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 Posted:   Nov 11, 2013 - 7:19 AM   
 By:   OnyaBirri   (Member)

Considering the number of film scores I have and the amount of film music I listen to, I'm surprised to say that I am increasingly finding a lack of a film score on a film a very effective device.

I just saw "Blue is the Warmest Color," which I believe has no score whatsoever, with music used only sparingly as very occasional source music. I felt completely drawn in. I felt the same way when I was on a John Cassavetes jag several months back.

I am starting to feel that a lack of a score adds an element of realism and, in a strange way, produces a somewhat unsettling, voyeuristic feeling in these situations. (Films with very sparse sores, such as "Blow-Up" and "The Conversation" produce a similar response in me). Films with music - especially music I like - tend to produce for me a more "cinematic" experience and make me feel consciously like I'm watching a film. It is often an otherworldly experience. These are generalizations, but I have become more aware of these differences in recent years.

So, I am starting to wonder whether 1) a good film even needs a score; 2) if viewers at a certain point may become more sophisticated and not want to feel like they're being manipulated, and/or 3) if this may be generational, or tied to the experience of living during a certain time.

I'm assuming the responses are going to skew toward the pro-music side of the spectrum, given the forum, but I'm interested to hear if anyone else shares these views.

 
 Posted:   Nov 11, 2013 - 7:28 AM   
 By:   solium   (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. Some films are fine without music, but most films are not fine with the ambient noise heard nowadays.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 11, 2013 - 7:33 AM   
 By:   OnyaBirri   (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. Some films are fine without music, but most films are not fine with the ambient noise heard nowadays.

Of course, the word "art" comes from "artifice."

But there is a difference between being manipulated and feeling like you're being manipulated, especially if the reach exceeds the grasp. And, yes, a film has all those aspects that you mention, but the music frequently inhabits its own space in contributing to the whole.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 11, 2013 - 7:36 AM   
 By:   Rozsaphile   (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. Some films are fine without music, but most films are not fine with the ambient noise heard nowadays.

Yes! That "manipulative" rap is a critical commonplace that's never made sense to me. Of course there are bad movies and bad scores where it's obvious that the music is working overtime to plaster over some serious defect of the filmmaking. Such cases represent failed attempts at manipulation. But on the whole movies are designed to work us over in various ways. Some of those ways include music.

 
 Posted:   Nov 11, 2013 - 7:51 AM   
 By:   solium   (Member)

It drives me nuts, (and I don't mean at the OP) when people say film scores are manipulative yet they have no problem with songs in their films. You know where someone actually sings to you with "words" exactly what your supposed to be feeling during any given scene? Regarding the original question, I don't miss a scoreless film if it is otherwise appropriate and well done, like The Birds.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 11, 2013 - 8:26 AM   
 By:   Morricone   (Member)

Nobody has to argue the case for film scoring, it started during the silent era have been going non-stop ever since. I think what is needed is an argument against overscoring, which has lessened the effectiveness of more films recently than anything besides CGI. Back in the Golden age I would be surprised how good some films, like TWELVE O'CLOCK HIGH were with practically just a main and end title. When I was growing up I loved the fact my favorite composers, like Elmer Bernstein (HUD) and Jerry Goldsmith (SEVEN DAYS IN MAY) would take on 10 minute scores simply because it was the right thing to do. And even my favorite modern composer Alexandre Desplat continues that tradition (CARNAGE) simply because it is frigging logical. Many of the great filmmakers are known for their silences like Luis Bunuel and Ingmar Bergman with little scoring. And even the non-Herrmann Hitchcock films benefit from this, REAR WINDOW anyone?

Of course if your movie sucks please do put in a great score and I will stay to the end like 1941.

 
 Posted:   Nov 11, 2013 - 10:13 AM   
 By:   Other Tallguy   (Member)

I like a balance. But I’m learning to really appreciate scenes with no score. You get to hear the world. Tires in the rain. Wind. Clocks. If it’s a pretend world (sci-fi, fantasy) you really get to feel part of it.

I think a lot of films are way overscored these days. I remember noticing in Fellowship of the Rings that films had gotten so bombastic that you couldn’t call the audience’s attention with noise. You had to do it with silence.

