Sunday, August 11, 2019

Some Films for Music

Laura (1944) - David Raksin
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) - Hugo Friedhoffer
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) - Alex North
Viva Zapata! (1952) - Alex North
The Heiress (1949) - Aaron Copland
Bad Day at Black Rock (1955, scored in late 1954)  - AndrĂ© Previn
East of Eden (1955) - Leonard Rosenman
The Big Country (1958) - Jerome Moross
The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959) - George Duning

Films scored by Aaron Copland (available to view on YT, discussed in future webinar)

Of Mice and Men (1939)

Our Town (1940)

The North Star (1943)

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

PMC:09 1st review

Assignment Mark (Formative)

Assignment Score Merit
Tutor Notes

Chris McGuire's Notes:
Hi Andrew,

Thanks for going into so much detail surrounding the film and giving a sense of context here. All very useful to know! Its good to identify instruments that you may want to use to signify a certain character - this can be limiting and may evolve away from this, but it can offer a good starting point. Also good to hear about how your sound pallet evolves when working with your director. Now you have painted this picture, it would be really interesting to hear how you landed at some of the creative decisions you took to meet the twists and turns of the narrative.
You mention some good references, but quickly and in passing. There could be much more detail in how certain section/timbres are similar in musical approach to your score. This could also be in terms of spotting or musical pacing, each of the films you mention as references have very different approaches to spotting and pacing, which would be most comparable to your film and why?

Overall thoughts
This is an interesting score which makes many of the twists and turns you outline in the commentary. Spotting is done well throughout so far, although some moments are a little heavy handed. There could be more space to allow for the ‘important’ elements to speak. The acoustic elements in particular (strings, woodwind, piano) appear very small in contrast to the sound design. Some of the acoustic lines are a little convoluted, too: be mindful of writing too many notes when one or 2 may suffice enough to warm the timbre or change the aspect. I’d be tempted to mix up the score slightly in some of the conversation sections, just so we can hear the detail/depth without it taking over. Some bass is a little overly resonant, but this can be tamed. A good start!

Specifics and Sync points:
00m - Sense of scale in the opening is not quite there. The transitions in the woods/brass(?) are too dry and synthetic. The descending figure is almost funeral like. Blending sound design elements will help give depth and a more consistent energy synomynous with the rest of the score. If you are going for contrast here, then make the woodwind notes clear and ‘de-clutter’ keeping the notes you only really need. They will still need to be dressed with suitable reverb to keep it on a scale comparable with the rest of the score.

Nice level of musical involvement around the chess game, subtle and evolving, works well. 1m05s loses a level of intensity. Keep some involvement of the score before the notes at 1m22s.

Mix the music up a little so we can hear some of the twists in the score a little more clearly. This would be fine for demo purposes/the assignment.

You handle the rise in tension well around 3m50s.

The resolution at 4m16s is unnecessary, the first one works well around 4m but a movement back to this resolution is too complete.

Tasteful elements around 5 minutes. The string s may need a touch more reverb/depth on the tail of the note, they appear a little small in comparison to sound design elements.

The bleeps at 5m45s are well done. These could have more effects/swell up and down with a little more movement, particularly at 6m10s as the camera pans back away from the chess board. Integrate these into a more fluid mix.

This shot (6m-6m25s) feels a little static, apart from the good sense of growth in the distorted pad, not much else changes or evolves in the score. This could be a moment to bring out other rhythmical pulse and show a coherent sense of growth in other areas of the arrangement as well. this will add to the intensity and drive.

The external shot at 6m25s could be a moment of respite, allowing the tail reverb/space of the previous sequence to wash over this shot to give a sense of emptiness that is apparent in the shot. The contrast from the previous and the following scene will add room to the pacing of the score. As long as energy and detail is captured in the reverb tail this would give quite the ambient and atmospheric transition (Stanley Kubrick in 2001 S.O. famously left out all sound for shots in space, Interstellar did something similar with external shots too). Keeping some of the synths/sound design in the upper frequencies on the exterior shot would work well without the bass growls, as there should be enough bass in the reverb tail from the previous scene.

A very intense start to the next sequence. This reflects the danger you mention in your commentary really well. The 2 percussive hits at 6m41s might benefit from being repeated moments later, and/or altered in their repeats as the scene progresses. Currently they stand out as being slightly too much. Something similar to the subtle pulses here will help the previous scene. At 7m02s I felt the intensity drop slightly from the score. Perhaps another layer of rhythm/pulse would help maintain the high intensity of the start of the sequence. There could be a slight push/riser towards the end of the internal shot helping propel the narrative into the external shot with the wind gusts. Try syncing the final hit with the cut to the external shot and see if that makes the end of this sequence a little tighter. Pulling that final hit a little earlier will allow for an ambient reverb tail to dissipate organically before the dialogue starts in the next scene.

From 7m20s some of the bass pulses are a touch loud, (around 7m48s particularly). On entry of the strings around 7m55s: these could do with a little more reverb/space – that will give their entry a sense of depth comparable to the previous sound design; at the minute they feel small in comparison. The transitions between the first 2 notes is overlapping quite noticeable. Consider dropping the 3rd note in the motif. The final note of the string motif is rather static, this could evolve or lead us in a certain direction (more gritty? Dark? Portamento slightly detuning?).
8m40s, the bass is again too much, consider taking some of the lower boomy freqs down a little and adding some top end to give more definition to the pulse.

9m15s, the piano feels thin on entry here, again this is in comparison to the scale you have established in earlier scenes. The high pitched note on strings entering at 9m20s exits a little abruptly, do we need that there? The shift towards piano is already pushing us in to more sentimental territory, the extra note on the close up of the picture is not necessary in this form.

9m32s, the piano feels small. More reverb/subtle delays to get this into a similar space to the rest of the score. Perhaps try dropping some of the notes of each motif to allow for more room in the reverb/decay.

The chord at 10m15s paints a fairly hopeful colour which for me doesn’t match the conversation. Is there a reason this is more positive? The shift at 10m18s is such a stark contrast the sudden change doesn’t work, it feels blatant, and the acting is actually carrying that turn, the score may not need to work so hard here.

At 10m30s on the words ‘I am very lucky’, the score could introduce some intrigue as this is a rather odd comment, and on her second statement about knowing she is an android, is obviously a dig at the others not knowing. Could there be an ominous undertone here?

The cluster chord at 11m works well, although the resolution at 11m07s is too sentimental and unnecessary. You end the sequence well with the clusters and a sense of dread. The piano is again too busy. Using one note instead of so many would warm the timbre somewhat giving a nod back to the character it represents without making it overly convoluted.

Research Fair – you have the timbres/colours but more detail in the analysis of other scores and specific points in these scores is needed; why are they relevant to this project, etc.

Creative Good – appropriate sound pallet set up which matches many of the points of the narrative outlined in your commentary. Allow for some elements to evolve more, especially sustained notes.

