Following on from the Top 10 Most Influential Scores of the Past Decade of last week, I’d like to take a look at how these scores, and many others have affected the creative output, as well as the creative process of a number of film composers – amateur to professional.
Lee Sanders wrote in his Weekend Provocation: The Locus of Cool, that “It’s a truism that as artists we begin with an “imitative phase,” in which we tend to mimic works that already exist.” He continues that “somewhere along the line though, all the disparate influences coalesce into something new. Something unique to us”. We become a new voice in world of music – we have something new to say, and something that makes us stand out from the crowd.
Scoring for film is a collaboration between director and composer. Collaborations are almost always creative in some way or another, but what happens when you remove some of that creative angle from the collaboration? What happens when a director asks you to go against your principles and imitate the style of another composer – take on their creative voice, and push yours aside?
1. How do you deal with this and make it work in your favour, or do you just not even take the job in the first place?
2. Would it be ok to take a job like this in your early years, when you don’t have a particular style/voice of your own?
3. If you are a professional composer, do you take a job like this, or would it be career suicide?
4. What harm do you think these offers are doing to the industry?
I’ll try and answer these myself (yes I know – having a questions and answers with myself is rather strange…possibly one of the signs of madness!) but I’d love to hear what you guys think on the subjects. I’m by no means an expert on the subject, so hit me up in the comments and tell me what you think!
The (Possible) Answers
Q: “How do you deal with this and make it work in your favour, or do you just not even take the job in the first place?”
A: In my honest opinion, I think it would be beneficial to take this job either way if you are “starting off” (ie. in your first few years of becoming a film composer). I believe any experience is good experience – you might take away from the project not to ever do another that requires you to copy another composer’s style, or you might learn a number of new techniques from imitating that composer’s music. One thing I have learnt in the past few years is the more mistakes you make in the beginning, the less you are likely to make further down the road. Make your mistakes early in your career, screw things up and learn from it.
One way to make the project work in your favour would be to discuss it with the director and say “OK, I can write music like that, but how about I try it my way and see if you like it – if not we’ll go with your original idea”. Prove to him that your own style would work better with the film, rather than an imitation of another score. That way you might have a possibility of the director coming over to your side of thinking and saying “You know what – you’re right – lets go with your style of scoring” – win!
Another small point that I feel is important here, is how imitating another composer can sometimes be beneficial to you. When you imitate another composer, you learn his techniques, and even his thought process sometimes if you break down the original score enough. Imitating another composer can be a great compositional excercise and can work wonders for your creative side.
Q: “Would it be ok to take a job like this in your early years, when you don’t have a particular style/voice of your own?”
As Lee said, we all begin with that imitative phase of composing, so taking on a project like this could be beneficial to us, as long as we remember what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it. I would never have learnt how to score if I hadn’t of imitated other film scores, at least for a short while, so as to learn scoring techniques for the orchestra and how to score for different types of scenes. I think I would take on this job for the reason, but I wonder further down the road how likely I would be to do so.
Q: “If you are a professional composer, do you take a job like this, or would it be career suicide?”
A: I would love to hear from some of the professional composers as to what their stance on this is. I think it would most likely be career suicide, but maybe you have all been around long enough to know what to do in this situation?
Q: “What harm do you think these offers are doing to the industry?”
A: I wonder sometimes do these offers really do any harm to the industry at all. I mean, when you really think about it, what might be happening is that there are more and more imitative composers popping up out there who are looking for jobs like this. Is that such a bad thing? Surely that means that original composers will become more sought after further down the line when the trends such as the Zimmer trend diminish (if it ever does) – after all its the original composers who set those trends – not the imitative composers.
Another thing to bare in mind is – there will always be requests like this from directors. There always have been, and the always will be – all we can do is try and persuade them to come over to our side of thinking and show them that the film score is an art, and art should always be original.
So there’s my answers to the questions – I really would love to hear your answers and thoughts on these questions guys (how wrong I am or if I’m right!) – lets discuss them in the comments!
How do you think that the Top 10 Most Influential Scores of the Past Decade have influenced the collaboration between composers and directors on films?