And I LOVED 1941, film and score.

 
 Posted:   Nov 11, 2013 - 10:47 AM   
 By:   Basil Wrathbone   (Member)

An interesting contrast comes with a staged version of a Shakespeare play having no score to speak of, while the film version of the same play has a full-blown symphonic treatment.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 11, 2013 - 11:05 AM   
 By:   Ludwig van   (Member)

An interesting contrast comes with a staged version of a Shakespeare play having no score to speak of, while the film version of the same play has a full-blown symphonic treatment.

Yes, why is that the case? That is indeed interesting. Is it that film is an inherently more artificial medium because it consists of pre-recorded images rather than in-person flesh and blood? In other words, do we feel more of a personal connection to the actors in play and so need no emotional cues from music? Because there is always that sense of excitement that comes from knowing that a play is live and that the actors can actually respond to the audience in both positive ways (waiting for applause to end) or negative ways (reacting to a cell phone ring).

 
 Posted:   Nov 11, 2013 - 11:15 AM   
 By:   Basil Wrathbone   (Member)

One could argue that the more "realistic" film, with it's ability to close-up on the actor's expressions and emotions, and provide a full range of sound effects etc, is LESS in need of musical reinforcement than a stage play where the actors' performances are relatively distant from their audience and more isolated from a sense of reality.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 11, 2013 - 11:23 AM   
 By:   Ludwig van   (Member)

Maybe it's that film isn't really more realistic, we just think it is. Film seems to present a sort of "imagined reality", as though we are seeing into someone's memory of a story rather than seeing the story happen before our very eyes as in a play. After all, we're not in control of all those camera angles and cuts in editing in film, but that may be more the way we recall stories in our mind.

 
 Posted:   Nov 11, 2013 - 11:31 AM   
 By:   Basil Wrathbone   (Member)

Maybe it's that film isn't really more realistic, we just think it is. Film seems to present a sort of "imagined reality", as though we are seeing into someone's memory of a story rather than seeing the story happen before our very eyes as in a play. After all, we're not in control of all those camera angles and cuts in editing in film, but that may be more the way we recall stories in our mind.


Yes, I suppose if, in a "realistic" film, a character is sitting sadly in a chair thinking back to a lost love, a musical theme relating to that love will appear to tell us what he's thinking about. Whereas, within the conventions of a play, the actor would be free to speak aloud to himself about it.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 11, 2013 - 11:44 AM   
 By:   haineshisway   (Member)

There is very little film scoring these days that I feel does what film music should do - we get a lot of sustained chords and pad, a lot of busy thumping, and it's pretty much wall-to-wall if you include songs and source cues. It's mind-numbing, aural wallpaper and it's why I dislike so many of today's movies, but producers and directors get in these modes and it takes someone adventurous to change the mode, after which all producers and directors want is the new mode. Not all scores today, but certainly most of them.

Movies with sparse scores (our recent Heaven Can Wait is a good example) can work beautifully - just the right amount of music to get the job done. But then, you have to have creatives who understand the function and use of film music. Fail Safe is a great movie with no dramatic scoring at all. Coma's first dramatic cue comes well into the film, and it's brilliant when it does - whoever made that decision really understood how potent the cue would be when it finally appeared.

I, of course, collect soundtrack CDs on all films that have no score. smile

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 11, 2013 - 12:28 PM   
 By:   OnyaBirri   (Member)



I, of course, collect soundtrack CDs on all films that have no score. smile


You'd mentioned the possibility of a Kritzerland "Dog Day Afternoon" CD. Is that still in the works?

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 11, 2013 - 12:41 PM   
 By:   Tall Guy   (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. Some films are fine without music, but most films are not fine with the ambient noise heard nowadays.

Of course, the word "art" comes from "artifice."


You sure? I thought it was from the word "artichoke".

There's much to agree with in Solium's post (above) - we inhabit a funny little world where the music often counts for more than the thing for which it was written, and where directors/producers are "idiots" for not using our favourite composers, or - worse - rejecting them if they don't meet the owner's vision.

