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natedog

'Classical' Film Composers

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Looking at the current state of film scoring, the landscape seems to be dominated by that RCP sound and to me it seems like classical film scores are heading for extinction. That's not to say that  classical scores are dead...yet. We still have people like Desplat, Giacchino, Silvestri and of course the granddaddy of them all JW flying the flag but where do we think the future will be for this kind of sound in movies?

 

Are there are any next generation classical composers making their way up the industry ladder that we need to be aware of?

I'm trying to put together a list of 'classical' film composers that are currently working in Hollywood today, especially looking to find some lesser known gems. Be great if you guys with your vastly superior film music knowledge can throw some names out there!

 

Thanks

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"Classical" is a strange, and perhaps dangerous word to attach to a film composer. It's certainly not one I would use to describe the likes of Giacchino, or even Desplat. I suppose you mean "traditional".

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14 minutes ago, KK said:

"Classical" is a strange, and perhaps dangerous word to attach to a film composer. It's certainly not one I would use to describe the likes of Giacchino or even Desplat really. I suppose you mean "traditional".

 

Sorry I should clarify. When I say classical what I mean is scoring with a full orchestra, not creating scores by using computers to mix sounds together which a lot of composers tend to do nowdays.

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46 minutes ago, natedog said:

 

Sorry I should clarify. When I say classical what I mean is scoring with a full orchestra, not creating scores by using computers to mix sounds together which a lot of composers tend to do nowdays.

I've read serious documents referring to that style of scoring as "classical," though they refer mostly to Williams, Horner, Silvestri, etc..

I actually find that Williams, Desplat, Giacchnio, all belong to Postmodernism, along with Glass, Adams, Delbaive, Part, and others.  Great variety, and definitely distinct from Modernism.

 

The more electronically enhanced generation both in film and concert hall, may be well described as belonging to the Digital Age.  

Hope we have some traditionalist mavericks among them.  Powell is not too bad, anyway.

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52 minutes ago, natedog said:

 

Sorry I should clarify. When I say classical what I mean is scoring with a full orchestra, not creating scores by using computers to mix sounds together which a lot of composers tend to do nowdays.

 

You will find that basically every composer who is privileged with an adequate budgets works with full orchestras, and that very few do not utilize computer technology at some point in the process.

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1 minute ago, TGP said:

 

You will find that basically every composer who is privileged with an adequate budgets works with full orchestras, and that very few do not utilize computer technology at some point in the process.

True.  But a new trend is to make the digital aspect key to the process.  To mixed results, I feel. 

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6 minutes ago, Steve McQueen said:

I've read serious documents referring to that style of scoring as "classical," though they refer mostly to Williams, Horner, Silvestri, etc..

I actually find that Williams, Desplat, Giacchnio, all belong to Postmodernism, along with Glass, Adams, Delbaive, Part, and others.  Great variety, and definitely distinct from Modernism.

 

The more electronically enhanced generation both in film and concert hall, may be well described as belonging to the Digital Age.  

Hope we have some traditionalist mavericks among them.  Powell is not too bad, anyway.

Would you include someone like Joe Kraemer in this postmodernist group?

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1 minute ago, TGP said:

 

In what way do you mean?

I don't have textbook with me right now, but I read a chapter detailing how the avant-garde was embracing technology not just as a tool, but as an end to itself.  Tod Machover is a name I remember.  I also remember some orchestra that performed entirely with laptops.  They are posing existential  questions about what classical music is.

 

3 minutes ago, natedog said:

Would you include someone like Joe Kraemer in this postmodernist group?

I confess to not being too familiar with his work to make that kind of determination.  

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Just now, Steve McQueen said:

I don't have textbook with me right now, but I read a chapter detailing how the avant-garde was embracing technology not just as a tool, but as an end to itself.  Tod Machover is a name I remember.  I also remember some orchestra that performed entirely with laptops.  They are posing existential  questions about what classical music is.

 

 

This is fringe stuff though which I would say actually poses no questions of any real interest nor has any real bearing on what poster natedog is asking.  Fads and/or quasi intellectual masturbation.  Totally different from the widespread adoption of computers into the music making process as just another tool, something which does not point us in the apocalyptic direction some think.

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1 minute ago, TGP said:

 

Totally different from the widespread adoption of computers into the music making process as just another tool, something which does not point us in the apocalyptic direction some think.

True.  Still, there is something to be said about composers taking "shortcuts" that might make the creative process a little more standardized, as it were.  

But, then, in every era of classical music, the imitators outnumber the truly great composers, and only time can render accurate judgement.    

