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 Posted:   Jul 5, 2013 - 7:24 AM   
 By:   DavidCoscina   (Member)

I was listening through Pacific Rim on the way to work this morning and while I really enjoy all of the melodic content and synth lines that Djawadi put into the score (and yes, there's a fair bit), after about 3/4 of the way through, the amount of drums that accompany a lot of the action tracks made me have to switch to another score. It just became too much. What did I put on instead? Don Davis' Matrix Revolutions which was every bit as kinetically exciting but employed rhythmic ostinati with percussion only as an embellishment to some of the action.

It got me thinking whether the shift to rhythmically driven, drum heavy scores overshadowed melodic and harmonic content. It's somewhat of a rhetorical question because I know the answer is "yes". I have already explained my theory as to why this evolution of devolution has occured (the tools used by composers being sequencer dominant that straitjacket them into more regimented time signatures and static rhythm patterns). Also, for producers and directors, percussion functions almost as sound effects, allowing them to ask the composer to take out a cymbal hit or a snare drum. It's less demanding on the listener and less intrusive.

Even on the Zimmer Sketchbook thread, most people enjoyed his MOS material sans the 12 percussion players. I don't mind drums in scores but when they accompany every moment, it's like systematic desensitization and my brain just turns off to that stimulus.

Of all current composers, I do think someone like Brian Tyler knows how to balance drums/percussion with melody. Perhaps it's because he's a drummer and knows how to accent the music with that instrument rather than wallpaper it throughout...

thoughts? Observations?

(it doesn't help that I've been pouring over Don Davis' Matrix trilogy these days and was alarmed at the disparity in the level and complexity of his writing compared to today's film scores- it's vast!)

 
 Posted:   Jul 5, 2013 - 7:45 AM   
 By:   WILLIAMDMCCRUM   (Member)

I have already explained my theory as to why this evolution of devolution has occured (the tools used by composers being sequencer dominant that straitjacket them into more regimented time signatures and static rhythm patterns). Also, for producers and directors, percussion functions almost as sound effects, allowing them to ask the composer to take out a cymbal hit or a snare drum. It's less demanding on the listener and less intrusive.




It's also because it's easy to edit many bars in time that are just repeat ostinato, cut from halfway through one bang to halfway through a later bang.

That makes editing of scenes and shots very quick and easy. Much easier and less time-consuming than asking a composer to rework a piece because the line of melodic variation needs reshaping for the same space.

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 5, 2013 - 8:10 AM   
 By:   Octoberman   (Member)

Even on the Zimmer Sketchbook thread, most people enjoyed his MOS material sans the 12 percussion players. I don't mind drums in scores but when they accompany every moment, it's like systematic desensitization and my brain just turns off to that stimulus.


It becomes the aural equivalent of typing in caps. The senses get fatigued.

And like the effects pedal to electric guitarists, it conceals inadequacies.

 
 Posted:   Jul 5, 2013 - 8:16 AM   
 By:   YOR The Hunter From The Future   (Member)

The problem are not the drums, but the way the zimmer school of film music used it.

It is all so LOUD and REPETITIVE that only gets anoying.

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 5, 2013 - 8:29 AM   
 By:   KonstantinosZ   (Member)

Although writing for drums or percussion in general can be very interesting in the hands of a skilled composer (eg. see Varese's Ionisation for 13 percussion instruments), yes, I agree David with what you say.
As a teacher told me once, heavy use of percussion can show a poor compositional technique by a composer.

 
 Posted:   Jul 5, 2013 - 8:39 AM   
 By:   DavidCoscina   (Member)

Good points gents.

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 5, 2013 - 8:42 AM   
 By:   Octoberman   (Member)

This is how you use drummers (I love these guys--it's probably my favorite drum track of all time):



It stirs up the blood!

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 5, 2013 - 9:30 AM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

David, I posed this very question to James Newton Howard last year:

http://montages.no/2012/11/en-samtale-med-komponist-james-newton-howard/

Go to 4:20. He has some interesting replies.