Technical – Good – well mixed on the whole although some boomy elements. Acoustic elements need work getting them into the same sense of space with sound design.

Practical – Good – appropriate spotting on the whole, sometimes a little heavy handed or convoluted, when one or 2 notes would have done the trick

Hope this helps,
All the best

Chris McGuire's Summary:
This is an interesting score which makes many of the twists and turns you outline in the commentary. Spotting is done well throughout so far, although some moments are a little heavy handed. There could be more space to allow for the ‘important’ elements to speak. The acoustic elements in particular (strings, woodwind, piano) appear very small in contrast to the sound design. Some of the acoustic lines are a little convoluted, too: be mindful of writing too many notes when one or 2 may suffice enough to warm the timbre or change the aspect. I’d be tempted to mix up the score slightly in some of the conversation sections, just so we can hear the detail/depth without it taking over. Some bass is a little overly resonant, but this can be tamed. A good start!

Monday, July 15, 2019

PMC:08 Summative

Assignment Mark (Summative)

Assignment Score 74 %
Tutor Notes

Spencer Bambrick's Notes:

This piece has come such a long way! It certainly is unique and original as the brief requires. Just about every sound in this seems created and processed from scratch to great effect. And there is *just* enough musicality to make particular moments impactful, while the rest of the piece relies on dynamics, timbral contrast, and spatialization to bring the listener to attention. Great work!


This is definitely one of the most creative pieces I've heard from a student. By far my favorite aspect of this is the "melody" as performed by the drill throughout the piece. I know that was something of a "found sound" on its own, but I also know quite a lot of work had to be done to bring it into the foreground of the mix. So nice work on that.

The other creative aspect of the is the development. This piece does not rely on tonality in any way, yet it has tension and resolution just the same. The combination of dynamic contrast, tempo, and timbre shifts is more than enough to keep the listener's attention from fading.
Personally, I love the spatialization as well. Sometimes this can work to distract a listener, but here it just adds to the cacophony.

Technical: EXCELLENT

Music concrete, and music based on sound design is so hard to mix, but you've done an excellent job here. It took a lot of work to separate background and foreground elements (as I've seen through your iterations), but it was well worth it. At no point did I find myself guessing at what I was supposed to be focused on. There are always interesting elements in the background, but the foreground is compelling enough to garner my attention throughout. This is largely due to the intense focus that the mix puts on every foreground element. This is a very well done mix.

Practical: EXCELLENT

In terms of practicality, I believe it goes above and beyond what the brief asks for. All sounds were recorded and processed from scratch, and the palette is expansive. Plus you've basically created an entirely new language of music concrete for yourself, and orchestrated it with superb clarity.

It's worth mentioning that throughout the process you took feedback in stride and implemented every bit of it in your own way, without losing sight of your original intentions and goals. Of course I am particularly a fan of this kind of sound design based music, but your track is excellently done regardless of style. Amazing work!

Spencer Bambrick's Summary:
Overall fantastic job on this. Truly creative use of sounds and timbres, and I honestly cannot think of another thing to make it better!

Chris McGuire's Notes:
Hi Andrew,
Great to see another assignment of yours this week!
Some really interesting reference tracks mentioned, love that you have discovered Messain’s Quartet for the end of time, such a fascinating piece, and how he was considering the use of orchestral elements depicting other real-world sounds; he was a sound designer ahead of his time!
I loved reading where you got the sounds from here, some wonderfully whacky sources. It sounds as if you have gone all-in on this which is fantastic. Taking ‘musical’ elements into sound design is a benefit a composer can bring to the role; audio editors can be clinical and overlook this. Musical considerations that you highlight are worth applying in any future work in this vein.
This is a highly creative and exciting track, with a sense of energy which also retains structure and build over the 3 minutes. You balance intensity with atmospheric passages well, and reverb/delays are tasteful. The sense of space in the mix remains fairly consistent, and the different ‘scenes’ you paint are well-balance.
I really like the use of stereo image in this; highly dynamic whilst creating variation and life to elements in the composition. At 6s, the tail end of the opening atmos/hits dissipates underneath the saw. It would have worked better to maintain a longer sense of atmosphere underneath the saw to 9-10s so the abstract setting can be sustained.
Kick/bass drum (?) element from the start adds some good rhythm and provides drive, it’s a rhythmical element that the listener can latch on to and recognise pretty well its re-entry.
Excellent doppler effects on the bells at 24s, there is wide textural variation created through the 40s which works well in this track. – shame these aren’t revisited later under a different guise?
1m01s the repetition of squawky/radio effect (first heard at 52s) is too similar to its first iteration. Perhaps a high/low pass filter would change enough of the character of this to feel like a development rather than a direct repetition of the passage moments earlier.
You have created a really clear balance between foreground and background elements, giving a sense of depth to the production.
Through 1m-2m the various ‘kick drum’ hits could be dressed with delays to supply a sprinkling of musical metre; at the moment they appear rather randomly, but the sound itself isn’t really altered from one hit to the next.
The rising white noise/synth from 1m30s adds build/expectation and tension, nice contrast with the braam/downer at 1m45s.
There is a pop/clicks at 2m03, might be the end of a tempo-synced delay reacting to a tempo track change?
The sudden change at 2m08s could have been prepared to establish the gear change on the drill/high synth sounds. This is a moment where we move from plenty of depth and space to an element ‘close up’. A short swoosh/ramp in to this would shape the end of the preceding phrase.
Panning really effective in this section through to 2m30s. Build/expectation works nicely with the ascending high pitch and growling bass. You are using the full frequency spectrum really well. This comes to an anti-climax of sorts around 2m40s, perhaps a similar interaction as seen at 1m45s of introducing a downer/braam would help this moment of transition. – you have something at 2m50s which would answer this rise in anticipation really well, I’d be tempted to pull this forward a touch.
2m55s pops/clicks in the audio track. They appear like errors in a mixdown rather than an experimental feature. Make more of them if they were intentional, or if they are due to a mixdown/CPU issue, then this is different!
Great use of intensity in the final note, seems an apt way to finish this track! Tail end of the final note is appropriate, although there is quite a bit of silence after we have heard the full decay.
Hope this helps, and any questions please feel free to get intouch and we can arrange a 1-to-1.
All the best

Creative - Excellent
Technical – Excellent – check for pops/tail on delivery!
Practical - Excellent

Chris McGuire's Summary:
Overall a really creative submission for this assignment. Plenty of detail in the manipulation of sound sources. You strike a wonderful balance between foreground and background. Use of space and stereo image is really well-handled. There are occasions where a change/new section could have had more impact if it was better prepared; shaping the tail end of a preceding section can act as a springboard. Some audio click/pops in a couple of places. Wonderful work with detail, focus and a musical arch to the structure that adds drive and momentum/tension and release. Well done.

More things

Clearly, we need to shoot here.

PhD at Leeds.

