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 Posted:   Dec 8, 2013 - 10:56 AM   
 By:   ToneRow   (Member)



Within the liner notes of this album on Martial Solal (who's still with us), the composer writes many paragraphs about his short tenure creating music for films (approximately 1959 through 1964).

Here's one of the paragraphs (which I've typed below) which I think is relevent to the discussion of this thread on the inherent differences between film music and absolute concert music.

"...Most often, original soundtracks are made up of little, functional pieces, fragments and punctuation. It's really an applied art form, work that I dissociate from what I write in other areas. Writing a piano concerto, for example, is a demanding form of musical expression, at once more selfish and more ambitious ... it pays less, too! But it has an emormous advantage: I have total freedom, and I expose myself entirely. Afterwards, if I don't like the result, I have only myself to blame. With film music, I use the demands of the director as an alibi!

(laughter)

In some way, I could put myself in the background. I think about the film itself first, about the director's universe, even if I go the wrong way ... Perhaps I should write the music 100% the way I feel it. But I don't want to give the impression that I'm turning my nose up at it. Music for the screen has given me great satisfaction: A Bout de Souffle, especially, gave me the chance to tackle writing music for strings. With hindsight, this score is the happy medium: it has a status in the film, and it can also be listened to without the film, if you like. But it hasn't got the same ambition as music I'd have written without the images. Of course, you can like the different declensions of the five-note gimmick that sticks to Belmondo like a badge ...
It succeeds because it's efficient, but it doesn't have a great musical dimension. You like this music because it's associated with a film that's mythical. If A Bout de Souffle didn't exist, nobody would think its music was particularly interesting."

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 8, 2013 - 12:03 PM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

Great quote, Tone Row. I wonder how we'd feel, though, if the music written for the film was as great as that composed by Bernard Herrmann - who arranged some of it into a 'suite' for the concert hall. This music would never be uninteresting or uninspiring because it comes from a solid tradition of writing music to accompany drama and based on a rigorous training in western art music.

Last night I watched a film called 'The Other Man' (Liam Neeson). Throughout the entire film was 'atmospheric' music which never ended. I didn't like it as 'music', and heard it as just wallpaper. This type of film music should never be confused with the artistry of Korngold, Bernstein, Herrmann and the myriad composers who came from European backgrounds. There will always be lesser composers.

 
 Posted:   Dec 9, 2013 - 4:41 AM   
 By:   Grecchus   (Member)

ToneRow, you've done a marvelous job of clarifying aspects of the discussion with the carefully chosen research you've selected for inclusion. I can see a little bit more clearly as a result.

This reminds me so much of the state of physics in this day and age. It's like trying to bridge relativity with quantum physics - the classical and the modern - via a fusion process using a middle layer that doesn't want to interface at the boundaries with a clear and simple formulaic solution.

To look at it another way. All music can be rendered in the written form - literally notes on paper. Quantitatively it all looks the same, yet, qualitatively it is not. It is the perception of the embodied form of the music that appears to make all the difference. The discreet and the wholistic are worlds apart.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 9, 2013 - 6:14 AM   
 By:   Rozsaphile   (Member)

Most often, original soundtracks are made up of little, functional pieces, fragments and punctuation.

This is one of the standard knocks on film music: it cannot be artistic because it has to be fitted into certain time constraints. I've always liked Miklos Rozsa's retort -- I've never heard it anywhere else -- that a composer's accepting such a notion would be analogous to Michelangelo saying that he couldn't decorate that oddball ceiling because he needed more space here and less over there. History shows that true artists have always managed to express themselves amid all sorts of restrictions. Think of the ancient Greek religious festival drama, the doctrinal and architectural requirements of the medieval church, Spenserian stanzas, sonata form, the Production Code . . .

That said, it's undoubtedly true that most film music is formless and merely functional. (That's why I find so many of these archival albums unlistenable.) It's the exceptions that we care about.

 
 Posted:   Dec 10, 2013 - 3:55 PM   
 By:   ToneRow   (Member)

Great quote, Tone Row. I wonder how we'd feel, though, if the music written for the film was as great as that composed by Bernard Herrmann - who arranged some of it into a 'suite' for the concert hall. This music would never be uninteresting or uninspiring because it comes from a solid tradition of writing music to accompany drama and based on a rigorous training in western art music.