 
 Posted:   Jul 5, 2013 - 9:57 AM   
 By:   DavidCoscina   (Member)

David, I posed this very question to James Newton Howard last year:

http://montages.no/2012/11/en-samtale-med-komponist-james-newton-howard/

Go to 4:20. He has some interesting replies.


lucky bugger! JN Howard was a guy I saw as the heir to Goldsmith.

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 5, 2013 - 10:17 AM   
 By:   Spymaster   (Member)

Stewart Copeland. That is all.

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 5, 2013 - 10:30 AM   
 By:   roy phillippe   (Member)

I was listening through Pacific Rim on the way to work this morning and while I really enjoy all of the melodic content and synth lines that Djawadi put into the score (and yes, there's a fair bit), after about 3/4 of the way through, the amount of drums that accompany a lot of the action tracks made me have to switch to another score. It just became too much. What did I put on instead? Don Davis' Matrix Revolutions which was every bit as kinetically exciting but employed rhythmic ostinati with percussion only as an embellishment to some of the action.

It got me thinking whether the shift to rhythmically driven, drum heavy scores overshadowed melodic and harmonic content. It's somewhat of a rhetorical question because I know the answer is "yes". I have already explained my theory as to why this evolution of devolution has occured (the tools used by composers being sequencer dominant that straitjacket them into more regimented time signatures and static rhythm patterns). Also, for producers and directors, percussion functions almost as sound effects, allowing them to ask the composer to take out a cymbal hit or a snare drum. It's less demanding on the listener and less intrusive.

Even on the Zimmer Sketchbook thread, most people enjoyed his MOS material sans the 12 percussion players. I don't mind drums in scores but when they accompany every moment, it's like systematic desensitization and my brain just turns off to that stimulus.

Of all current composers, I do think someone like Brian Tyler knows how to balance drums/percussion with melody. Perhaps it's because he's a drummer and knows how to accent the music with that instrument rather than wallpaper it throughout...



thoughts? Observations?

(it doesn't help that I've been pouring over Don Davis' Matrix trilogy these days and was alarmed at the disparity in the level and complexity of his writing compared to today's film scores- it's vast!)


Let's face it. We have few composers today who can write a memorable melody, reinforce it with a strong harmonic structure and are skilled in orchestration. Many of today's composers come from the rock/pop world where drums/percussion are their safety net.

 
 Posted:   Jul 5, 2013 - 12:11 PM   
 By:   DavidCoscina   (Member)

I agree to a point. I think filmmakers come from a rock or pop listening background compared to filmmakers 20 years ago and that's what is being dictated to the composers. Studio execs and focus groups often kill off the few melodic scores that sift through the wave of percussive scores. You can tell this is the trend when you have James Newton Howard whom I consider to be one of the best most intelligent composers out there doing either drums heavy or ambient scores when we all know he can write strong themes with reinforced harmonies.

One of the most striking pieces of music I have heard from film in the past 2-3 years was Corgiliano's Music from The Edge which had that beautiful somber theme. Howard shore is no slouch but his replacement score wasnt even close to as good as Corigliano's. IMO

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 5, 2013 - 1:30 PM   
 By:   roy phillippe   (Member)

I agree to a point. I think filmmakers come from a rock or pop listening background compared to filmmakers 20 years ago and that's what is being dictated to the composers. Studio execs and focus groups often kill off the few melodic scores that sift through the wave of percussive scores. You can tell this is the trend when you have James Newton Howard whom I consider to be one of the best most intelligent composers out there doing either drums heavy or ambient scores when we all know he can write strong themes with reinforced harmonies.

One of the most striking pieces of music I have heard from film in the past 2-3 years was Corgiliano's Music from The Edge which had that beautiful somber theme. Howard shore is no slouch but his replacement score wasnt even close to as good as Corigliano's. IMO


Corigliano's is a highly trained composer, once the composer in residence with the New York Philharmonic. I was first introduced to his work by his score for "Altered States".
Check out his website just to see how diversified he is.