A fellow student, Algernon Van Peel.

Some more loudness standards.

EQlibrium is a fancy-pants EQ.

Cue by cue, the movie Alien.

The EQOrange.

Mac Rogers show is only two nights at The Brick.

Tangent Edge Instruments makes a Kontakt conch horn.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

PMC:07 Summative

[Editor's note: I highlighted things I though I should look at again.]

Assignment Mark (Summative)

Assignment Score 60 %
Tutor Notes

Allison Piccioni's Notes:
Hi Andrew!

Thank you for your “Frozen” summative submission.

Great to get a little more in-depth read this time about your inspiration and creative process. Also lovely to grade both your formative and summative submissions of this assignment and hear the additions and how the score has filled out melodically and texturally! I love the subtle change to the melody at the opening scene, it is much more emotive with the change and it’s nice to hear the addition of the live flute, particularly in a solo instrument it just adds so much more to a sequence.

I get so much more emotionally from the music when she closes her eyes around 2:05:59:09 now as well as 02:06:50:14 as she smiles subtly! You are really telling the story with the music. It’s quite nice to have the break in the music when we get indoors with the church scene. It also puts a great emphasis on the door opening.

I don’t know if it’s necessary to duck the music so low around 02:07:15:17, it would be nice to still hear it tailing here, as it could help the segue back in around 02:07:21:21.

Good additions to the suspense in the music as she’s searching around with a flashlight. I can also hear the piano clearer in the mix now.

I personally would like a longer fade out around 02:08:16:21. It seems too abrupt here, almost like a music editor chopped your score. A nice long smooth fade here would help tie the scenes together without being so distracting. You have a great one under the narration reading the card at 02:09:19:02.

Great consideration for the music to sit under dialogue, the arrangement and mix balance nicely around (and out of the way!) of speaking range.

I’m not sure if it’s a sound effect style sample or the mix is just completely blown out, but at 02:09:28:23 the music mix is very harsh, totally washed out by that white noise sound. I think you could have gotten the same effect using a low synth and choosing a different instrumentation changeup here. You can still get that “wall of sound” effect without just piling on frequencies. This was a new addition, I actually prefer it how you submitted for this section in your formative submission.

Could have used a smoother transition at 02:09:46:22, it almost sound like one of the samples is either cutting to early or another is going too long? But a really nice changeup in the music here afterwards.

Again the mix sounds a little blown out (possibly too much compression?) around 02:10:11:10.

Really nice additions to the melody around 02:08:39:21, the music is so much more impactful.

Guitar with the reversed reverb and back sounds great.

Research: GOOD
Creative: GOOD
Technical: GOOD
Practical: GOOD

Allison Piccioni's Summary:
Great to have reviewed both your formative and summative submissions for this assignment - it’s wonderful to see how the score has filled out with some carefully placed additions including live flute! Do watch that some of your sound effects / additions are not too overpowering and harsh in the mix.

Chris McGuire's Notes:
Hi Andrew,
Apologies for the delay here, and thank you for your patience. Let’s dive in!
Some good observations here and nice to see your considering a range of different productions and scores. I think your summary of the tone presented in the film and narrative definitely resonates with Nordic Noir, Fortitude an interesting soundtrack and the bridge also. Its good to look further afield and consider influence from soundtracks that aren’t necessarily linked in other areas.
I’d like to know more about how the energy in House MD score creates such fitting propulsion of the narrative; was pacing considered? Fades and entry points of cues? Instrument entries? Acoustic vs synth hybrid split? – I see you are using Albion ONE, a great starting point. Albion V has a whole host of Nordic influence in there, Tundra is a great library.
You detail some good creative angles in your commentary, although the discussion only goes as far as what you are doing, rather than WHY you are doing it. That being said there are moments of research which shows the justification of an action, for instance your handling of supernatural elements on entry of the church.

Composition and Mix
Overall, you have chosen a well-suited sound pallete which compliments the setting of the film. There are moments of intensity which really heighten the suspense, for instance on the view of the ice as she is dreaming in the final quarter of the film. There are moments where synchronicity is handled well, on the introduction of most of the string ostinati for instance, which matches her intent and emotive drive. Some other sync points are rather abrupt which detract and cheapen the sound. This goes for delays and reverbs used – being more subtle and lingering with these will aid the idea of expansive space that is so prevalent in Scan-noir and other genres of thriller/suspense.
Occasionally there are quite distinctive entries of intriguing timbres that are not synced with moments on screen. Or, if they are, the movement in the picture is too small to warrant such a large timbral shift/entry (see below for specific points on this). On the subject of spotting: removing the score completely then reintroducing it is a bold thing to do! Of course silence is important in film, although moving quickly from score to silence a few times in fairly quick succession actually detracts from the atmospheric nature that the score (or use of silence) adds to the narrative. I try to give myself perspective in the pacing of a film/cue whilst working on a specific point by watching the whole cue through and often the cues either side of the one I am working on. I am listening/watching to hear the effect of an entry or exit point from a ‘greater distance’. That way I can maintain an idea of pacing that the audience will experience; as of course we are working at microscopic levels, replaying notes/bars/sequences over and over again, we lose that perspective of hearing it all once through, with no repeats.
The mix is good overall, and you blend synths and acoustic elements well in the same space. Good use of the stereo image with moving rhythmical textures. You create some nice moments of evolution in the synths/rhythmical layers! Occasionally some acoustic elements appear a touch thin and lacking in life. Take the sustained string notes for instance, these could benefit from more expressive shaping of CC1, CC11 and CC2 (vibrato). If using legato patches CC5 and portamento could have been explored as they are rather static and synth like. The piano could have benefitted from saturation to warm up the lower end, as on some entries it was a touch thin (perhaps it was a little low in the mix).
Here are some more specific points:
Sudden ending of rhythmical textures at 05m43s – extend the delays here
String transitions are a little smudged through 06m07s, not enough life in the samples
Entry of panning tone at 06m35s is a little strange, not synced with anything and quite a deliberate entry of new timbre – this could do with being justified with synchronising/changing with something in the picture.
07m01s the silence is reached abruptly here, softer more gradual fade
Nice handling of the leaves and tension at 07m07s, although the entry point is a touch early and rather large. Something stripped back and more subtle entry with perhaps more sustain on the tail would blend better here.
Nice ostinato from 07m30s, this matches her intent and growing suspense.
Good tonal balance as she is in the office.
The delays at the end of this scene and transition in the shot of the street are again abrupt. These could be softer and more gradually executed.
Nice sense of tension instilled through the 9 minute mark. There could have been a sync point on the close up of the cards and the text ‘Steve’, this could help tie the narrative together, as it was a fairly obvious shift in the film which wasn’t acknowledged in the score.
09m13s the rhythmical elements again end abruptly. Some music can be maintained underneath the dialogue, it doesn’t need to be as strong a cut as it is currently.
Wonderful texture and depth to the score on the ice shot 09m28s, really nice balance there. Again the fade/return to the ostinato could have been softer, perhaps the ostinato less pounced, and more ‘smudged’ to match her dreamy nature, less rhythmical and more aleatoric.
The cut at 10m04s is far too abrupt, this feels unprepared as if it has been temp track that has been edited by a director wanting to get the rough sense of pacing across in the score. Consider ensuring there is an appropriate sense of attack and starting point to this cue.
The loud piano note at 10m10s is a little off putting as it does not sync with any obvious element on the screen.
Be mindful of introducing strident timbres like this with no change of movement/entry of noticeable element in the picture.
The change at 10m25s is again too abrupt to move to silence. Allow for a subtle reverb tail to linger on so the score exit isn’t so blatant.

