I can vividly remember the days when I had to have my completed soundtracks physically delivered; patiently waiting for the music to arrive at the producer’s door.
However, in 2008 a rigorous production schedule for a PBS Television series “forced” me to use the internet exclusively for music delivery. Since then I’ve been able to work on a piece of music until “the very last minute,” in order to get it just right, uploading it a few hours before the producer/editor needs it. The result is a piece of music which has truly “hit the mark” due to the extra time allowed for input and revisions.
Another great advantage of digital music delivery is the zero loss of quality factor. I am able to send WAV and AIFF files of the highest fidelity – far greater than that of CD if necessary.
And distance, well that has practically become a nonissue. For years I’ve been working both physically close to and far from directors, producers and editors and have found there to be no difference when it comes to efficiency and the final product.
One might think that composing a piece of music for film would be quite simple: find the cues (points at which the music will begin/end), and have it match each particular mood – happy, sad, tense, etc. However, too often, this becomes predictable & formulaic.
Chances are, if the music is predictable, the film will follow suit and the viewer will know it. There will be few or no surprises.
For example, the music for a gripping or disturbing Horror/Thriller scene need not consist of jagged, tense strings – something that is used quite often. In contrast, ambient sounds or textures with a dissonant string section could be even more effective. The mere unpredictability would keep the audience wondering, “What is going to happen; when and where?”
HERE’S AN EXAMPLE
I recently had the opportunity to perform and produce an arrangement of, “Hard Times Come Again No More,” by Stephen C. Foster, for a PBS Documentary Television Series.
Written in 1854, this gorgeous piece of music is timeless. It’s truly amazing how particular songs/compositions have a longevity and pertinence that can sustain for decades.
While recording the vocals I found myself becoming immersed in the poetry of the piece. With very little thought, the music simply took over. Nothing was forced and the emotions needed to help drive the arrangement and convey the message of the documentary fell into place.
Take a listen: “Hard Times Come Again No More”
For many years I’ve been a fan of PBS Television. I’m particularly drawn to the various documentaries it continues to air – produced both in-house and independently. The mere fact that POV exists is a testament to the importance and popularity of independent documentary filmmaking.
A well produced doc with music as an integral part can be just as moving and engaging as any well produced dramatic film. This is something I’ve experienced first hand, having written and produced music for many PBS documentaries.
LIVING NIGHTMARE: PBS Documentary
Unfortunately these days, when it comes to Films (even Documentaries), too often the music, which is needed to drive and/or support the final production, is neglected; until the very end. It’s an afterthought, resulting in, quite frankly, a weak musical composition. What should have been an integral part of the filmmaking process is forced to become a formulaic, often dull and disconnected music bed.