“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.
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,