I hope this helps, happy to talk through any of the above in a 1-to-1 session.
All the best

Research – Fair/Good – more of the ‘why’ needed in the commentary; explain the effects of music/creative direction behind the compositional choices made, rather than focussing on what you are doing which is apparent when listening to the score. Show informed creative decisions.
Creative - Good
Technical - Fair
Practical - Fair

Chris McGuire's Summary:
Good use of texture and sense of evolution in the synths/rhythmical elements. Appropriate timbre and a good mix that reflects your overall intentions. Handling of entry and exit points was rather abrupt; consider the pacing and switching between silence and score in quick succession as this detracts from the atmosphere evoked. Use of CC editing and delay/reverbs would aid in creating an expansive sense of depth and life to the composition. Consider outlining the ‘why’ and ‘how’ in a commentary, rather than the ‘what’.

Friday, May 24, 2019

PMC07 Formative 2

Assignment Mark (Formative)

Assignment Score Pass
Tutor Notes

Douglas Black Heaton's Notes:
Hi Andrew,

Thanks for sending in your Frozen assignment. Your notes are rather brief but are quite informative concerning approach. I've just had a long session watching the second season of Westworld so interesting to see that come up in your references. It would help if you actually described how you've used these references in your approach. What is it about Westworld, House or the Killing that you feel adds to Frozen? Instrumentation, mood, pacing?

Let's have a listen..

My first impression is it's very dense with music from the start. And it's quite loud. I've always considered the film to be quite intimate in approach and wonder whether this is overwhelming.

The opening is good, very mysterious mood of oppressive nature. Good musical build to the dream moment. Couple of points - I wonder if you could incorporate the camera as a sound - not literally - but something slightly sinister in the arrangement that marks it. I would also consider some sound design as she starts to move into the dream world. It would be good to feel she's on the edge of reality.

Dreamworld - the low piano note is ok but I would think about a change of pace here. We've just moved worlds after all. Perhaps drop the high pitched wooshing sound to make it less busy. When you go from the gulls to that sound it feels like a continuation even though things have changed.

06:21 Good moment where she looks to the other shore.

06:33 Adding the percussion is interesting. It feels purposeful like we're going somewhere. Why start that here? Where are we going? I would consider pulling back the music already on the moon to give some space before the next scene. At the moment you continue and build until the ending tom drums feel like they're leading to the church scene .. but that then feels too heavy with music. Cut it back earlier with the low string dying as we enter the church and the higher string comes in.

07:20 There's what sounds like a glitch here where a string line cuts out abruptly. Then we have what sounds like a horn line that feels very forthright and static.

07:27 The ostinato works well enough for the action of breaking and entering, she's on a mission after all, but I would strongly consider stopping it either around 07:40 when we're inside and creeping around, or latest 07:50 when we see the desk. The visuals are not really action oriented and there doesn't feel like there's extreme tension .. so perhaps the music can reflect the snooping around and curiosity more.

At 07:50 rather than pulling back we're actually going up a notch with the addition of percussion.

07:57 there's something a bit ragged about the arrangement here. Feels quite improvised. A little haphazard all the way through to the next scene. Lots of elements but not working so well together. The move to the next scene at 08:13 should be a little smoother and earlier. This is another opportunity to dial back the music (which would make the bigger moments more effective).

It sounds like we have some fairly static ensemble wind/string patches here that could be removed altogether, or made far more musical (thin it out to individual instruments, make them breathe through expression control). The piano at 08:34 work well leading into the next scene but again, I wouldn't necessarily leave it running through the scene. Light and shade.

08:39 Sound design pad. Presumably to indicate something suspicious but jarrs badly with the piano - this might be the intention but it took me away from the story.

08:45 Not sure about the extra percussion coming in here.

08:47 the strings work ok here. Could be even better if they were without the piano/percussion. Something to expore.

09:10 I like the clock percussion, could maybe have worked in it earlier in a more subtle way.

09:20 Save the string crescendo for after the vocal. It's partly the music being loud against the sync sound but also high strings + high pitched voice is asking for trouble. Consider using lower strings and go higher when she finishes.

09:27 Ice. The piano note is reminiscent of the earlier dream sequence which is good.

Not convinced by returning to the string ostinato when the ice sequence ends. Not needed. Could sustain through to next scene with the letter.

10:04 Very jarring going straight to the video screen sound (nice call back to earlier camera). Although that might be the intended effect when you've had almost 5 minutes of almost solid music it's too much. If the letter posting scene was emptier/quieter this could work much better.

Overall, some nice ideas. You've gone for a Nordic noir approach which is more intense than might otherwise be expected of this film but is a legitimate approach. Within that I feel the music is too dense through the 5 minutes. This isn't a fast paced action thriller - it's a slow, evolving, psychological thriller. Carving out some more light and shade would really help individual sections work e.g. gaps in the music or less musically dense moments. Having made the decision of Nordic noir there are areas where the music tries to fit in those elements (e.g. percussion) without them necessarily fitting the mood of the picture/scene. There are some areas where the arrangement feels a little weak - too improvised.

A few other points worth sharing ..

RE: Presentation. The film starts with music from the off. There's a little glitch that's probably coming from the sync audio. When you send these things to your clients you're trying to impress them so make it as authentic an experience as possible. Start the film before the music, or if that is the start of the film, delay the music by a few seconds so it's not so jarring. Think about the mix - the music is way too loud against the sync sound. You may want the director to hear your music clearly but they'll also be just as concerned with how dominant it seems compared to other aspects. When you send a guide MOV present it in such a way that the director hears the audio in a way that makes it all sound good and enhances his film.

RE: File naming. Keep the file names consistent and also include enough detail that if the music file was on its own it would be imported in the right place. Your MP4 and MP3 have different names - I know there's confusion between the reel numbers but pick one and be consistent with it otherwise things could be separated and without any other guide for placement your music could end up anywhere. Which brings me neatly on to "always include the timecode" for music start in the filename even if you're sending a broadcast WAV with a timestamp (I would normally use HHMMSSFF as it's clear enough and as short as it can get). It's too easy for editors to make mistakes so give them every opportunity to put the music in the right place.

