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How do you determine when a film is overscored?


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This is a viewpoint question. There is no correct position on this. Just your opinion.

For me it's pretty simple. It's when the music become superfluous. There may be music during scenes which don't need any. Or the general musical approach may seem excessive, for example, a small, intimate drama being scored with a 150 piece orchestra.

I have found that movies these days tend to have too much music in them. While it's true that Golden Age composers such as Rozsa, Korngold and Newman wrote literally hours of music for some of their more epic films others, such a Bernstein and Goldsmith, wrote only as much music as the films required. For example, the 3+-hour long Patton has barely 30 minutes of music.

As a film music lover who basks in moments when the music can carry a scene I also find it irritating and distracting when the music is too prominent. One personal experience being during Legends of the Fall when it seemed that for the first 25 minutes of the movie the music just wouldn't stop. I think great composers should also be good spotters of music... using intelligent restraint and sensitivity in putting music only where the movie cries out for it.

Your thoughts?

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It's not really a movie, but I think A Timeless Call is overscored. I just saw it yesterday finally, and the music completely kills the emotion conveyed by the veterans. It makes it seem cheesy, may

To me, an overscored film is one in which the scope of the score - i.e. the size of the group, thickness of orchestration, dynamic level, mix in the film, and/or dramatic intensity of the music itself - is greater than that of the film. Or one in which I'm involuntarily listening to the music the whole time, rather than intentionally deciding to listen to the music the whole time, as I usually do. :(

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The prequels are a prime example of over scoring, hardly a moment when there is no music.

I wouldn't neccessarily put the blame at the composer's feet. A good director and producer should also be able to set the limits on how much music they feel their film needs or at least exercise some restraint in placing the music within the film.

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The prequels are a prime example of over scoring, hardly a moment when there is no music.

But it works well in the prequels.

The music is fine. It's actually mixed too low so it doesn't have all the dramatic impact it should have

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The prequels are a prime example of over scoring, hardly a moment when there is no music.

But it works well in the prequels.

The idea behind a film being overscored is that it doesn't work, or else we wouldn't say it was overscored.

I don't need to hear notes everytime a ship lands or someone walks into a room, nor does every discussion need music.

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Good point--in fact, not scoring every landing, etc., might have given the prequels even more of a Star Wars feel, as now that I think of it, there are a number of those kinds of scenes unscored in the OT.

On the other hand, at least we got good music for those parts. :(

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You just hate the Prequels in general.

We're talking about overscoring.

With the exception of Star Wars, Williams overscored all the Star Wars films. At least on Empire someone was able to trim some of the music down.

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I think a good example is The Empire Strikes Back, which as originally written would be overscored, there was a site called T-Bone's Star Wars Universe (might still exist I haven't checked in a while), that had clips from the movie with the unused music and most of them don't really work.

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I am glad that John Williams wrote the music, though. It does make for a good listening experience.

Also, I have no problem with any of the music in the Star Wars films (well, besides the editing and the tracking and all that).

Oh, and just one more thing. Whenever I think of a "perfectly spotted" film, "Jaws" tends to come in mind.

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The prequels are a prime example of over scoring, hardly a moment when there is no music.

But it works well in the prequels.

The idea behind a film being overscored is that it doesn't work, or else we wouldn't say it was overscored.

I don't need to hear notes everytime a ship lands or someone walks into a room, nor does every discussion need music.

As George Lucas frequently says, the SW films are like silent films. They're melodramatic and emotional, I think that the constant music really works well.

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I don't need to hear notes everytime a ship lands or someone walks into a room...

And a good storyteller would be sure to cut these moments out, but that's not what this discussion is about.

A movie is over scored when the music is so omnipresent it no longer provides the emotional backbone needed to be effective. Just as much can be said by the lack of music.

Neil

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Lucius's introduction in Batman Begins. Once he starts showing Bruce around you could have some score, but I think the actual cut from the scene with Mr. Earle and the whole "Dead end" dialogue would've played better with no music.

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Pretty much every film these days is overscored. I've seen so many great scenes spoiled by unneeded music. It has the effect of "normalizing" the scene, draping it in a curtain of Hollywood certainty. No matter what the actors are doing, as long as you hear a certain type of music you're reassured. I recently mentioned the scene in Hitler's private villa from Valkyrie as an example of this. We know Hitler is evil; we don't need those rumbling bass lines to tell us. Now, I can go for long scores. Some films work great with them, such as, of course, Indiana Jones. But that's only one approach to scoring - I find it's usually light-hearted and fantastic - and it doesn't work for everything. Time and again I've found that my reaction to serious, dramatic films with wall to wall music is that the film is pretentious trash. It's too bad that it gets in the way of the actors, who might be delivering fine performances. I can forgive it with some films, though. Even though the Dark Knight score makes me cringe when I hear it (like that first scene with Lucius, totally unnecessary piano meandering), I very often forget it's there, so it's not much of a bother.

