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|Posted By: Jonathan Kaplan on August 10, 2004 - 10:00 PM|
It Takes a Village - Part One
Film music is all about
relationships. There are the relationships between the composer and the
producers, the composer and the director, the composer and the scoring
team. Relationships exist between the performing musicians, their
sections and their ensemble. The music itself relates to the film's
dialogue, sound effects and mix; to an internal sense of musical
cohesion and structure; and to the drama. And yet, the paramount
relationship in the process is between the makers and their audience.
Film Score Monthly exists in order to
foster that relationship. Creators are allowed a forum for explaining
their efforts, and the audience gains a forum to tell them what they
think. But FSM has it own
identity as well, and a series of behind-the-scenes relationships that
ultimately result in our relationship with readers. We're an audience
with an audience. For years we've asked composers to be brave and
reveal their thoughts with the promise that the audience will then
better understand their efforts. To be fair, we're turning that
spotlight back on ourselves in this running series that is little more
than the FSM crew sitting
around talking film music. Self-important? Self-indulgent? Probably.
But it's honest. This is who we are and this is how we talk. And this
is what we care about.
So consider yourselves warned: This
is not breaking news. This is not critical analysis. This is us
squabbling, laughing, preaching, and teasing. This is us exercising our
belief that the audience is a significant part of the creative
RIP David Raksin (1912 – 2004)
***Spoiler Warning! Haven't seen The Village? Not particularly adept
at predicting M. Night's tricky twist endings? Don't read any
Jon Kaplan: Doug, you didn't
even tell me before, did you like The
Doug Adams: Fairly well. I
always like the Shyamalan pictures because he does his Twilight Zone type of things, which
are usually pretty straightforward, but he puts interesting subtexts in
them. And the subtext overtakes it to become more the throughline than
JK: What was the subtext this
DA: The subtext was all over
the map. It was going to be paranoia, or it was going to be loss, or it
was going to be love…
JK: [Joking] I thought the subtext was
DA: [Accidentally taking it seriously]
Yeah, that makes sense. They were either blind by choice or by birth.
JK: [Quietly chuckling] I didn't mean
that to be real, but…
DA: Oh… [Laughs…] But they were turning
their backs to their problems!
JK: Then did you think it was
embarrassing and obvious that he made the heroine blind when everybody
else was figuratively blind?
DA: Oh, that's okay.
JK: I love attractive blind
DA: She did a good job.
Although the person next to me didn't get up or leave for the whole
movie. They waited until the scene where the Joaquin Phoenix had been
stabbed and Brice Howard is searching for him -- she comes in and
stumbles into his body, and this person yells out in all seriousness,
"What, is she blind!?"
JK: We loved the music on the
album and we like it in the film, too.
DA: I agree. It was a great
mix. In some spots it was incredible.
JK: It wasn't that loud where
we saw it, but it didn't have much to compete with.
DA: There were large sections
where there was nothing but music.
JK: It was used for a purpose.
Al Kaplan: If this is a movie
about illusions, how did the score play into that?
DA: I had one thought on that,
and it almost seems like an insult, but it's not really. The one thing
that bothered me on the CD was the thriller material.
AK: Right, that snorting
DA: Right. The drums annoyed me
because they were so hollow and generic -- very devoid of musical
content. But when I thought about it, it made sense to do it that way.
It should have been without any significant musical content because the
monsters were a hollow threat. In that way it plays into the whole idea
of illusions. Also the Fear of the Woods theme was important. The bit
that began with the little half step – the parallel thirds sifting
downwards in the recorders.
JK: That's like the main theme
of the first half of the movie.
DA: That's real because the
fear is real even if they're not afraid of anything real. It's a
genuine fear, so it was good to have actual musical content for that.
And it was essentially derived from the love theme, anyway. So there
are the picture's themes: fear and love. Now, that being said…
JK: …I don't know if any of
that was actually considered.
JK: The other thing that wasn't hollow was the love story.
And that love theme is what took over in the second half. But, I just
think it was, "Let's write a nice old-fashioned love theme for the
fiddle and have some scary music for the monsters."
DA: Did you find the love theme
to be old-fashioned?
AK: I thought it was heartfelt.
DA: I thought it was
interestingly modern in parts.
DA: At times it felt very close
to minimalist writing with those cascading arpeggios and repeating
figures like that.
AK: Well that makes sense since
the movie is really taking place in modern times.
JK: I'm talking about the
sentiments more that the presentation. But no, you wouldn't hear
something like that in Golden Age Hollywood, that's not what I meant.
DA: Right, the harmonies are
JK: I don't even know what the
time signature is for some of it.
AK: [Under his breath] 4/4.
JK: No, sometimes there's a
little change in there that I like.
DA: Do you know The Moldau by Smetana?
JK: Probably, but not by name.
DA: It reminded me of that a
little bit, though that's certainly older than anything minimalistic.