Research: POOR
Creative: FAIR
Technical: FAIR
Practical: FAIR


Douglas Black Heaton's Summary:
Frozen - Some nice ideas. You've gone for a Nordic noir approach which is more intense than might otherwise be expected of this film but is a legitimate approach. Within that I feel the music is too dense through the 5 minutes. This isn't a fast paced action thriller - it's a slow, evolving, psychological thriller. Carving out some more light and shade would really help individual sections work e.g. gaps in the music or less musically dense moments. Having made the decision of Nordic noir there are areas where the music tries to fit in those elements (e.g. percussion) without them necessarily fitting the mood of the picture/scene. There are some areas where the arrangement feels a little weak - too improvised.

Danny Thompson

Danny Thompson passed away on Monday.
He was a founding member of Theater Oobleck. He helped create the brilliant play called The Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckett As Found in an Envelope (Partially Burned) in a Dustbin in Paris Labeled "Never to Be Performed. Never. Ever. EVER! Or I'll Sue. I'LL SUE FROM THE GRAVE!" 
Danny's seemingly effortless intellect and artistic sensibilities were amazing. He had a kind of understanding of things which were literally and figuratively beyond words.

A number of years ago he made the above squirrel image and I asked if I could use it as my Twitter header and he said yes. It's one of my favorite things ever.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

PMC07 Formative 1

Hi Andrew!
Thank you for your “Frozen” submission!

I would have liked to have read a little more in your commentary about why you chose to go in the “Nordic noir” direction… it’s important to fully understand the creative process! When the brief asks for up to 1000 words of commentary, it means we want to know more about how you came up with thematic material, why you chose certain sounds or libraries, technical aspects of your mockup, and critical assessment of your own work. This should almost never be a one or two simple sentence answer to one of the questions - Please elaborate further. Include things like why you chose to score or not score certain moments - what you chose to have as important sync points and transitions and why, etc.

It’s interesting you mentioned the TV show House in your research - I’ve worked as a part of that composer team on multiple TV shows over my past 5 years in LA.

There is a lot of discrepancy and a fine line in terms of talking sync point timings - for me, the musical change that happens at the scene cut at 02:06:07:16 happens just a hair too late. Although hitting right on the nose is not necessary since we’re not doing a Mickey-moused animation here, I think moving this change even 1 second earlier or a matter of frames could help this sit better and be more impactful in its marriage to the film. I’d love to hear the delay metal sound effect style sound design to begin to fade earlier, around possibly 02:06:21:03 - to follow the focus of the camera on the silhouette in the background and to really feel like this music is shifting as she is shifting both her attention and gaze. Love the low pad that comes in as the boat comes across, it creates a good sense of mystery here.

Nice change in the feel of the music as the strings come in and bring us both a sense of more emotion and confusion with her smirk.

I completely agree with your idea to make the music smaller and a little more settled as we come to this indoor cut at 02:06:59:10, but its transition here feels rushed. Try letting the musical ideas from the previous scene (full moon) wane down and little more before we hit this cut (yes, pun intended…)

Nice transition around 02:09:29:16, this works very well with the camera work.

I personally found the piano to be mixed a little too low in the mix - I’m curious as to why you have it down so far - is it to let the sustained strings take precedence? I think the piano adds a nice movement and should be brought out more - except for under the narration at 02:09:17:17. The speaking voice is somewhat mid range - either duck the volume of the piano here, or jump it up an octave and reduce the velocities so that the piano does not compete with the audio.

I like the minimalistic approach of the music, although I’m not sure it’s giving the viewer enough emotionally to truly assist in the story telling. See if you can add more of an evocative touch to the score - absolutely not to just TELL us what is going on or about to happen, but to almost subconsciously shift us to a better understanding - subtle things like a melody motif, a simple chord change that gives us a change in tonality or modality, small nuances or thematic intertwining, etc.

Research: FAIR
Creative: FAIR
Technical: GOOD
Practical: FAIR

Allison Piccioni's Summary:
I could have definitely used better insight and more detail in your commentary, as it is not only a great way to critically assess yourself and the how’s why’s and what’s of your creative process but also for tutors to gain insight into technical aspects of your assignment. I think this is a great sound bed to begin with, although I feel that the music is missing some evocative moments and needs to be fleshed out - also see some of my notes on sync point choices.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

PMC:06 Summative

[Editor's note: shockingly, this did actually pass.]

Johnny Yates's Notes:
Research: POOR
Creative: FAIR
Technical: POOR
Practical: FAIR

Hi Andrew,

You start with a good approach to mood on screen by using a descending harmonic scale in the strings, capturing the mysterious dark environment when the camera zooms into the museum. I suggest toning down the expression or dynamics in your string part, it feels a little overpowering with your sustain pads and experiment using a quartet arrangement instead. This will give it a live performance and have a bigger impact when you use ensemble strings later on.
00:21 - you use reverb percussive instrument (clacks or blocks) that has a long resonance which clashes the ambient field of the scene. The overall ensemble ambience is dry and settles nicely with the dialogue but this percussive part feels out of place and clashes with the communication between characters.
00:30 - nice cue point to allow your legato winds signifying the special artefact.
00:35 - the percussive part now feels out of pace and irregular to the tempo structure. It sounds like you’ve kept it on loop while the other instruments are Mickey mousing - I recommend cutting this part out of the ensemble.
00:42 - the upbeat rhythms and syncopated staccatos works nicely with the girl excited at seeing the Sarcophagus - however the shaker is a good concept but needs to be pushed back in the mix. This reoccurs at 01:30, sounds too dry and in the foreground.
You have a few good cue spots where the music syncing with the behaviour on screen. I recommend adding more emphasis in certain key points e.g. 01:20 as he places the artefact back; you can build unresolved sequence of notes to capture the mystery behind this item. Using a sting or sweep effect from the instrumental tools (glissando, rip, dynamic build etc).
01:33 - be careful using expression in your horn parts, they sound slightly punchy from the blowing technique. Lower the volume or velocity values so it doesn’t sound too harsh. 01:38 - capture the storm breaking into focus before he pushes the button.
01:40 I feel there needs to be a sudden change of tempo, texture and driving rhythm when we see the security boy scared and running off. The woodwinds are playing settling syncopated patterns which doesn’t reflect the emotion at this point. This is a challenge for you to use a darker tonality in your scoring without making it sound too sinister for children. Modulating keys or using chromaticism are important musical tools to changing the mood on screen.
01:50 - the marimba pad syncing with the mirrors doesn’t settle with the instrumentation and feels ambiguous in a mixing perspective. Firstly it’s too loud and seems you’re trying to use this technique as a sound design tool to signify the lightening reflection.
01:55 - the brass parts are still too loud and aggressive in the expression. The scene is suddenly transitioning to a calmer atmosphere in the girls bedroom. Always focus how the camera is capturing moments on screen - we can see it’s slowly descending to a new scene and music can resemble this feature, scaling down with arpeggios or sequence of notes. 02:00 there’s an issue with the transitional change between scenes. I can hear a clip and the music doesn’t flow together when you perform your arpeggio winds - This feels chaotic for this calm entrance to the girls room, I recommend allowing your music to flow with legato phrases.
02:16 - I like how you build tension when the cat has a reaction to the lightening. Add more textures and dramatic scoring to capture the cats emotion with an added thump or kick drum with your double bass hit, when the cat falls to the ground.
02:50 - The harp note values press too harshly - either automate the volume control for a lower level or change the velocity to a subtle tone. Also adjust the balance so it feels settled in the overall ensemble.
03:54 - You have the right idea using the tonal textures to build this sequence of events. There’s a lack of dynamic contrasting, sense of tension and real expression to feel there is something dramatic about to happen. When the lightening strikes we suddenly need the music to signify this with impactful chords or thick textures. The electric piano sounds too dry and forward in the mix - needs tweaking. The brass legatos cut off at 04:10 for the dialogue to express the message - good job. Afterwards it sounds a little distorted with the cluster of instruments you’re using, especially in the low horns. The held notes are a good drone to have a foundation of tension but there needs to be a build of rhythms or arpeggio lifts to feel something is about to be revealed. 04:18 the upbeat piano stabs doesn’t fit with the genre or orchestral arrangement you are scoring to picture.
04:38 - goos response the mummy revealing as a young boy but cutting the music to silence. I suggest rearranging the layers of your instruments when you build up the dynamics and harmony. The brass are overpowering the ascending tremolo strings and they’re the important part to signify the audiences emotional connection to this scene.

