Chris Boardman Music Blog: A picture(song) is worth a 1000 words

Monday, January 20, 2014

A picture(song) is worth a 1000 words

Lee Plaza Ballroom - Detroit

A filmmaker will use every means at their disposal in service of the story they are telling. The great filmmaker will use the script, casting, performances, set design, lighting, costumes, camera, lenses, sets, locations, props, costumes, hair and more to manipulate and create the desired experience for the viewer. Music is just another color on the director’s palette. Great photography captures a moment in time that asks us step outside ourselves and ask: Who are those people? What are they thinking? What in the world happened? Every picture has a story behind it. Adding music provides an unseen emotional context to the experience. An original dramatic score composed for a movie heightens the suspension of disbelief required by the audience but the use of music from a different medium serves an entirely different purpose. But what about using songs or existing music from a different medium?

The power of music as a story telling tool

If we were to hear “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones or “Light My Fire” by The Doors or any other song from the sixties we would unconsciously remember our feelings, and knowledge of the turbulent times in which these songs were written and recorded. Using existing music leverages the viewer’s personal experiences thus providing a cultural point of reference for a filmmaker. Not all filmmakers understand this but those that do tend to make better movies.

The use of this song over that song (freely substitute existing piece of music) is a conscious decision made by the director.  Blending original score with existing music is challenging but not insurmountable if you take the time to understand why those songs were chosen and how it helps the director tell the story.   You can learn a lot about your director and the project by understanding how they went about choosing a temp score or a song.  Taking your awareness to this level will not only help you write more effective will make you a better composer...and more employable.

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