There Will Be Blood is an example of really interesting scoring, or rather fitting existing music to film. There are long stretches without music, climactic moments are unscored, music seemingly enters and exits abruptly, and it all has the effect of putting the viewer slightly on edge. You don't know what to expect.

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There Will Be Blood is an example of really interesting scoring, or rather fitting existing music to film. There are long stretches without music, climactic moments are unscored, music seemingly enters and exits abruptly, and it all has the effect of putting the viewer slightly on edge. You don't know what to expect.

I competely agree, though I haven't seen There Will Be Blood, I can definitely see what you're talking about with the specific use of the music, and not necessarily how much of it there is.

A film may work perfectly fine with the "right" amount and use of music - that is, emotional music backing emotional scenes, tense music signifying tension and not much more else. But that's kind of standard now. It's now a formula. Some of the most effective films break this formula and go from being a good movie to an excellent movie, simply by surprising the audience and placing them out of their comfort zone. I'm really just agreeing with everything Henry has said and can't add much more, but I feel really strongly about this.

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How do you determine when a film is overscored?

When music tries to enhance every frame of a movie, like the Indy films, for instance. Those who adore the Indy films probably don't believe there is such a thing as "overscoring".

Alex

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I was watching No Country for Old Men the other day and I loved the absence of music. When Moss is first chased from the crime scene and goes into the river it would have been so easy to put some tense action cue under it with the orchestra going wild. The fact that there isn't any is one of the things that makes that movie such a fine experience to me.

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The prequels are a prime example of over scoring, hardly a moment when there is no music.

But it works well in the prequels.

The idea behind a film being overscored is that it doesn't work, or else we wouldn't say it was overscored.

I don't need to hear notes everytime a ship lands or someone walks into a room, nor does every discussion need music.

I don't think the prequels are overscored. There's a lot of music, yes, but that's the way it was intended in order to fully bring out the Star Wars universe. And I think TPM, for one, is perfectly scored.

I don't think a movie is overscored when we hear music at moments when we think there is no need for music. That's difficult to tell, anyway, and everybody has different opinions. I think a movie is overscored when the music starts getting distracting and/or annoying. And that, IMHO, is never the case with the prequels.

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There's actually a lot of unnecessary moments in the prequels. Namely the ships landing/taking off all the time. As Neil already said, it's redundant material. So to try and make it interesting, some little ditty has to be inserted.

The first Harry Potter also has a huge amount of music, maybe more than necessary. It's also very prominently mixed. So much so that it draws attention to itself. On a film like Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone though, I can live with it.

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There's actually a lot of unnecessary moments in the prequels. Namely the ships landing/taking off all the time. As Neil already said, it's redundant material. So to try and make it interesting, some little ditty has to be inserted.

The first Harry Potter also has a huge amount of music, maybe more than necessary. It's also very prominently mixed. So much so that it draws attention to itself. On a film like Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone though, I can live with it.

A lot of music, yes, but not TOO much music.

I think it's only TOO much music when we pay TOO much attention to it (which, as film music fans here, we cannot help but do, of course). Film music itself is designed not to draw too much attention to itself. So, when an average filmgoer sees PS, for example, he/she won't think too much about the music, but subconsiously I'm sure it'll give that person a more fulfilling and satisfying experience. Later he or she (usually a child, but not necessarily so) will think to himself, "Wow, what a great fantastic magical movie!" Again, not thinking too much about the music, but the music of course was there all along and did a great deal to help the visuals to make its impact...

So, subconsciously, I think it will make a GREAT difference whether PS has, say 100 minutes of music or only 40 minutes of music--only when it's absolutely necessary. And I think the former version will win every time (if it's done by someone as talented as JW, needless to say).

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How do you determine when a film is overscored?

When music tries to enhance every frame of a movie, like the Indy films, for instance. Those who adore the Indy films probably don't believe there is such a thing as "overscoring".

Alex

Sure I do, but I don't think there's a one-size-fits-all overscoring criteria/quota. For example: Patton is a very different kind of film than something like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and I think that both films were scored extremely well for what each one was doing.