Johnny Yates's Summary:
I can hear good sections where you have taken the time to use your compositional tools as a signifier for cue points or how the characters are reacting on screen. I suggest focusing the dialogue as a lead part or melodic line and embedding a music score that allows the message to be clearly heard or spoken for audiences to understand the narrative on screen. Your mixes are unbalanced in certain sections and need to blend your instruments together with no clashing underneath the dialogue or SFX. Next time start work on scoring your music with a sense of flow by experimenting how harmonic techniques whether changing the key, atonal segmentations, stings etc will allow you to transition between scenes and Micky mouse key cues.
David Denyer 1 day ago (13 May 2019)
David Denyer's Notes:
Hi Andrew,

Thanks for this submission. Scoring animation is indeed a challenge and it can be very difficult to know where to draw the line in regards to mickey-mousing and kitschiness. In this case I feel that a collection of various problems prevent the score from being overly successful - with certain mockup/mix issues really sidelining things in a way that isn’t helpful for your dramatic intent.

The very opening starts well, but as soon as I hear the percussion I feel that it’s become overscored. If the percussion would suit anywhere, it’d be the very beginning - the conversation between the professor and roxanne has no need for any kind of groove so it doesn’t add anything useful. Nice hitpoint with the scepter of was, but this could be even stronger. After this hitpoint there’s a weird bumpy walking bass clarinet which feels unusual and asymmetric - why is this clarinet drawing attention to itself? In a way it undermines the significance of the previous hitpoint (scepter of was). Perhaps the scepter’s “motif” can continue while the scepter is in his hands. The entrance of Cleo feels very “trasitiony” and doesn’t really suit her character - she really interrupts the scene. The percussion here is nice, but these chattering winds feel a bit obscure. Firstly they feel very distant (and animation music tends to sound much more intimate and close), but it’s also not entirely clear what they’re doing for the scene. I suspect the music here would be more effective if they were just muted. The line “I appreciate your enthusiasm…” - it’s a shame the music doesn’t change here. The professor is a real killjoy, he deflates her energy. “Tut’s sacred objects” - great. This feels just right here (01:01:04:00). At 01:01:08:00, the professor again deflates her energy - we get a few seconds of bass clarinet solo which feels just right but it’s killed by more bass and percussion and flutes - which again, feel wrong here, as her energy is deflated. 01:01:04:00 - nice. 01:01:20:00 - really nice, but 01:01:25:00, the clarinet’s dynamics are really odd. Why is one note so much louder than the others? This phrase seems weirdly lopsided and sounds very very sequenced. At 01:01:33:00, the chattering winds seem to have no musical relation to the bass clarinet underneath - this makes for a very, very weird musical experience. This ascending clarinet scale, 01:01:39:00 doesn’t sound realistic, each note has a weird bump on it. The egg shaker here feels weirdly loud. 01:01:41:00, where the security guard is running from the lightning, this string part is nice but it needs to be much bigger, much closer, and much more dramatic. It feels really weak here. It’s doubled by some ff heavy brass, that’s strangely mixed very low in the mix. This makes it strangely buzzy and not very powerful. 01:01:48:00, nice impulse to slow down but again this is anaemic and needs much more power. And that buzzing brass in the background needs to either be mixed loud enough to make sense, or be performed at a much lower expression. The vibraphone sync points here are bizarrely loud compared to the rest of the orchestra. 01:02:01:00 very, very weird transition here. Burst of chattering winds that ends very abruptly - I get that you’re trying to emphasise the lightning magic but you don’t need the music to sound like lightning - you just need to create emphasis. Some of the “scepter of was” music from earlier might be more appropriate here. 01:02:08:00, nice harp stuff here. This could continue, feels more appropriate for the scene than the winds. Bass solo for Luxor’s walk is awesome, but the flute doesn’t sound realistic enough to work here. The legatos really don’t sound right - in fact, I think this music would sound awesome with the flute just muted. Up until “I don’t believe this guy”, the bass clarinet is just way too loud and honky. Simply the part, and reduce the expression. 01:03:10:00, lovely - nice hitpoint. The bass for Luxor’s speaking works nicely as an entrance, but it’s a bit stop-starty. This part at 01:03:41:00 needs much more reverence - Luxor is talking about his king! Especially when the lightning starts - these winds don’t really feel very dramatic, just a bit fluttery. The awakening of the king could also be much, much more dramatic. The cutoff for “it’s a kid?” needs to be much more abrupt - and I think it starts again way too soon! Let him have his first words - bring the music in when he starts running.

Overall, some cool ideas here but in general the significant moments are not properly weighted, and some of the character interactions feel a bit wrong. In general it feels as though music exists “because music should exist” but it doesn’t always feel like your music understands exactly what it’s trying to do for the scenes. The mix also doesn’t help - many of these lines need much more tasteful uses of expression, more lyrical and dynamic legatos, etc. Overall, good work, but a little misguided in places.