JK: I have a general idea in my
head of a bunch of Smetana things. That cascading stuff is what comes
DA: Yes, that's exactly what
I'm talking about. If you know any Smetana, that's probably the piece
you know. Either that or The
JK: I liked the way that was
different every time it came back, that cascading idea.
DA: This has definitely been
James Newton Howard's most fruitful collaboration.
AK: I think he should only do
M. Night Shyamalan movies from now on.
JK: Well done, James!
DA: Well done. Now, that being
said, Al, give us your quote from that book. [The Score: Interviews with Film Composers
by Michael Schelle]
AK: He said that [paraphrased], "I like an
orchestrator who will not only double it up an octave, but write a
counterline somewhere. I like other people in my music."
[The exact quote is: "I like other
people in my music. When you are writing six or seven or eight hours of
music a year, it's crazy if it is all going to be only you all the time
-- it runs the risk of getting dull. I like an orchestrator coming in
who, if I say, 'double this,' he'll double it, but he'll also write a
counterline somewhere. We'll try it, and I'll like it or I won't like
it, but it is nice to have those options."]
JK: But this was a long time
ago. He may have changed his mind. I think that this is why Treasure Planet sounds like Treasure Planet…
AK: …and why The Village sounds like The Village.
JK: I think that Shyamalan is
forcing him to have clear ideas and keep everything on a really simple
level. He doesn't have to have these guys come in and dress things up
to make them busier. So he's at his best when he's simplest. That's why
I think he's doing it himself. I can't prove that, but…
DA: I agree. There is something
about those big things that feels slick and serviceable, but…
AK: …it's also insincere.
DA: Yes, very machine-like.
DA: Those often feel like
scores with a capital S. The Shyamalan scores feel like music.
JK: These feel like they were
written by a person.
JK: If these are all the same
people and they're adding the same number of counterlines in The Village, then congratulations.
They fooled me, good job.
DA: And the counterlines are
some of the best material in this score, so whoever wrote those is a
talented individual. But this feels like a fully conceived piece of
music that's applied dramatically.
JK: I love the way that
cascading material was saved for when Joaquin Phoenix grabs Brice
Howard's hand and pulls her into the cellar midway through the movie.
DA: Yes, after hearing the CD I
kept expecting that to be the main titles music.
JK: Right. Part of me feared
that somehow Shyamalan hated that theme and James Newton Howard didn't
care and put it on the album four times anyway. I thought that they had
cut it out of the movie, but I like where it came in.
AK: I was very nervous.
DA: What did you think of the
main title sequence in this one?
AK: Eh, not a big fan.
JK: It was boring. Wasn't it
sound design, pretty much?
DA: It was the drum music, if I
remember. The "false" scary music.
JK: It was a big waste of time.
It was supposed to be establishing the scary woods, but it was just
making me wait for the beginning of the movie whereas the beginning of Signs put a smile on my face.
AK: It sucks you right in.
DA: Yeah, I think I'm getting
Jon Kaplan Syndrome because as the main titles started I thought, "Oh
no, they cut all the good stuff out of this!"
JK: [Laughs] Well, sorry to have
transferred that disease on to you.
AK: If M. Night Shyamalan ever
makes a really good movie again, James Newton Howard might get his
JK: I don't know.
AK: He hasn't been nominated
yet for a Shyamalan movie.
JK: Right but, can you ever
see one of Shyamalan's movies getting that kind of acclaim again?
DA: Yes. I think someplace down
AK: He'll have to find a way to
DA: If he ever finds something
that is really an anti-Shyamalan movie, the way that Spielberg broke
out of his mold with Schindler's List…
well, even though he already had with Color
JK: It might be a while before
he does that. I think this is
what he wants to do.
DA: I think it is now.
JK: Yeah, it's early.
DA: He's young. He may come to
some other things. And he's enough of a name brand that if he does do
something that is significant, I think he'll get a lot of attention for
it. Maybe Life of Pi will
push him -- he didn't write that.
More Village verbosity next week! Join the fun:
|Today in Film Score History:
|Billy Goldenberg records his score for the Amazing Stories episode "The Amazing Falsworth" (1985)
|Charles Strouse born (1928)
|Daniele Amfitheatrof died (1983)
|Dave Grusin begins recording his score to The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1968)
|David Buckley born (1976)
|David Raksin begins recording his score for A Lady without Passport (1950)
|Don Peake born (1940)
|Elmer Bernstein begins recording his score for The Shootist (1976)
|Franz Reizenstein born (1911)
|Georges Van Parys born (1902)
|Giong Lim born (1964)
|Lewis Furey born (1949)
|Morton Stevens wins an Emmy for his Hawaii Five-O episode score “A Thousand Pardons, You’re Dead,” and Pete Rugolo wins for his TV movie score The Challengers (1970)