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Themes are not just for characters

I am currently scoring a feature film called “Comforting Skin”. Right now I am in the planning stages, setting goals for the score and there is an approach I plan on taking I’d like to discuss here.

This is a dramatic piece with horror, suspense and some supernatural elements. Because of the genre, this is not going to be a big thematic score.

However, there will be motives and themes, and after reviewing the story and film and discussing it in detail with the director, part of my current plan is to have a theme or motive for “dread”.

Dread, this feeling of impending doom, is a main thematic element in the film, it is the drive of the story. (I am being simplistic in order to not give anything in the story away, but you get the idea.)

As the story advances, my plan is to have this motive, or theme, develop in length and strength. I will only hint at it at the start and it will gradually overtake everything.

It will be present when appropriate as other melodies or textures are played and will not be associated to any specific character.

The bottom line is this; a motive or theme doesn’t have to be associated to a character, place or event, but can be something that drives the tone, mood or a concept in the film.

How Many Times the Theme? II

Previously my boys and I counted how many times the themes appeared in the first act of the first Harry Potter film.

Yesterday, we did the same thing for Jurassic Park, but this time, we did it on a micro-scale: we counted how many times the main theme comes in during the helicopter’s flight over the island.

In the few minutes it takes for them to fly over the island, buckle their seat belts and descend, we hear the theme a total of…

…wait for it…

Five times.

It starts off with the theme in full. Then comes the B section and then we get the theme again, five times separated by little interjections to follow the action and lead to the returns of the theme.

Five times in a few minutes.

This is how the professionals do it, folks. This is how the master of themes, John Williams does it. Pay attention.

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