Research: GOOD
Creative: FAIR
Technical: FAIR
Practical: FAIR

Kind regards,


David Denyer's Summary:
Overall, some cool ideas here but in general the significant moments are not properly weighted, and some of the character interactions feel a bit wrong. The mix also isn’t always strong - many of these lines need much more tasteful uses of expression, more lyrical and dynamic legatos, etc. Overall, good work, but a little misguided in places.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

PMC 08 Formative 1

Cool track! Let's get right into it:

As you know, I'm a huge fan of music concrete. Nothing to me is as "unique" sounding as a piece of music where the composer essentially designs the sonic palette from scratch. This definitely harkens back to Edgard Varese and Pierre Schaeffer in a really cool way. Let's get right into some feedback:

First of all, the sounds. Wow! These sounds were so distinctive. That's always a huge part of music that doesn't use tonality to convey meaning. Your choice of instruments and timbre really went a long way toward making this piece compelling and interesting. The scraping zipper type sound was so unexpected to me that it always caught my attention. And of course the bell sounds were fantastic. I loved that you changed the timing and pitch throughout as well, it felt very well developed as a sound.

I also appreciated that some of the sound were heavily processed and others were not. I think it further adds to the contrast.

As far as development goes I felt that there was something left to be desired. The zipper sound, as interesting as it was, came back five times in almost exactly the same way. I think it was overused a touch. One one hand, that does show some structure in the repetition, but on the other hand it sort of halted the feeling of moving somewhere new. That said, I loved when you slowed the sound down. That was by far the most unbelievably interesting part of this piece. I think the slowed down version needed to be bumped up in the mix a touch as it slowed down though, because it tends to get overwhelmed in the arrangement.

I think either cutting the number of times that sound comes back in its original pitch, OR finding new ways to process it at its original pitch will go a long way towards making this feel less repetitive. The rest of the track develops quite nicely, so this is the only glaring problem I had with it.

This is completely a preference, but I did want to mention that although the piece had its strengths in the timbre and pitch material derived from your found sounds, I felt I was missing some purely rhythmic elements. When I create acousmatic music like this I like to find sounds I can process in a way that yields some manipulate-able rhythms as well as tonal stuff. It could be really fun to speed up the "zipper" and layer it underneath and one or two spots, just to get some "clicking" ostinatos to fade in and out. Just a thought!


Technical: EXCELLENT

Practical: GOOD

- My only feedback here is regarding the repetition of the initial sound.

Spencer Bambrick's Summary:

Great work! Loved the sounds. Keep it up!

Sunday, May 05, 2019

This barely reduced my tabs

Dreamland is a podcast.

The Fuji XT-3 is interesting.

Ross Tregenza is a composer.

Two ways to give people access to upload videos without giving out the password:
1) adding managers to the youtube channel:
2) a script that uploads videos as the user:

Saturday, May 04, 2019

PMC:06 Formative 2

Unrelated, but something I cannot imagine caring less about.


Tutor Notes

Matteo Pagamici's Notes:
Hi Andrew,

The music is good, but it often feels disconnected from the picture. It runs in the background but is not always related the story.
You establish a rather dark and tense mood, but as soon as the characters start speaking, it becomes more comedy-like. While the first few seconds to set up the plot, afterwards there is nothing funny happening, making it feel forced. It should be light-hearted, but only comedic in the moments when there is actually something funny happening on-screen. Also, the music interferes with the character’s voices, making them harder to understand. This part either needs no music at all, or very subtle accents to emphasise certain moments, such as the line “this great symbol of power”. Right now the energy of the music is very constant, which means that all the dialogue lines are perceived as equal. Instead, try to use the music to create a hierarchy and point out to the audience what is really important. This is a kids’ show so everything needs to be ultra-obvious and unambiguous. There are some moments where you do this (e.g. “have to be arranged just right”), but it is too subtle.

TC01:46 - This is a major plot point. The music can be huge, keeping in mind that the storm and thunder sound design will also be rather loud. It should start when he turns off the light. Something big and terrible is happening, use the music to tell that this is not good.

The part at TC02:28 is really good. It feels light-hearted, but at the same time it still creates tension and gradually becomes darker. When the sceptre starts glowing we definitely need more intensity. The audience needs to feel the surprise.

When the pharaoh wakes up it gets tricky because this moment completes the exposition of the full episode, but at the same time there is a lot of dialogue. You chose an excellent moment to end the cue.

Overall you have some excellent ideas and material, but it needs to be placed more precisely. The music is rarely extremely big or extremely quiet, more dynamics and more contrast will help emphasising the most important moments. I suggest to spend enough time to analyse the video material more thoroughly. You need to know the intensity progression of each scene before you start scoring, define the necessary moods and find out what the most important moments are.

You do not need to use leitmotifs, but sometimes they make scoring easier as you can create a leitmotif-map before you even start writing music. After that, instead of writing to picture, you just create the needed motifs with different versions (light-hearted, tense, dark etc.) and place them. Then you fill the gaps. There is some of that in your score already, e.g. with the sceptre, it just is not clear enough because there are so many other things going on.


Research: GOOD
Creative: FAIR
Technical: GOOD
Practical: FAIR

Matteo Pagamici's Summary:
The material is good, but it could be placed more efficiently to support the story and make the images more interesting. The music needs more dynamics and contrast.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

PMC:06 Formative 1


Tutor Notes

Ross Tregenza's Notes:
There’s some nice work across all orchestra groups and the interplay between them is solid.
Overall, I think the biggest problem is a lack of vibrancy and narrative throughout. It feels at times a little plodding, almost as if it’s boring itself, which obviously isn’t great.

There are a lot of sections that lack dynamic development – they move along in a straight line without any clear indication of progression. The key elements in most sections are fine, but secondary and tertiary layers of movement would really have gone long way – it’s perhaps all just a little too simple. You could make the argument that the subject matter is simple, and the music reflects that, but this would be a little reductive and would discredit both the subject matter and the opportunity to score. Even if a brief is simple on the surface, it’s your job to dive deep into it and find your own challenges and rewards.

Let’s run through a few points:

Overall, there’s a little too much reverb across the board. It’s colouring the music quite heavily and pulling focus and sharpness. You’ll get a lot more definition and detail if you don’t allow the reverb to blur the music too much. If you want elements of that colour, just keep the wetness low to avoid over saturation – you’ll still get a clear sense of that reverb colour in the quiet moments.

The supernatural elements are a little underwhelming and could have benefitted from a little more fun and lateral thinking. You have an established instrument set throughout so it would have been great to hear you break your own rules and go for something a little crazy – some sheet metal, Theremins, waterphones – something fun and crazy. There’s no shame in being a little playful and silly at times.

There are some key moments (as with the supernatural stuff) that feel under represented – again, the biggest problem is a lack of surprise – there aren’t any real joyous moments of leftfield thinking that charm the listener with unexpected twists.

Percussion elements throughout are possibly a little minimal and repetitive – at times, the repetition becomes a little grating. Try obfuscating it a little with additional layers, momentary changes and fills etc.

In a more positive note, the bass is great – very much the kind of thing this brief needs – it’s lively and full of whimsy. If you review your work, I’d anchor to this and rebuild from that.