Last night I watched a film called 'The Other Man' (Liam Neeson). Throughout the entire film was 'atmospheric' music which never ended. I didn't like it as 'music', and heard it as just wallpaper. This type of film music should never be confused with the artistry of Korngold, Bernstein, Herrmann and the myriad composers who came from European backgrounds. There will always be lesser composers.


Thanks, Regie.

Leave it to me to inject a French jazzer in the midst of a thread about Herrmann's reply to an American symphony orchestra's conductor. smile

I'm interested to see if there's any soundtrack collectors (besides myself) of Herrmann's film music who also watch French Nouvelle Vague cinema and listen to French film music as well.
The closest intersection (obviously) are the 2 Francois Truffaut movies with music by Herrmann. However, I personally don't like much of what Herrmann wrote for THE BRIDE WORE BLACK and even FAHRENHEIT 451.
Yet, with each listening of Antoine Duhamel's MISSISSIPPI MERMAID, I am increasingly mesmerized by Duhamel's music score and love it more and more.

How'd we feel? I know for certain my own perspectives and tastes diverge significantly from the typical FSM collector (if a soundtrack collector on FSM's board could ever be described as typical).
Herrmann's suites derived from his film music hold little of my attention, as I prefer the original studio recording sessions over re-recordings. I'm very much the archivist who wishes to hear/own every snippet of music even if it's a 2-second sting.
Yet, the other half of my music collection is 20th century (& 21st century) absolute music.
So ... my tastes include compositions not written within the Occidental orchestral traditional (think of Giacinto Scelsi's meditative & Eastern-influenced works or the Gamelan-sounding pieces by Lou Harrison).

The artistry of Elmer Bernstein or Herrmann is great, but their aesthetic approaches are by no means the only valid ones.
A low-budget flick with mod music by Carlo Savina can also hit one's spot. smile

 
 Posted:   Dec 10, 2013 - 4:12 PM   
 By:   ToneRow   (Member)

ToneRow, you've done a marvelous job of clarifying aspects of the discussion with the carefully chosen research you've selected for inclusion. I can see a little bit more clearly as a result.

This reminds me so much of the state of physics in this day and age. It's like trying to bridge relativity with quantum physics - the classical and the modern - via a fusion process using a middle layer that doesn't want to interface at the boundaries with a clear and simple formulaic solution.

To look at it another way. All music can be rendered in the written form - literally notes on paper. Quantitatively it all looks the same, yet, qualitatively it is not. It is the perception of the embodied form of the music that appears to make all the difference. The discreet and the wholistic are worlds apart.


Thanks, Grecchus.

If one can see a little bit more clearly, then we're gratified.

Not to throw a spanner into your works, but even notes on manuscript may not look the same.
In the early 1950s, American composer Morton Feldman wrote his music down in graphic notation to impart aleatoric aspects for the performers.
There have even been some virtuoso musicians who could not make heads nor tails out of specific compositions by Iannis Xenakis! smile

 
 Posted:   Dec 10, 2013 - 4:12 PM   
 By:   Advise & Consent   (Member)

ToneRow, you've done a marvelous job of clarifying aspects of the discussion with the carefully chosen research you've selected for inclusion. I can see a little bit more clearly as a result.

This reminds me so much of the state of physics in this day and age. It's like trying to bridge relativity with quantum physics - the classical and the modern - via a fusion process using a middle layer that doesn't want to interface at the boundaries with a clear and simple formulaic solution.

To look at it another way. All music can be rendered in the written form - literally notes on paper. Quantitatively it all looks the same, yet, qualitatively it is not. It is the perception of the embodied form of the music that appears to make all the difference. The discreet and the wholistic are worlds apart.


Amazing! There is an actual, serious and thoughtful discussion going on within the board.

Gentlemen, my hat is off to you.

 
 Posted:   Dec 10, 2013 - 4:14 PM   
 By:   ToneRow   (Member)

Gentlemen, my hat is off to you.

It's cold in Canada, A&C - keep your hat on! big grin

 
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