 
 Posted:   Jul 5, 2013 - 1:43 PM   
 By:   DavidCoscina   (Member)

I agree to a point. I think filmmakers come from a rock or pop listening background compared to filmmakers 20 years ago and that's what is being dictated to the composers. Studio execs and focus groups often kill off the few melodic scores that sift through the wave of percussive scores. You can tell this is the trend when you have James Newton Howard whom I consider to be one of the best most intelligent composers out there doing either drums heavy or ambient scores when we all know he can write strong themes with reinforced harmonies.

One of the most striking pieces of music I have heard from film in the past 2-3 years was Corgiliano's Music from The Edge which had that beautiful somber theme. Howard shore is no slouch but his replacement score wasnt even close to as good as Corigliano's. IMO


Corigliano's is a highly trained composer, once the composer in residence with the New York Philharmonic. I was first introduced to his work by his score for "Altered States".
Check out his website just to see how diversified he is.


Oh no doubt. I know his work very well especially his concert works. He also mentored Elliot Goldenthal.

 
 Posted:   Jul 5, 2013 - 1:59 PM   
 By:   Francis   (Member)

Listening to some recent (action) scores by the likes of Beltrami, Tyler, Isham, JNH, ... and many more I've also noticed the percussion playing a big part and wondered if the cues would still work without it. I came to the conclusion that the orchestra/instruments in many instances became the accompaniment and the drums/percussion took the forefront a lot. Now I like percussion, I just happened to listen to Kamen's Die Hard earlier today and the metal clingy sounds in it are great and stand on their own (percussion can be a voice as well), but that type of standout percussion seems to have vanished as well in scores, with only bass drum and timpani remaining, often a very low register sound as to not draw too much attention.

I know it's the norm these days for action films to be filled with drums, and there was a period in the late 90s and early 00s where a lot of composers integrated beats and drum 'n bass elements that were actually great and stood out, but nowadays everything sounds so similar and 'easy' to the point it becomes filler.

A recent score I like is Beltrami's Die Hard 5, it is filled with percussion and the orchestra is just about there to keep me interested, but it's one pounding rythm after the other and sometimes I wonder why a composer -in the case of a movie like Die Hard 5- even bothers writing any notes to it because with all the explosions and avalanche of sound you're lucky to hear a peep of it.

But I guess that's where good composers like Beltrami, Silvestri, JNH, ... distinguish themselves by providing that extra layer. Others seem to just throw in some bass, brass and strings and to hell with it wink

So yes, the drums do become tiresome after a while. Great for jogging though!

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 5, 2013 - 8:43 PM   
 By:   dan the man   (Member)

Don't take it the wrong way. Because I don't mean it, the wrong way. If this really bothers you, then don't waste your time on ACTION SCORES. if you know that these days so many of these specific action scores are inferior to ones of the past. You must have listen to them to know this So listen to other scores or music that make you happy instead of being sad. Just practical logic my friends.

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 5, 2013 - 9:14 PM   
 By:   musicpaladin2007   (Member)

I would beg to differ, especially in the case of Bear McCreary. Yes, he has several projects including BSG which are very drum heavy, but he certainly knows how to write themes and complex harmonies and assemble them together in leitmotif.

 
 Posted:   Jul 5, 2013 - 9:15 PM   
 By:   DavidCoscina   (Member)

Don't take it the wrong way. Because I don't mean it, the wrong way. If this really bothers you, then don't waste your time on ACTION SCORES. if you know that these days so many of these specific action scores are inferior to ones of the past. You must have listen to them to know this So listen to other scores or music that make you happy instead of being sad. Just practical logic my friends.

It's not a complaint but more an observation. As I mentioned, I really like a lot of what Djawadi did in Pacific Rim and even a few tracks with bombastic percussion/drums works well. It's just that I wish more composers were allowed to vary the devices that can drive music along. The Matrix was already mentioned. Goldsmith was also a master of rhythmic ostinatos in pitched instrument choirs. Strings have traditionally been a great resource to create driving music. Mozart used them to great effect as well as Vivaldi to create that kinetic paced driving feel in their music. The minimalists like Steve Reich, Phil Glass and John Adams also did quite well with these devices.

 
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