Narrative signposting is a little underwhelming at key moments. For example, when it turns out the pharaoh is a child, the build-up is great, but there’s no comedy pay off. Even if you’d gone for something as straightforward as a little pizzicato run, it would have been the payoff the listener expected.

So overall, while you’ve clearly got a great grasp of orchestral grouping and have plenty of skill working with the groups, I think you need to layer things up, tighten up your narrative cues, experiment a little further and listen with an impartial ear to your results – as a listener, is your work fun and lively?

Ross Tregenza's Summary:
The work is technically solid but lacks a sense of whimsy and joy, and at times feels heavy and slows the action down. Tighten up your cues, experiment a little more and try and introduce a little more fun.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

That we would do we should do when we would

The plural of Panda is Pandae.

Some of the visual effects in The Expanse are simply amazing. Some aren't. This is one that definitely is. 

Here's a brief thought which sputtered in my brain briefly for a brief moment of briefing: it's almost impossible to find a piece of "bad" scoring in a film because the bad score is the film. You get a bad film and you don't blame it all on the score. You just think "this is dumb." This is because the emotional reality of the movie is undermined by the poorly thought through music. I can't really think of any movies which really got trashed by their own scores. 

I mean with the exception of Logan's Run

Impressive work with this submission - very ambitious in scope and in many respects highly successful. It almost seems impossible to answer the essay question on “bad film music” without eventually having to unravel the entire discipline of filmscoring to work out how such a thing could be judged, and you’ve taken to that challenge rather admirably. Overall I’d suggest that the ambition outstretches the word-count somewhat - certain premises are taken for granted rather than discussed, and each chapter of this piece could easily be its own complete essay. But given the limitations, and the challenge you’ve set yourself here, the result is admirable and generally forms strong arguments, with strong supporting evidence, to lead to strong conclusions - which demonstrates a very good understanding of the topic at hand. 

The Composer As Filmmaker

Overall this is a good point, but I don’t think the point is completed - in that I think it’s not entirely clear what the benefits of considering oneself a filmmaker are - and the drawbacks of failing to. For instance - examples of filmmusic that fails to consider itself an aspect of the filmmaking - and why this is ultimately unsuccessful. You have a few quotes and some decent citations but what would complete this chapter for me is a greater focus on examples, examples that prove your point. One thing that immediately comes to mind, for instance, is 2001: A Space Odyssey which doesn’t have a composer for the final score, it’s all composed by non-film-composers who did not consider themselves filmmakers. And yet it works masterfully - clearly, 2001 is an unusual film for lots of reasons, but for your theory to be sound it has to encompass these oddball filmscores (one might argue that in the case of 2001, the temp music was literally placed there by a filmmaker, and that in this case the “arranger is a filmmaker” works as a close allegory). 

The Dialogue Is The Melody

I really love the technical angle in this chapter - the use of diagrams and a technical breakdown of the frequency content of spoken voice and certain instrumental registers - this is great evidence, and it does well to build a really strong grounding for an argument. However, as with the last chapter, you don’t give any examples of the negative - how the lack of appreciation of this concept can lead to disasters. I’d suggest perhaps an example from Golden Era Hollywood - Gone With The Wind, for instance, has plenty of examples where music occupies many of the same registers as the spoken dialogue and it would be quite easy to judge the music/dialogue relationship in GWTW as somewhat overscored (in fact, you could probably find a number of filmscore journalists/writers referring to Steiner’s method as “overscoring”). This would then give weight to the negative - consider the dialogue as part of the melody, or suffer these potential consequences. At the very least this would tie this much closer to the title - “what is good film music, what is bad film music?” - it’s important to give weight to both of these. 

The Subtext

The Shakespeare example here is really good, I like this introduction to this chapter - the idea that the narrator can be saying one thing whilst the characters say another - or that the characters can be saying one thing but meaning another - this kind of dramatic irony is a really powerful tool for film composers and I’m really glad you touched on it. I think, though, you break your own definition of subtext. You portray subtext as “the difference between what a character says and what a character does” - The Shining/Blade Runner example you give later breaks that, where you say the footage is the same but the “subtext” is different. I suppose in this context the “character” is the narrator - but you need to build this into your definition. Or shift from talking about subtext to talking about “true perspective”, which I think could be defined as the “subtext” of the film narrator. You introduce the “true perspective” but go back to talking about subtext - so I think these terms could just be clarified here. Also, you say “the music plays the subtext of the picture, a score that misunderstands or does not know the subtext, is bad” - again, it’s probably worth providing examples of “bad” music that does not know, or understand the subtext - again, tying this more closely to the question. 

Every Show Is A Musical

I like the theoretical notion that the characters can “hear” the score. This is quite interesting, but inevitably begs the question - what’s the point in entertaining that the characters can hear something if they don’t have the power to acknowledge or interact with it in any way? You suggest that it’s simply “part of the world” - if that were so, then why is it forbidden for the character to interact or acknowledge this? For instance, the characters cannot verbally mention each others’ makeup being perfect, they do not, and if they did, it would be seen as fourth-wall-breaking. Perhaps it’s a little more complex than simply characters being able to hear their background score. I think, perhaps it’s better to think of this less as though the characters can “hear” the score (as this implies an emotional “input” of the score *into* the characters, which no doubt does not exist unless the film is being ironic or postmodern), but rather that the characters are active in “producing” the score, as it is an expression of their emotional truth - more that they “speak” the score rather than “hear” it (and sometimes the character that “speaks” the score is the narrator). Maybe they don’t hear it but they’re aware of it as emotional truth - that the score is a metaphor for what they are expressing, and therefore they *are* aware of it on a truthful level even if not on a literal level. You mention Obi-Wan etc, and some Star Wars examples and wonder whether or not the characters can hear these things - you pose the question, but why must it be yes? Is it because the gesture and the music are so intertwined, that they appear “choreographed”? I think you need to be more precise with this. If that’s what you’re saying, then be sure to say it. 


Your conclusion puts this all together nicely, and it is quite convincing as a general prescription for a starting point when it comes to scoring film. I think all of these points are well-made, but in every case, more of a demonstration of the negative to reinforce the positive would go a long way to help this to actually tie in with the question - which is what makes good film music *and* what makes bad film music. The lack of focus on the bad makes this feel less like a complete analysis, and more like a “general practice guide”. Overall, though, very strong work, very well-attested and well-evidenced arguments, a really good theoretical grounding and the overall structure of this works very well to build to a strong conclusion. Excellent work! 

Kind regards,


David Denyer's Summary:
Very strong, well-evidenced work. In most of these chapters, one half of the question is dealt with much more strongly than the other - the discussion of what makes bad music seems to only come up in passing, and no evidence is given for “bad music” - however, much evidence is given for “good music” and the theoretical journey from concept to concept, and finally to conclusion, is pretty sound. Some of these points are a little vague and could do with more focus.