San Diego Comic-Con: “Behind The Music With CW3PR: Perfect Sound For TV And Film”
Nothing enhances a moving going experience more than a good score. The visuals in a movie can be stunning, the cinematography can be flawless, but if you
Think of some of the best movie scores throughout the history of cinema: “Star Wars,” “Doctor Zhivago,” “ Jurassic Park,” “Back to the Future,” “Forrest Gump” and the list goes on. The ability of a score to recreate a fan’s connection with a movie when listening to the music by itself is a crucial aspect in film, and something that has gotten away from Hollywood in recent years.
If someone were to play you the main theme from any big blockbuster movie from the last half-decade, would you be able to pick out what movie that theme was from? Sure there are easy ones to pick out such as Iron Man. The original music by Black Sabbath was practically built in to that franchise. But if you were to partake in a movie score "Pepsi challenge," would you be able to pick out the main theme from your favorite movies? Marvel’s “The Avengers” is nearing a Billion and a half dollars worldwide and counting, yet the main musical theme for that movie isn’t memorable. If you were to play the score for fans that had seen the film multiple times they probably wouldn’t be able to tell you what movie it was connected to.
Neon Tommy had a chance to sit down with some of the TV and film industry’s up and coming musical talent at CW3PR’s “Behind The Music With CW3PR: Perfect Sound for TV and Film” on the final day of Comic Con 2012 to talk about the film industry’s growing ambivalence towards musical scores.
Among the interviewees were Danny Jacob, the composer for Disney’s mega-hit animated series “Phineas and Ferb,” iZLER, the composer of ABC’s hit suspense series “Revenge”, and Trevor Morris, the Emmy nominated composer from Showtime’s “The Borgias”, and “The Tudors.”
Aaron Jacob, son of Disney composer Danny Jacob and who also provides vocals on some of Disney's ‘Phineas and Ferb’s’ tracks, said this about one of the most renowned composers to ever work in the film industry, “you can hum the first three notes of any John Williams score and say that’s ‘Jaws’ or oh, that’s ‘Star Wars’.” And he’s exactly right! John Williams is a master at giving life to the score of a movie. Most, if not all of his music has the ability to stand on its own. Even the casual fan knows the beginning sequence to “Star Wars.”
Of course not every movie score can be like “Star Wars” in the sense of how iconic and identifiable it is. The question still remains however; do the recent musical scores of large-scale movie productions lack a musical signature?
iZler, the composer for ABC’s hit TV series “Revenge” agrees to an extent, but provides a more in depth analysis to this question: “Musicality aside, it has a lot to do with the project you’re involved with,” and what “makes John Williams such a genius is that the music can not only stand up by itself in the film, but you can also listen to the score as a piece of music.”
The upside for a music score is always going to be tied to the magnitude of its project. In other words, had the theme for “Star Wars” been used for something on a smaller scale, it likely would not have turned into one of the most iconic movie scores of all time.
“I really think (being iconic), the hugest thing is melody for me, which is where every emotion I know as a composer comes from and I think that is the one thing you can’t teach, I really do. I think there are some people that have an incredible instinct for it, like Williams does and some people don’t. Some people are very adept composers, they’re great orchestrators, but they don’t separate themselves from the pack.”
Morris, composer for Showtime’s “The Borgias” agreed with iZLER, saying “music and its ability to have a life on its own and a good melody is really what separates the men from the boys.”
The two composers agreed that it’s a composer’s ability that makes a score standout. So are these movies being assigned to the wrong people on the film industry’s biggest stage? While iZLER and Morris make valid points on some people having a natural talent for melody, it’s hard to imagine that “The Avengers” composer Alan Silvestri, a legend within the industry whose composing credits include such films as, “Back to the Future,” and “Forrest Gump,” doesn’t have it anymore. The issue at hand is the film industry getting caught up with a movie’s visual enhancements and getting away from how important a musical signature is to a movie franchise.
iZLER hit the nail right on the head when he said “I think there are some directors who respond to music in different ways to others, some like the music to almost sort of melt into sound design, it’s something that becomes musical wallpaper and it’s certainly functional.”
Today’s movies may be visually stunning, but when you talk about movie scores being memorable, production teams for the most part are missing the mark. Is it the fault of the composer, the director, or has the evolution of sound design in movie productions hindered the ability of movie scores to obtain a distinguishable musical signature relative to their films? Let us hope that composing a legendary movie score isn’t becoming a lost art.
Reach contributor Michael Zepeda here.