes the music so that it coordinates precisely with each point of action on the scene, from start to finish. This process is well in advance of the recording process.
Because of the advances in audio technology and such applications as ProTools, Sonar, Logic, just to name a few, it is no longer completely necessary to do the calculator method for film scoring. Nowadays, a composer can load a film directly to his computer and into his respective audio recording application. Then, write music directly to the film by recording live instrumental tracks or playing midi instruments along with the film. As you can imagine, this easily cuts the process down greatly since the composer can now virtually imagine, perform, and record a piece all in the same sitting. This is largely the process that I use today, however I firmly believe that being trained in the old-school calculator method has allowed me to develop a much more critical eye when approaching a scene that I am writing music for, especially in the areas of timing and consistency.
From strictly a musical standpoint, my training is primarily as a jazz musician. Unless you are a jazz musician or at least an avid listener of jazz, you may not fully realize that the genre is extremely diverse and incorporates virtually every other kind of music imaginable from classical to rock, R&B, funk, and a myriad of other types of world music. A jazz musician must be proficient in performing all of these styles. In addition, the genre of jazz is largely based around the performer's ability to improvise music on the spot in any given genre. This facet of playing jazz also lends itself to composition since, in essence, improvisation is basically on the spot composition. This background has always served to aid me well as a film composer. In addition, as part of my training as a jazz musician in conservatory, it was mandatory that I take courses in classical music theory and orchestration. Orchestration, composition, and film-scoring were also areas of study that I continued, privately, after my conservatory training.
Because of my background in nearly every musical genre under the sun, you will find, when listening to any of the audio examples connected to my "music for film" page, that in any given film I am easily able to incorporate a large body of different styles of music to serve the film and the specific scenes that I am writing for. I am not limited to just writing orchestral music or rock music. In fact, many of the films that I have written for require me, from scene to scene, to transition between classical/orchestral, jazz, rock, and hop-hop sounding music, just to name a few.
I am positive that we can determine and produce the best music for your project to make it as successful as possible.