Where I disagree is the statement that "most films are not fine with the ambient noise heard nowadays", because this is strictly subjective and my view is that some films need that approach - and others deserve it. It's tempting to want all films to be scored in those ways that most appeal to us, but we devalue the vision and ability of the film-makers if we don't allow for other approaches. And after all, they're making films, and (in the main) we're not.

TG

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 11, 2013 - 7:56 PM   
 By:   manderley   (Member)

I would suggest that everyone see a lot---A LOT---of on-the-spot sound films from the 1929-1930-1931 period---all with REAL live sound dialog, and REAL live sound effects, and next-to-NO MUSIC, to appreciate the art of film scoring that was soon to begin in earnest around 1932 with Max Steiner leading the charge.

Films with no scores ARE an effective device, but only in very small doses, IMHO.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 11, 2013 - 8:08 PM   
 By:   manderley   (Member)

.....Of course, the word "art" comes from "artifice."


You sure? I thought it was from the word "artichoke".....



You're probably right, Tall Guy.....but now I'm desolated!

I always thought it was called that in honor of the brilliant
English book illustrator of the 19th-20th Centuries, Art (or Arthur) Rackham.

smile

Of course, maybe Rackham did an illustration of an artichoke for an
English childrens' book about veggies.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 12, 2013 - 1:28 AM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

This is a topic we've had a few times on the board. It always frustrates me a little bit when people discuss this only within the confines of American and Hollywood cinema.

I love film music like everyone else in this room, including the explicit Hollywood version whose intention is to sweep you off the ground with strong musical rhetorics.

However, I also love films with no or minimal music. I missed the press screening of BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR today (too early!), but I just saw Bruno Dumont's L'INHUMANITÉ (1999) which is two and half hours without any non-diegetic music at all. It's a wonderfully expressive and hypnotic experience.

For most of you, this type of film falls in the 'arthouse' category, but I just think it's another type of film. Films that don't use (or have very little use) of non-diegetic music are able to provide not only realism, but also often a heightened sense of ambiguity with no musical rhetorics to guide your way. I love that. Sometimes, nature sounds can themselves be a type of 'music'.

Other such films I've seen just within the last couple of weeks include Patrick Grandrieux' SOMBRE, Tsai Ming-liang's VIVE L'AMOUR and Oliver Assaya's L'EAU FROIDE. These subscribe to a style between poetisism and social realism and are incredibly powerful through their avoidance of non-diegetic music (among other things).

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 12, 2013 - 3:30 AM   
 By:   follow me   (Member)


I am starting to feel that a lack of a score adds an element of realism and, in a strange way, produces a somewhat unsettling, voyeuristic feeling in these situations. (Films with very sparse sores, such as "Blow-Up" and "The Conversation" produce a similar response in me). Films with music - especially music I like - tend to produce for me a more "cinematic" experience and make me feel consciously like I'm watching a film. It is often an otherworldly experience.


Exactly. If you strive for utmost realism, then you should avoid using film music. There is no score accompanying real life either. And yes, films with music produce a more cinematic experience, hence it is absolutely necessary to have a great score in phantasy-films like the James Bond-films. And then there are the 80% of films that are somewhere in-between: they should be scored with just the right amount of music, certainly not needing wall-to-wall scores.


Is it that film is an inherently more artificial medium because it consists of pre-recorded images rather than in-person flesh and blood? In other words, do we feel more of a personal connection to the actors in play and so need no emotional cues from music?


No, film is much more realistic. In the theatre you can NEVER forget that you are sitting in a theatre and that these are actors on the stage. In the end, of course, neither film nor theatre are realistic, but film FEELS realistic and stage plays certainly never.

 
 Posted:   Nov 12, 2013 - 5:43 AM   
 By:   Mr. Jack   (Member)

When you cut two shots together, you're inherently "manipulating" the audience, no matter how much "realism" you're striving for. Even documentaries do this. So people complaining about film music being "manipulative" are missing the entire point about why there's music in film to begin with. If the "music" is gonna be nothing more than chugga-chugga (BWAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH) sound design, then why even have it at all?

 
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