Where Has Melody Gone? (Warning: ranting ahead…)
My son was watching an animated cartoon of his. It was a direct to DVD superhero thing from Marvel, I won’t give the name.
It’s pretty good actually, story-wise, and we bought the DVD for my two boys to watch. It also has some of my favourite super-heroes from when I grew up represented in a very cool way. In many ways more true to the characters than the live-action films!
So I asked my son, who has watched it half a dozen times already, “what’s the melody?” He answered that he didn’t know.
He didn’t know!?
This is a cartoon here! With super heroes! And my 8 year old son can’t find a theme in there!? What?
(And you know, my son plays three instruments and he can sing you every tune John Williams has written. He can even listen to a CD of Star Wars music and tell you which scene it comes from. So that boy listens to film music.)
Actually there was a melody in that super-hero film, but it was so poorly written that a passionate 8 year-old who watched it 6 times or more did not even notice it.
And it’s not because it wasn’t mixed in well, either. No, it was just poor melodic writing.
Why? Why I ask you!!!
The answer is becoming more and more clear to me: samples.
Poor musicianship is being hidden behind fancy samples. Anyone can buy a computer and call themselves film composers now. But they can’t write music and wouldn’t be able to write for an orchestra if it wasn’t for their samples and a couple of orchestrators behind them.
The samples make their demos sound all nice, the producers and director get all impressed by how it sounds like an orchestra, but in the end, it lacks the soul, the essential element: melody.
It’s like a nice skin with no muscle, a pretty girl with no brain, a fancy car with no engine…put your own analogy here.
Samples have lowered the barrier-to-entry into film scoring, and now, more than ever, we have this type of mediocre scoring.
And a melody is not a simple thing to write, even when it appears simple. And by this I mean good melodies, of course!
Writing a good tune (or score) on demand is what a film composer does and it requires musical knowledge, experience and intelligence. Mancini, Shiffrin, Moriccone and John Williams had/have it.
So, for you directors out there, I say this: hiring a composer with musical training is a good idea, listen to his melodies not his samples, and hire live musicians to do your final recordings.
Just think of all those poor 8 year-olds watching direct-to-DVD animated super-hero films, haven’t they suffered enough?