Melodic Confusion: a cautionary tale
Here’s a funny story.
A few years ago I was working on a short film and the directors (there were two) were working in big companies down in Hollywood, and had worked on some very, very successful films.
So I thought, wow, this is great, these will be great directors to work with!
Well, they had never directed before and this is one of the things they asked. [WARNING: This is an example of what NOT to do!]
I sent a cue with the main theme and I get an email back saying “can you make the melody go up at the end?”
I said sure, I can do that, and I made the melody go up at the end then zipped it along.
An email comes back saying, sorry, we probably weren’t clear, but can you make the melody go up at the end?
I thought I had done that, but perhaps it wasn’t high enough, so I made go a bit higher, sent it along and got the same email back.
I was confused, but the request seemed clear enough and I tried again. Eight times I repeated this process until eventually I called the directors and we figured out they wanted the BASS to go up at the end!
Days wasted because of this.
So what is the moral of the story? Discussing musical cues using specific musical language is always dangerous, especially if you are not musically trained. You might think you have the right terminology, but you might not.
It is better instead to speak clearly of the intent of the film or scene as you would an actor, making sure all is clear before composition work gets done.
And, for pity’s sake, if you find that your instructions to the composers do not yield the results intended, don’t keep repeating the same instructions, hoping it will magically give different results!