Contrast

Alain Mayrand Uncategorized 5 Comments

I am sure you have heard someone say that in film scoring, silence can be more effective than music.

While this is true,  it only represents part of the picture to consider.

It’s all about CONTRAST.

If you have a dramatic moment and there is a lot of score before and after, then silence can be very effective because it provides contrast. That silence would not be as effective if there was silence leading up to it and following it.

Pacing of a score has a lot to do with how one manipulates contrast.

Contrast relies on juxtaposition, or elements being next to each other, in case of music cues (or lack thereof) they must follow or precede one another.

I was thinking of this because I have reached an important point in the film I am scoring, and leading up to it the music has had elements of “moto perpetuo” – you know; a constant rhythmic idea as events are put into motion.

I had planned to use this melodic and rhythmic material during this scene but it didn’t play well. I spent the afternoon and part of the evening on it yesterday and had to stop. It wasn’t working. I hate days like that.

After some time laying in bed thinking about it this morning, it occurred to me that for many story reasons I won’t discuss, contrast was necessary. Contrast of instrumentation, tempo and that ostinato element being dropped. I came down to work and it’s working great.

And there you,  the word of the days  is: contrast.

- Alain

5 Responses to Contrast

  1. Bo Aganaba

    I love your posts Alain. They are very insightful and as an aspiring film composer I consume all the advice I can get!

    Keep em coming!

    Cheers

    Bo Aganaba

     
    • Alain Mayrand

      Thanks so much Bo! I am very happy to hear that.

       
  2. Marc Baril

    Yes very true Alain.
    I am also fond of contrast in terms of breaking conventions by scoring typical scenes in unusual way. Scenes like a chase that would not be rhythmically driven or go small on a big vista/landscape shot etc. I mean you don’t do it just to be different as it’s not always justifiable but depending on the film, the story and the scoring approach there are opportunities to break away from clichés and conventions.

    Love this scene in Memento.
    Listen to it without sound first. Imagine how you would have scored it. A bit of background if you haven’t seen this movie. The male character has anterograde amnesia, complete inability to recall the recent past. He is aware of it and in this scene he tries to find a pen and paper to write down some info to help him remember. When the music stops that’s the moment where he’s forgotten everything that just happen.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pj5laLK4itI

    Typical approach for this scene would have been to have some sort of movement, rhythmical texture, nervous strings, or perhaps some chaotic, dissonant texture through aleatoric notation. However composer David Julyan chose not to write to the action per say or the desperate attempt by the main character to find a pencil. Nonetheless the light ambient texture creates tension and is a refreshing approach.

    If only more director would get on board with those kinds of ideas and trust the artistic sensibilities of their composers. I believe that’s also what curbs the creativity for composers they are the ones who are often conservative and entrenched in clichés. Directors should read your blog! And definitely not the kind of thing you get to do on an MOW!

     
    • Alain Mayrand

      Those are great aspects of contrast Marc!

      As for the Memento scene, I think the scoring approach might have been driven by subtext. Natalie is calculating here and manipulative, that is the essence of the scene and her plan requires him to forget. So the scene is not about his frantic search for a pen but rather the dark manipulation by Natalie exploiting Leonard’s amnesia.

       
  3. Marc Baril

    Yes the score isn’t dark!

     

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