Score: A Film Music Doc (2016)

“We’re the last people on earth who – on a daily basis – commission orchestral music. Without us, the orchestras might disappear…” -Hans Zimmer

As a high school music teacher for 20 years and an avid moviegoer, I’m not sure how this one got away from me, but it showed up for free on my Prime Video account, and I had to share my experience with you immediately.

I’ve always believed that for every film, the music is the emotional complement – the magnifier of spiritual observation, in a way. Sometimes, the best film score is the one you do not notice at all. Sometimes, the bombastic of John Williams’s themes is actually what makes a grand movie even grander. Either way, walking out of the movie while humming the score’s theme encapsulates the entire viewing experience, narrative, and character arc. I’m overjoyed that a documentary has finally celebrated this craft and its creators.

Director Matt Schrader does the right thing by acknowledging the greats – Max Steiner, Alfred Newman, Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith, and John Williams – and then centering in on the 20th century phenoms, like Danny Elfman, Thomas Newman, and everyone’s favorite today, Hans Zimmer.

Motifs, musical textures, orchestrations, conducting, mixing, editing, and performing film scores are covered elaborately in a tight 90 minutes, and there’s no way a non-musical viewer will leave without appreciating the value this art form adds to the movie.

Hans Zimmer being interviewed in his studio.

I especially enjoyed the section on how composers and non-musical directors try to reach an understanding on what emotion they want to convey on the screen and when the music should begin and when it should end. Some composers work on a tight, rhythmic ostinato (Tom Holkenborg, also known by his stage name “Junkie XL,” who composed the score to Mad Max: Fury Road); some prefer the unrestrained legato in lush woodwind to string trade-offs (Rest in peace, James Horner of Glory and Titanic); and, then there are today’s synthesized sound experimenters who blend computers with tangible orchestration (Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor of The Social Network).

We have to remember that film scoring is the last process in filmmaking. Heck, even the billboard posters come out during the rehearsals, and the rush to finish the music still gives Hans Zimmer anxiety!

Score: A Film Music Documentary is a must for casual movie lovers, musicians, non-musicians, and educators. Before my students arrive in two weeks and summer officially comes to an end, I am making sure my school adds this doc to its library. I can’t wait to share it with my young composers!

Please let me know if you have seen this!

Thank you for reading,

Reely Bernie

20 thoughts on “Score: A Film Music Doc (2016)

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  1. Try watching Jaws or Star Wars without those great soundtracks…the movie just isn’t as good. I’ve never seen this.

    Liked by 2 people

        1. Bring on the horror movies! Haha! My wife and I are expecting daughter #2 on Oct. 25, so I’m gonna cram in as many spooks as possible before my life flips upside down again, haha

          Liked by 1 person

  2. You’ve got me interested in this. I shall add it to my list. More than Hans Zimmer, Max Richter’s score in the movie Arrival really moved me. It flowed with the introspective, sorrowful theme of the movie with its benevolent aliens and all.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, that was an incredible score. Thanks for mentioning that one. He also did Ad Astra, so I think his perspective on the emotional sci-fi – like you said, “introspective” – sound is his thing. A very intriguing 90 minute doc for sure 🙂 You’d like it!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Bernie, I have not seen this but the post reminded me of Christopher Nolan. The film scores in his movie always are of great interest to me, and I feel they help elevate the grand scope of his pictures. Saw a trailer for his new movie Oppenheimer the other day, and that had me thinking about Tenet. I felt that movie wouldn’t have been nearly as good if not for the constant undercurrent of sound even during periods where no heightened action was occurring. May have to give this a watch. Thanks for sharing the info.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I was not aware of this film, but will make a point to see it. One composer of note who I hope got some mention is Maurice Jarre, who composed the magnificent scores for ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and ‘Doctor Zhivago’.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, I had no idea about it either. It still might be free via Prime Video. And, yes, Jarre is an example of “epic” scoring! Gigantic, sweeping orchestrations for grand-scale pictures!

      Liked by 2 people

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