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Discuss music itself, plus music videos, performance DVDs, concerts, opera, and so on. la la la o/^
16

Movie Scores - Classical Music of the Future?
Topic by: Hags888
Posted: April 19, 2008 - 12:02 PM PDT
Last Reply: June 21, 2011 - 9:17 AM PDT

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author topic: Movie Scores - Classical Music of the Future?
Hags888
post #1  on April 19, 2008 - 12:02 PM PDT  
Hey All,

I'm a professional trumpet player, and I often think about the state of classical music today. I often ponder about where it stands in today's society. For example, does Classical music "matter" anymore? Are non-musicians interested in classical music, especially art music? How do movie scores fit into this whole arena?

When I play orchestral gigs, I find that the "movie music" programs often sell out the houses. I don't know how this relates to the recorded music business, but I do know that movie music seems to be more popular than your standard, non-movie classical "art music." It makes me wonder if movie music has more-or-less replaced the position Opera had in our society/culture? In the 19th century, Opera was typically regarded as the highest form of musical expression (hey, thanks Wagner...I guess?). But movies, while not overtly musical, do contain some outstanding classical scores, and audiences seem to be interested in this kind of classical music. Composers like John Williams and Howard Shore are almost household names (whereas their contemporaries in the non-movie realm, like John Adams and Aaron Jay Kernis are not). What do others think? Is this too big of a topic?
Battie
post #2  on April 19, 2008 - 1:27 PM PDT  
I think music is often a gateway to memories and emotions. So when people listen to music from a movie, they're recalling the movie with each song. Of course, the movie and the music should be outstanding (or at least memorable). And they're often highly emotional.

Several movies in this case are brought to mind: Last of the Mohicans, Highlander, Gladiator, Braveheart, Requiem for a Dream.

Mind you, I've abandoned my enjoyment of all but the first two. :) I still dig the soundtracks, however.
shiftless
post #3  on April 19, 2008 - 5:01 PM PDT  
I always thought of modern orchestral score music as being dumbed down classical. Not nearly as complex or involved as traditional classical. Easier on the ears, most easily identifiable melodies etc. It's a trend I could point out in many areas of our society.

But all that aside, most movie soundtracks/composers have the benefit of an enormous marketing budget behind their recordings and a distribution system in the form of 1000's of movie theaters. Classical music labels don't put that kind of money into their promotion/advertising. It's only natural that the music getting the biggest push in advertising dollars then becomes the most famous and popular. Is the best pop music in the top 40? Not by a long shot (IMO), but it gets the sales cause that's what gets pushed via the corporate airwaves and other forms of advertising.

Man I only have a few more months to use that word - "airwaves" ...
Hags888
post #4  on April 19, 2008 - 7:38 PM PDT  
> On April 19, 2008 - 5:01 PM PDT shiftless wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> I always thought of modern orchestral score music as being dumbed down classical. Not nearly as complex or involved as traditional classical. Easier on the ears, most easily identifiable melodies etc. It's a trend I could point out in many areas of our society.
>

There are many in the classical music world, especially musicians, who agree with you (notice I didn't say "would agree with you"). The reason they do, is because most of the movie music that audiences hear is nothing more than recycled orchestral music from the 19th century. Those in music academia call it "Neo-Romanticism". Romantic orchestral music is what sells tickets to the symphony, and it's the stereotypical music that people associate with emotions...therefore it gets used in movies all the time. The general public is therefore getting their classical music education from movies. Modern classical composers already have to compete with every composer that came before them...and now they also have to compete with movie music composers, who are essentially recycling 100-200 year old music.

But all that aside, music is a business. In the US, music is hardly subsidized at all (The National Endowment for the Arts is a joke btw). Most symphonies survive on corporate donations and funds from foundations. Ticket sales make up less than half of most orchestra budgets. Classical music record sales have never been "popular". They make up around 5% of all the music sales. But when you consider movie music in the equation, it raises things substantially. While it may not be the most worthwhile classical music in terms of "artistic merit" (not gonna touch that one), it is one of the more popular kinds of classical music.