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I don't know if this makes me a regressive plebeian but I do wish I heard more clearly presented, well-developed melody in film scores.  Something that was common through all eras and styles up until more recently.  I don't mean strict leitmotif application or anything like that.  It's why I'd say I miss the Goldsmith style in modern scores moreso than a "Williams style."  Back when any dumb movie could have one or a few killer themes that get put through the ringer.

 

Whether this is something composers are less interested in, directors are less interested in, or both, I don't know.  Whether it's all synthesizer, or all orchestral, some good tunes would be nice.

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In the classical world, there was a Modern reaction against melody that we are still recovering from.

In film scoring, I think melody has become conflated with 19th and 20th Century sentimentality, something modern directors for the most part seek to avoid.

 

 

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1 minute ago, Steve McQueen said:

But, then, in every era of classical music, the imitators outnumber the truly great composers, and only time can render accurate judgement.    

 

This is a good point which often seems to pass people by when lamenting about things "these days."  Looking back in time shows us the good and great that's been preserved and little or none of the mediocrity, which is far more common at any given point.  As for shortcuts, there have always been shortcuts with whatever tools were available.  The main difference with computers is the democratization of audibility.  200 years ago, even if you could write something out on the page, there was no guarantee it wasn't lazy nonsense filled with come sopras, but if it was, no one would likely ever hear it.  Now, anyone who can figure out the basic parameters of computer music can put anything they want out there into the air.  As with anything else though the process is largely Darwinian and the shit settles at the bottom.  Don't mistake the greater noise floor we have now for meaning that things are any worse.  You just have to look more closely.  Forget the thousands of "epic music" channels on Youtube with that horrible fantasy art and you're off to a good start.  There is still, as ever, quite a bit of great and masterful film music being made, and in the correct proportions, there is plenty of transient junk as well.  Whether it is going to suit the taste of someone brought up on a strictly 80s blockbuster diet is another matter.  But it's there.

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22 minutes ago, Steve McQueen said:

In the classical world, there was a Modern reaction against melody that we are still recovering from.

In film scoring, I think melody has become conflated with 19th and 20th Century sentimentality, something modern directors for the most part seek to avoid.

 

I think that's taking it too far. What you see now is the aftermath of a spreading of younger artists from years before that were not used to classical music, at best they are film music fans comparable to users of this and other boards. That's why it suddenly became more hip to needle drop your own record collection, or something as eclectic, all over your new movie, and when the more traditionally-minded studios wanted to woo young-ish new filmmakers in the later 90's, this became a norm. There are of course all kind of crossover styles and exceptions small and large, but i think most filmmakers object to 'melody' more by way of (traditional) idiom and not to the melody, per se. And since there are relatively few composers who were able to bridge that gap successfully, you see much less of it. 

 

Sometimes i find good melodies in unlikely places.

 

 

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Herrmann famously claimed that he didn't like to use melody in his scores.  But of course he was really referring to the more truly classical notion of very long-lined melodies that were given a lot of time to develop.  His preference for short repeatable motifs certainly produced enough earworms.

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10 hours ago, natedog said:

Looking at the current state of film scoring, the landscape seems to be dominated by that RCP sound and to me it seems like classical film scores are heading for extinction. That's not to say that  classical scores are dead...yet. We still have people like Desplat, Giacchino, Silvestri and of course the granddaddy of them all JW flying the flag but where do we think the future will be for this kind of sound in movies?

 

Are there are any next generation classical composers making their way up the industry ladder that we need to be aware of?

I'm trying to put together a list of 'classical' film composers that are currently working in Hollywood today, especially looking to find some lesser known gems. Be great if you guys with your vastly superior film music knowledge can throw some names out there!

 

Thanks

There are hardly any distinguished film scores written today - usually only a few a year these days. I find myself hardly listening to any new scores, I'd much rather go back in time to listen to distinguished scores written by North, Takemitsu etc or even check out an obscure Morricone score I haven't heard before.

 

Desplat, Giacchino, Silvestri are pretty mediocre talents, especially Giacchino. Even Williams doesn't write that many distinguished scores - especially not after '05 -  and he usually doesn't go that far beyond a imaginative re-treading of romanticism. A.I. and Close Encounters remain his two best scores.

 

Outside of Williams and Morricone, Thomas Newman and Elliot Goldenthal are pretty much the only film composers I can think of that make the grade. After them... maybe Howard Shore.

