Film may be a visual medium, but the music in a movie doesn’t go unnoticed. So, what goes into making a soundtrack? And how can music make or break a movie?
The Role of Music in Film
Music can set the tone of a scene, add depth to our understanding of a character, and link images from different times and places through a common thread of music. Its contribution can be understated or dramatic, sparse or sweeping. In short, it serves as invaluable aural support for visual information. It helps bring moving images to life.
It also plays an important role before the film’s release. Sometimes, songwriters create original songs, which are usually released prior to the film. Being linked to a hit song drums up publicity and, even if it is not a huge hit, even creating a few waves online can give interested demographics a sneak peek into the vibe of the movie.
Types of Music for Soundtracks
When working on a soundtrack, you have several options for music. One is a custom score composed to fit scenes. These tracks align perfectly with the tempo and style of the visuals on the screen. Another example of custom music is an original song made with the film in mind. So, it may not fit a particular scene perfectly, but it is thematically consistent with the movie. You can also use pre-existing music, though you will have to secure permission for the artist and pay a fee. Lastly, an artist may cover a pre-existing song for use in the film.
Film is a visual medium. Most who have mastered the art of crafting engaging images are not gifted composers, too. Music is outside their realm of expertise. That is where composers come in – they add their musical expertise to a visual project.
Sometimes they enter into the process rather late, well after shooting has wrapped. Other times, directors start the collaborative process with composers during filming. However the collaboration eventually happens, one thing about the director-composer relationship remains the same: it is based in trust. Both are striving to create something highly nuanced – their efforts can easily go astray, so it is important they have faith in each other.
Not all processes are the same. In some cases, the director will play a significant role in selecting music and guiding original pieces; in other cases, the composer will hold more control. Many projects will also involve a third person: the music supervisor. Music supervisors select and license music for a film; in addition, they oversee the all business aspects of acquiring and creating music, ranging from budgeting to helping select a composer. These individuals work together to form a soundtrack that brings the director’s artistic vision to life.
Examples of Recent Soundtracks Done Right
Several films from the past five years emerged with strong soundtracks in tow.
Trent Reznor and Attitus Ross helped set the dark tone of The Social Network by David Fincher with their original music contributions, even snagging a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Original Score.
Eddie Vedder lent his sorrowful pipes to the original soundtrack for Into the Wild after being personally selected by the movie’s director, Sean Penn. His efforts resulted in a Golden Globe Nominations.
Despite being a silent film, The Artist saw incredibly success, and its music had a lot to do with it. The Academy rewarded the creator of its music, Ludovic Bource, when they awarded him the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2012.
The music selection process for movies is tricky, and the collaborations it often requires are rooted in trust and artistic drive. When done well, though, music can make a movie.
Victoria contributed this guest post for BearShare.com – a tool that helps artists share their music and films. To find out how to download free music with BearShare visit their site.