To that end, can anyone name any films that use more contemporary classical music? That is, NOT your John Willilamses and Howard Shores?
IronS
post #5  on April 19, 2008 - 7:50 PM PDT  
Perhaps getting rid of music programs in school hastened the lack of classical music awareness. Also, Time Life Music doesn't seem to advertise classical compilations so much on late night TV anymore. (yes, those are my 2 biggest sources of classical music exposure in my youth)

Considering how visual consumers have become, is it any wonder that music with a visual tie-in (movie scores, videos, etc.) have a more lasting impact (sort of what Battie wrote)? How many people can hum "Ride of the Valkyries" without, at least mentally, whispering "kill the wabbit.. kill the wabbit..." a la Elmer Fudd? Is the average person more able to identify "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony or "Imperial Attack" from Star Wars?

yes, I'm sort of bitter about my high school's sale of all the musical instruments years ago
kaream
post #6  on April 19, 2008 - 11:55 PM PDT  
> On April 19, 2008 - 7:38 PM PDT Hags888 wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> To that end, can anyone name any films that use more contemporary classical music? That is, NOT your John Willilamses and Howard Shores?
> ---------------------------------

Does Philip Glass count? Classical musicians of my acquaintance either blanch or turn livid at the very mention of his name. But I like his Belle et la Bete with the Cocteau, and think the Koyaanisqatsi score is intriguing -- I've never tried watching that movie. On the other hand, his Thin Blue Line is at least as repetitive and ultimately boring as Morris's film (they do go well together that way). BTW, I see IMDb credits him with no fewer than 82 entries.

Some of Gyorgy Ligeti's stuff has been used occasionally, especially by Kubrick, but I don't think he ever wrote specifically for a film (?)

Schnittke is credited with 58 entries, none of which I've seen; and reaching back, of course Prokofiev collaborated extensively with Eisenstein. Shostakovich is given 34 entries, including the 1964 Hamlet.

Without going back to check, it has seemed to me that some of Kieslowski and to the best of my recollection some of Fassbinder had quite interesting music. Apparently Gorecki is either writing for films, or having some of his pieces used. (His name is frequently mispronounced -- Polish 'c' is equivalent to German 'z', or English 'ts'.)


You can see I'm struggling here ... how about Virgil Thomson's Louisiana Story. And Olivier had William Walton write scores for three of his Shakespeare productions.

Malcolm Arnold: fully 94 entries, including Bridge on the River Kwai. (Hey, composers have an even harder time earning a living than performers.) Have you ever listened to his 3-CD set of chamber music? -- wonderfully funny in so many places. Oops .. to be clear, Arnold did *not* write the Colonel Bogey March that you can't get out of your head.
kaream
post #7  on April 20, 2008 - 12:16 AM PDT  
> On April 19, 2008 - 12:02 PM PDT Hags888 wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> ... but I do know that movie music seems to be more popular than your standard, non-movie classical "art music." It makes me wonder if movie music has more-or-less replaced the position Opera had in our society/culture? In the 19th century, Opera was typically regarded as the highest form of musical expression (hey, thanks Wagner...I guess?).
> ---------------------------------

And don't forget that until he fell out of fashion, Mozart was Vienna's -- Europe's -- biggest rock star. This was *popular* music.
AstroAppa
post #8  on April 20, 2008 - 12:26 AM PDT  
i LOVE movie soundtracks...some of my favorites, non-John Williams / Howard Shore include the Gattaca soundtrack by Michael Nyman, and anything by Philip Glass. Anyone else a big fan of the music from LOST?
kaream
post #9  on April 20, 2008 - 12:57 AM PDT  
> On April 20, 2008 - 12:16 AM PDT kaream wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> And don't forget that until he fell out of fashion, Mozart was Vienna's -- Europe's -- biggest rock star. This was *popular* music.
> ---------------------------------

Speaking of which, the most shameless use of *any* kind of music to get your emotional juices flowing is Geza Anda's already-a-little-too-Romantic-just-by-itself C Major Concerto K. 467 in Widerberg's lush and absolutely lovely Elvira Madigan.
Vanamonde
post #10  on April 20, 2008 - 4:33 AM PDT  
> On April 19, 2008 - 7:50 PM PDT IronS wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> How many people can hum "Ride of the Valkyries" without, at least mentally, whispering "kill the wabbit.. kill the wabbit..." a la Elmer Fudd?

Whoa. I just realized. I bet if many of you younger folk hear "The William Tell Overture", you would *not* think of a "cowboy in a mask and his faithful Indian companion". Is this truth - does anyone NOT know what TV show I am talking about?

But then I like to think of a certain scene in "A Clockwork Orange". Highly recommended (but not with your mom!).
Vanamonde
post #11  on April 20, 2008 - 4:38 AM PDT  
> On April 19, 2008 - 11:55 PM PDT kaream wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> Does Philip Glass count?
> ---------------------------------

HE BETTER! I had the pleasure of actually seeing the man play solo piano pieces of his works and yes, the composer can actually play that stuff!

