What are the functions of a film score?
In my opinion, it is the first thing you should identify in the scoring process.
I am starting work on a new feature film called “The Performance“, and my initial steps are to spot the film, see when and where there will be music, to unearth the form of the score and Â to define its Â function.
Why not just start writing, see what comes up? Would that not be faster?
My answer to that is simple: you need a target in order to aim.
And furthermore: how do you know if you hit the target without having one in the first place? You’ll know when I hear it? No! Just throwing notes around to see what works is haphazard and random, and how can you achieve anything of quality if everything is by chance and not by design?
Well, maybe it’s just me…but this works very well for me.
So, what is the function of a film score? There can be multiple functions of course. Here are a few.
CHARACTER INFORMATION & DEVELOPMENT: developing a part of the character and his/her development that either supports the acting or shows things that are not present.
SUBTEXT: showing a part of the story that is not on the surface.
FORESHADOWING: (see this Getting the Score post from a while ago, it’s a good one.)
MUSICAL SIGNALS/SIGN-POSTS: story points that benefit from musical emphasis, and perhaps motivic one too that return and have an arc. (I’ll post on that soon.)
MOOD & TONE: this helps the audience understanding the story, what it’s about, what the mood and tone of the story is…
ENERGY & MOVEMENT: action music of course, but this can also be during a visually static scene where there is an underlying tension that is not visible and that the characters are not privy too.
And there is more for sure. If you have any ideas leave them in the comment section!
For “The Performance“, which is a character-driven and dialogue-heavy drama, I am looking at what the music could enhance story-wise and how I could build an arc with it. Perhaps this is not possible, but having a structured score that uses symmetry, repetition, development is what I am looking to do.Â (This is something I was able to achieve with “No Letting Go“, which ended up with only two themes for the whole film.)
So there you have it, my first steps for this score. Please comment below and share!
No Letting Go Work Diary Entry
As I am working on a cue this morning I am thinking about a few things as I make compositional decisions.
Writing a scene you should always keep in mind where you are in the film, in the arc of the story and the characterâ€™s development. How you play scenes early in the film will be different than when itâ€™s the filmâ€™s denouement, for example.
This particular scene I am scoring is an important moment for the main character and the story. Things are getting under-way to resolve the filmâ€™s central problem.
However, itâ€™s early in the film and, as in all stories; things will get worse before they get better. So I need to consider that in the tone of my cue.
I therefore aim to balance those two aspects:
- Things are getting under way towards eventual resolution
- Itâ€™s not the resolution yet!
So understanding how this scene fits in the pacing of the film I make certain decisions before I get a single note down.
- The music shouldnâ€™t get big, but still give a sense that something has gotten underway for solving the films central problem
- Itâ€™s a gentle, positive scene, and the music should be as well to some degree, while staying hesitant since itâ€™s early in the film.
- At the end of it the main character is still unchanged it appears, so the tone gets darker at the end, or at least more quiet and unresolved.
The writing here has more movement than other scenes I have done so far, a bit of lightness and warmth with some degree of hesitation.
So I have chosen certain modes like Lydian and Dorian, I avoid big chord changes, orchestrated with the palette of the score: strings, harp and piano with the addition of the clarinet in the chalumeau register which I havenâ€™t used up to this point.
Back to work!