What is the relationship between music and all other sounds on a film’s soundtrack? Should the composer and director consider one when working on the other?
It seems that the answer should be an obvious “yes”, but I was watching one of last summer’s blockbusters and at one point there was a foot chase accompanied by hand percussion.
Aren’t the sounds of running feet and hand percussion almost the same? Yes! And I found it made for a messy and confusing soundtrack.
Location sounds, folley, sound effects are all sounds that can clash with the music if they are not taken into consideration during composition.
The trick is to make the music either complementary or supportive of the other sounds.
For example, the hand percussion in the above example could have been avoided since it clashed with the sound of running footsteps on the street. And in any case, the sound of running footsteps provided a rhythmic drive and an immediate emotional reaction that was very much like the hand percussion, making their inclusion redundant.
Sustaining instruments (strings, winds) would have been a better choice, being more complementary to the footsteps, and would still have been be able to provide the necessary drive and tension the scene required.
To consider sound effects is the job of the composer during his daily work, that is for sure, but it is easy to forget when the work piles up and one gets carried away with the musical idea.
So it would be wise for the director to consider important sound effects during the spotting session, or during morning calls or at the very least when reviewing cue mock-ups.
Music in a film doesn’t exist on its own, it is part of the total sound package. And that is the bottom line; music and the soundtrack are partners to create a complete emotional experience.