And three times, I have seen the Ensemble play, one to film and once to a live performance. "Powaqqatsi", and the live on was "10,000 Airplanes on the Roof". The final one was a multimedia show but I forget the name.

But then, I would count Vangelis as well. He is my favorite composer of all time.

Vanamonde
post #12  on April 20, 2008 - 4:41 AM PDT  
OH, and I have to mention John Berry. He is the man who made me first notice movie music and I did have about five vinyl albums of the early James Bond soundtracks. You may heard him from "Dancing with Wolves".

Our classical station in Austin plays movie music on Sunday. I had a call from a pollster once and I told that station was my favorite. They tried to tell me it did not exist! Of course it is non-commerical.
Hags888
post #13  on April 20, 2008 - 8:09 AM PDT  
IronS,

I know exactly what you mean. That "Merrie Melodies" short, which was actually called "What's Opera, Doc?", and was released in 1957! I was a Teaching Assistant for a Rock History/Music Appreciation course, and we liked to use that clip to discuss classical music in society. But it's still famous today and is a prime example of how those melodies from Romantic era opera still "matter" to some degree in modern society. They matter in that they are still be referenced (albiet as stereotypical opera, but whatever...).

However, most of us now know other signifieds to go along with the Flight of the Valkyrie, such as the "Kill the Rabbit" shtick, or perhaps the bombing sequence in Apocalypse Now, etc. How many of us have seen the original Flight of the Valkyrie within the context of the whole Ring Cycle? Not many...the Ring as a whole is rarely performed anymore, mainly because the dern thing is composed of 4 operatic sets totaling 15 hours of music (usually spread out over 4 nights). I've only ever seen videos of it, and they were for music history classes I had to take in college. But the story itself is one that should still be interesting...it's got a lot of "Harry Potter" and "LOTR" in it. :)

Kaream,

Philip Glass definitely counts. I left him out of my "John Adams, Aaron Jay Kernis" list for that reason. Glass is a minimalist, and is known for his film scores in addition to his concert music. You could also add Aaron Copland to the list. While he's most known for his "beef, it's what's for dinner" commercials (they used his music from the Rodeo ballet), and his "Fanfare for the Common Man", he also wrote some film music in the 1940s and 50s. Check out the film adaptation of "Our Town", it has outstanding music from Copland.

As for Shostakovich, he wrote a bunch of film music in the 1930s and 1940s, but not much after that. Some of his orchestral music was used later in some other films...drawing a blank on which ones though.

As for Malcolm Arnold, his "Brass Quintet" is one of the most famous brass chamber music pieces in the repertoire, but his bread and butter was UK film music. I've played his brass quintet numerous times, but haven't seen a single one of the films he scored. :)

Vanamonde,

That is really sad about your pollster experience. A lot of classical stations are run by "public radio" which is a tax subsidized service...at least, it used to be. Without it, there might not be classical radio at all! I live in the Twin Cities, and I often times don't have the cash to spend to go see the Minnesota Orchestra every weekend. But Minnesota Public Radio hosts a live broadcast of their Friday evening performances every single week. I usually try to catch it when I'm not out performing myself.

As a side note, did many of you know that almost every European country has government supported symphony orchestras in their major metropolitan centers? Did you know that in the US there is not a single one (well, not any that are directly supported)?
Battie
post #14  on April 20, 2008 - 12:29 PM PDT  
This is beyond my realm of experience (given that my tastes lean towards blues and rock - my favorite classical piece happens to be Moonlight Sonata). The only recent films I can think of with semi-classical scores would be Atonement and August Rush. How contemporary was AR?
kaream
post #15  on April 20, 2008 - 12:30 PM PDT  
> On April 19, 2008 - 7:38 PM PDT Hags888 wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> > On April 19, 2008 - 5:01 PM PDT shiftless wrote:
> > ---------------------------------
> > I always thought of modern orchestral score music as being dumbed down classical. Not nearly as complex or involved as traditional classical. Easier on the ears, most easily identifiable melodies etc. It's a trend I could point out in many areas of our society.
> >
>
> There are many in the classical music world, especially musicians, who agree with you (notice I didn't say "would agree with you"). The reason they do, is because most of the movie music that audiences hear is nothing more than recycled orchestral music from the 19th century. Those in music academia call it "Neo-Romanticism". Romantic orchestral music is what sells tickets to the symphony, and it's the stereotypical music that people associate with emotions...therefore it gets used in movies all the time. The general public is therefore getting their classical music education from movies. Modern classical composers already have to compete with every composer that came before them...and now they also have to compete with movie music composers, who are essentially recycling 100-200 year old music.
>
> But all that aside, music is a business. In the US, music is hardly subsidized at all (The National Endowment for the Arts is a joke btw). Most symphonies survive on corporate donations and funds from foundations. Ticket sales make up less than half of most orchestra budgets. Classical music record sales have never been "popular". They make up around 5% of all the music sales. But when you consider movie music in the equation, it raises things substantially. While it may not be the most worthwhile classical music in terms of "artistic merit" (not gonna touch that one), it is one of the more popular kinds of classical music.
>
> To that end, can anyone name any films that use more contemporary classical music? That is, NOT your John Willilamses and Howard Shores?
> ---------------------------------