 

I just miss a guy like North, Herrmann or Goldsmith for example on the scene. In addition to that, I also miss a great classical concert composer writing film music, even if it only happens occasionally. Dmitri Shostakovich's, Ralph Vaughan Williams's best film music for instance certainly ranks among the best film music ever written. Corigliano, Dun, Glass etc are all interesting, but I don't find the vast majority of the results of their film work to measure up to what other classical composers have written in the past at their best. I also don't find any of them to be great composers, very good yes, but not great. I don't think there is a thing as a great living composer, for me Brian Eno might come the closest - he might be my personal favourite living composer with Newman. Takemitsu would certainly qualify as a great composer, had he been alive. Reich, Glass etc I more respect than enjoy, I only find myself returning to a few select pieces by them.

 

Seeing that Goldenthal is semi-retired from film music - my biggest hope going forward is on Newman. But I don't consider Newman as exciting as Goldenthal can be even if he is a pretty original and inventive talent, this despite the fact that I prefer Newman's music in general. Newman has also yet to live up to his '90s glory.

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7 hours ago, Disco Stu said:

Herrmann famously claimed that he didn't like to use melody in his scores.  But of course he was really referring to the more truly classical notion of very long-lined melodies that were given a lot of time to develop.  His preference for short repeatable motifs certainly produced enough earworms.

 

Still so many beautiful themes!

 

For example - 

 

 

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8 hours ago, Disco Stu said:

Herrmann famously claimed that he didn't like to use melody in his scores.  But of course he was really referring to the more truly classical notion of very long-lined melodies that were given a lot of time to develop.

 

Exactly. In Royal S. Brown's interview with Herrmann in his book, Overtones and Undertones, Herrmann is quoted as saying:

 

Quote

You know, the reason I don’t like this tune business is that a tune has to have eight or sixteen bars, which limits you as a composer. Once you start, you’ve got to finish—eight or sixteen bars. Otherwise, the audience doesn’t know what the hell it’s all about. It’s putting handcuffs on yourself.

 

Still, as @TheUlyssesian points out, Herrmann does use a long-lined theme in North by Northwest. To me what's really interesting is not merely that he does use them, but how he uses them. Here are a couple of others from Vertigo:

 

 

 

 

These themes, along with the one above in North by Northwest, come at crucial points in the narrative. So instead of eschewing the long-lined theme altogether (which is the impression one could easily get from his interview quote), he brought them in at key moments of emotional stability, as a kind of special musical effect that emphasizes these moments in a way one could not had the score been loaded with long-lined themes. 

 

It's also interesting that all of the above themes involve an element of romance. I've always liked Marion's driving music in Psycho for that bit that sounds like it's finally burst into a full-fledged theme, only to dissolve away and remain unresolved:

 

 

Marion is of course hoping to use the stolen money to marry her fiancee but never gets that far, so the incomplete character of the theme fits her situation quite well.

 

I'm always fascinated when I come across film music in which the forms of its themes are very tightly aligned with its narrative meaning. Herrmann's is one of them.

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3 hours ago, Lewya said:

Corigliano, Dun, Glass etc are all interesting, but I don't find the vast majority of the results of their film work to measure up to what other classical composers have written in the past at their best. I also don't find any of them to be great composers, very good yes, but not great.

 

You know, when Corigliano is brushed aside like this, but then

 

Quote

Seeing that Goldenthal is semi-retired from film music - my biggest hope going forward is on Newman. But I don't consider Newman as exciting as Goldenthal can be even if he is a pretty original and inventive talent, this despite the fact that I prefer Newman's music in general. Newman has also yet to live up to his '90s glory.

 

Goldenthal heaped on such a pedestal even hough he is hugely indebted to the former (even studied under him), i feel a great injustice was committed.

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Oh, maybe that wasn't clear, I don't put Goldenthal higher than him as a composer - Goldenthal has contributed more to film music though (unlike Corgliano who has contributed more to the concert world than Goldenthal has), but I don't count Corgliano as a film composer like I do with Goldenthal so that is why I mentioned him like that. For me it is only Goldenthal and Newman that are film composers I find to be really interesting. Ok, Shore etc can also be interesting I guess.

 

Corgliano is at least as interesting as Goldenthal, even if I probably would agree with him that he couldn't do what Goldenthal does in film music better.

 

I wish both of these men did more film work - it would be refreshing from the usual mediocrity.

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21 hours ago, publicist said:

 

Sometimes i find good melodies in unlikely places.

 

 

 

This score just came on the Google Play radio station called "Provocative Film Scores."  Sounds pretty good!

 

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