Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

Emotional Content

happy birthday

I had a discussion recently with waystone regarding how film music is functional above all other things, but that very function is to stir specific emotions in the listener. I sometimes wonder if it isn't this very emotional rawness that distances some people from film music. However, one of the things that waystone reacted to was how without the movie as a reference point, the emotions are abstractly experienced. There are no lyrics to contextualize them (or if there are, they're sung in Latin, Sanskrit, Sindarin or something).

I was listening to the Risk mp3 CD on the way home from work yesterday evening (it's great to drive to), which is kept with the game, along with the additional Risk cards. A quick glance over the track listing of the compilation will demonstrate that I wasn't too literal regarding what scores I put on there. For every piece where the application to Risk is obviously apparent from the film itself - Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky, Franz Waxman's Taras Bulba, The Two Towers, Miklós Rózsa's El Cid, etc., there are also the ones that don't have quite such an apparent connection, but work in context anyway - selections from Don Davis' Matrix scores, Patrick Doyle's Indochine, John Barry's The Lion in Winter etc.

In the latter cases, what is happening is that while the music itself may not be relating to war per se, it nevertheless pushes buttons that are in accord with the aggressiveness required to approach the game itself. For example, I included "Hot Water" from Jerry Goldsmith's Outland. The scene that scores is just a chase through a mining complex. It's not an epic battle, it's not a war. It is angry and muscular, though. There is snarling brass and outbursts of orchestral fury (and it was written before Goldsmith entered the smoother 80s phase of his career, so "fury" means "fury"). It gets louder and louder and then it builds to a thrilling climax. Most importantly, nothing inspires a belligerence better than a cue like this one. And that made it appropriate for inclusion in the project, even though the moment the cue was written for is a very different context. What I was doing there, and when I'm making my other mixes, is taking advantage of that abstract nature of the music. Without the narrative, the emotion can be molded through alternative contexts.

This, of course, can only go so far. You couldn't be expected to separate something very iconic from its original purpose and get away with it. It is impossible to hear something like Lalo Schifrin's Mission Impossible theme, or John Williams' Imperial March or Jaws ostinato, or Jerry Goldsmith's Star Trek theme, or John Barry's James Bond Theme (I know, shut up) or even Alan Silvestri's Back to the Future theme without having the original context brought to the fore. Those themes are so tied to their respective sources that they no longer have that abstract quality. Interestingly, that last can also happen with pre-existing music, as Stanley Kubrick's career can attest to. But also consider how Charles Gounod's "Funeral March for a Marionette" is now almost exclusively related to Alfred Hitchcock, or how Giacchino Rossini's "William Tell Overture" causes a masked cowboy to spring to mind.

But what is interesting to me is that, save for those rare pieces of film music that just strike that chord with their subject matter, the abstract nature of the emotional reaction the music by itself inspires doesn't necessarily equate to the emotional reactions being in any way "generic." What made "Hot Water" such a good example before is because it is such a quintessentially Goldsmith track; nobody else would have written that or conducted it quite the same way. The particular direction of the track is illustrative of the desperation of the guy that Sean Connery is chasing as well as Connery's determination to catch him. It changes as the characters run through different areas of the Io settlement, and features 'bubbling' textures when they enter the kitchen (which is where the titular hot water fits into the equation). This is all pretty specific stuff. And thus there is has more layered meanings for it within its original context... but the overall bellicose nature of the cue comes through regardless, particularly when it is placed in context of other similarly styled pieces. As I said before, if you want to stoke the more aggressive side of somebody, this is the music to do it with.
Tags: alan silvestri, birthday, cartoons, don davis, far side, film music, franz waxman, james bond, jerry goldsmith, john barry, lalo schifrin, miklós rózsa, mix workshop, patrick doyle, sergei prokofiev

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