Try giving it a shot anyway. Set aside the use of snippets from preexisting works, whether medieval/ Baroque/ Classical/ Romantic or 'modern' (Apocalypse Now, Clockwork Orange, Elvira Madigan, 2001, etc -- not to mention the Fantasia travesty; for that matter, one could argue that Stokowski turned everything he ever touched into 'movie music'). As a for-instance, look at Arnold. Can you distinguish between his 'serious' music (even when he's being deliberately fanciful, which he frequently was) and his 'movie music'?

He might not be the best example. How about Walton, Thomson or Prokofiev? Anyone else you can think of?

Or, here's an interesting brief quote from wikipedia's article on Walter Piston:
'In 1936, the Columbia Broadcasting System commissioned six American composers (Aaron Copland, Louis Gruenberg, Howard Hanson, Roy Harris, William Grant Still and Piston) to write works for CBS radio stations to broadcast. Piston considered radio better suited to smaller orchestras and he wrote a Concertino for Piano and Chamber Orchestra.'

That Concertino is one of my all-time favorites; I don't know what any of the other pieces were, but can you take a stab at how any of these might be distinguished from 'movie music'?

Or maybe Stokowski is the real key to this question, as much as the nature of the composition itself. I'm not a musician, and can't put it into words, but he succeeded, if that's the right term, in bastardizing just about everything set in front of him, juicing it up, and becoming wildly popular (relatively speaking, of course) in the process. Arthur Fiedler? Liberace? (Just joking.) I earlier mentioned Geza Anda, who is a fine musician -- it seems strange to even put his name in the same paragraph with Liberace's -- but he does occasionally steer Mozart perilously close to Romanticism.
kaream
post #16  on April 20, 2008 - 12:42 PM PDT  
> On April 20, 2008 - 8:09 AM PDT Hags888 wrote:
> ---------------------------------
> As for Shostakovich, he wrote a bunch of film music in the 1930s and 1940s, but not much after that. Some of his orchestral music was used later in some other films...drawing a blank on which ones though.
> ---------------------------------

Dmitri Shostakovich entry at IMDb
Hags888
post #17  on April 20, 2008 - 1:04 PM PDT  
> Try giving it a shot anyway. Set aside the use of snippets from preexisting works, whether medieval/ Baroque/ Classical/ Romantic or 'modern' (Apocalypse Now, Clockwork Orange, Elvira Madigan, 2001, etc -- not to mention the Fantasia travesty; for that matter, one could argue that Stokowski turned everything he ever touched into 'movie music'). As a for-instance, look at Arnold. Can you distinguish between his 'serious' music (even when he's being deliberately fanciful, which he frequently was) and his 'movie music'?
>
> He might not be the best example. How about Walton, Thomson or Prokofiev? Anyone else you can think of?
>
> That Concertino is one of my all-time favorites; I don't know what any of the other pieces were, but can you take a stab at how any of these might be distinguished from 'movie music'?

> ---------------------------------

My experience with Malcolm Arnold is exclusively in his brass chamber music. So, I can't really speak to the differences between the two. I will say though, that in Copland at least, there seems to be very little drop off in quality between his concert music and his film music. The obvious differences between concert music and film music, generally speaking, is simply the form. A symphony usually consists of 4 movements, and there are some standardized forms to follow in the use of key areas and themes, even in Romantic era symphonies and beyond. But in film music, the form is solely dependent upon the narrative. So, for example, comparing Copland's 3rd symphony to the music in 'Our Town' is a difficult thing to do, because the craft involved with both forms is entirely different.

Which leads me to a potential argument as to why film music might possibly never be considered as high of an art form as concert music. In film music, the music is often subservient to the narrative. IE, whatever emotions the scene is trying to channel, or whatever characterization is trying to be communicated on screen must be reflected in the music. In today's world of film music there are plenty of cliche, formulaic ways to do this. In a lot of ways, film music has changed very little in 30 years (at least in terms of classical music). There are very specific instrument choices and keys (ie, major/minor) that are always used to signify the same kinds of things in all films. Regal brass fanfares to announce the hero, clashing and static high pitched notes to hold tension and suspense in a thriller, etc. I could go on and on listing classical music conventions in film music. So, in some sense, film music is always going to be a lesser artistic endeaver...generally speaking of course. But I tend to think that good film music is the kind that doesn't draw attention to itself. It's the kind that you don't notice, because it's serving the story so well.

On the flipside, classical concert music is not bound by any specific narrative (unless of the course you're dealing with a text in vocal music, or there's a text the instrumental music is references, such as in tone poems and the like). Furthermore, there are basically two aesthetic stances in the music world. There is the one that sides with film music and believes music is capable of communication, and there is the opposite view that music is a context-less combination of pitches without any real meaning aside from the ways the pitches interact among themselves. But again, that discussion deserves it's own thread and is only slightly related to film music. So, classical music is the main attraction, whereas film music isn't...or usually isn't.

So, hopefully that helps explain the distinction that I see between film music and classical concert music. If push came to shove and I had to pick one that had more artistic merit, concert music would be the one I'd pick. That doesn't mean I don't like film music, because I happen to like it. See, for me there's another distinction between artistic merit and popularity/favorites. I can always appreciate good art, but that doesn't mean that I always enjoy it personally or want a repeat experience of it. :)
kaream
post #18  on April 20, 2008 - 1:39 PM PDT  
I see your point.

I guess I tend to think of most movie music as being somewhere between elevator music and 'real' music.
troublemaker
post #19  on April 24, 2008 - 12:44 AM PDT  
> The reason they do, is because most of the movie music that audiences hear is nothing more than recycled orchestral music from the 19th century. Those in music academia call it "Neo-Romanticism".
>

>
> To that end, can anyone name any films that use more contemporary classical music? That is, NOT your John Willilamses and Howard Shores?
> ---------------------------------


I think for the particular point above about how film scores tend to be redundant takes on music Neo-romanticism is part of the reason I tend to deviate towards films that at least try something "different" in terms of music. I am so sick of the cliche' orchestral melodies and swells which you've outlined. By no means am I knowledge d when it comes to this genre, and I'm not even sure if any of these really fit in the classical category, but I've really enjoyed the music direction of the following films:

-Clint Mansell's score for The Fountain .
-Jonny Greenwood's score for There Will be Blood .
-Nick Cave and Warren Ellis' score for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
-Jon Brion's score for
Punchdrunk Love .
-Underworld and John Murphy's score for Sunshine .

and my all time favorite, Ennio Morricone's score for Days of Heaven .


For something as richly dense as most "real" classical scores, I'd imagine it probably seems like an injustice to have the bastardized form it takes today in most films. God knows I don't have much of a trained ear but hearing repeats of the John Williams/Howard Shore formula has bored me to tears. I think it's still possible for scores to do something that is aurally gratifying, or at the very least, different and interesting for the viewer. Though from looking at my list, apart from DoH and TWBB, I guess that means not doing much classical...
Hags888
post #20  on April 29, 2008 - 3:10 PM PDT  
Troublemaker,

Part of the problem, I think, with movie scores is a problem of "expectation" and "context". Audiences have a clearly defined contextual meaning for movie music. It's why you don't hear the hero music being played behind the villian, and the sinister music being played behind the hero (unless there's a reason in the narrative). Doing so would confuse the audience more often than not. It's partly a problem with classical music generally though. If you don't use tonal music with all of it's cliches, then you're left with "art music" or "experimental" music. And while I think that those kinds of genres can work just fine in a film, you're not going to find them in very much of Hollywood, because it would break convention and defy expectations...probably too much.

That said, I find movies with popular music "scores" to be just as interesting as classical music. But would you really ever find a fantasy movie like LOTR with a punk music soundtrack? Actually...that might be really cool. :)

Heck we live in a post-modern world...anything goes right?
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