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How do you determine when a film is overscored?

When music tries to enhance every frame of a movie, like the Indy films, for instance. Those who adore the Indy films probably don't believe there is such a thing as "overscoring".

Alex

Meaning everybody on this MB except you?

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How do you determine when a film is overscored?

When music tries to enhance every frame of a movie, like the Indy films, for instance. Those who adore the Indy films probably don't believe there is such a thing as "overscoring".

Innnnnteresting. My friend, there's a movie I need to recommend to you - it's called Raiders of the Lost Ark. You should watch it sometime. ::nods::

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As George Lucas frequently says, the SW films are like silent films.

I never understood why Lucas says that. It's utter nonsense since the Star Wars movies are the farthest thing from being silent movies. It's either a movie with dialog and sound or it's not.

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Great discussion. It reminds me of a line from the film "Amadeus" where when asked why he didn't like Mozart's composition, rival Salieri responds, "It had too many notes". I love that line, and use it metaphorically whenever I see a film that is overdone, music that is overmixed, or just generally whenever the storyteller abandons the "less is more" rule of thumb.

Too Many Notes!

In the liner notes for the Santa Claus the Movie DVD, (and I'm paraphrasing because it's not in front of me), Henri Mancini comments that the hard part about film scoring is knowing when to be silent, or not to score. He mentioned that that skill took him years to understand.

It's also fun to consider the "battle" between the Williams camp and Ben Burt on sound effects vs score in the mixing process. But yeah, consider the whole section of Empire where Han is searching for Luke in the snow where there is no score. The droning wind of the planet Hoth tells the story soundwise instead.

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The prequels are a prime example of over scoring, hardly a moment when there is no music.

I wouldn't neccessarily put the blame at the composer's feet. A good director and producer should also be able to set the limits on how much music they feel their film needs or at least exercise some restraint in placing the music within the film.

Agreed

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I think it's mainly a problem in the first hour or so of the movie where "Hedwig's Theme" is blasted into your face with full orchestration every five minutes. I don't know why the theme is developed that much so early into the movie, it's kind of annoying.

More like in the first 20 minutes. Yes, that's the only thing one can say about the PS score...

I think the Hedwig's Theme as played when the train starts its journey is tracked. They should have left that out, IMO.

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There's no such thing as overscoring in my opinion. It is possible to score any film with a large symphony orchestra from beginning to end. It just depends on the viewer whether it seems overscored. I do like careful spotting, as in JAWS and Raiders, but music in every scene would also have worked, just to a different effect.

If acting is highly realistic, you can compose less. If acting is highly stylized, more music is usually better.

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There's no such thing as overscoring in my opinion. It is possible to score any film with a large symphony orchestra from beginning to end.

Yes. You also can make every actor say 'gadzooks' before saying his/her line. What you would accomplish with it is the real question.

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As George Lucas frequently says, the SW films are like silent films.

I never understood why Lucas says that. It's utter nonsense since the Star Wars movies are the farthest thing from being silent movies. It's either a movie with dialog and sound or it's not.

What he means is, just put the images up there with music and they'll tell the story just as effectively. Which is true, at least for the OT.

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There's no such thing as overscoring in my opinion. It is possible to score any film with a large symphony orchestra from beginning to end. It just depends on the viewer whether it seems overscored.

Oh, it's possible...

How do you determine when a film is overscored?

When music tries to enhance every frame of a movie, like the Indy films, for instance. Those who adore the Indy films probably don't believe there is such a thing as "overscoring".

Innnnnteresting. My friend, there's a movie I need to recommend to you - it's called Raiders of the Lost Ark. You should watch it sometime. ::nods::

Of course, there's the scenes at the college, the fight scene in the bar, saying good-bye to Sallah at the docks, Captain Katanga confronting the Nazis... lots of scenes that work very well without music. It's only an eighty minute score. It's the sequels that are scored wall to wall.

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There's no such thing as overscoring in my opinion. It is possible to score any film with a large symphony orchestra from beginning to end.

Yes. You also can make every actor say 'gadzooks' before saying his/her line. What you would accomplish with it is the real question.

If you are working with a director that wants music but doesn't want it to be noticed, then one option is wall to wall scoring. People tend to notice music less when it is wall to wall. Not saying it is always preferable, but its not like its going to destroy a film to score it wall to wall. Hook (the movie) wasn't bad because of wall to wall scoring. It was just bad. I can't imagine a film that had wall to wall scoring where I really hated that there was music in a scene. If I hate the music, it is not because of the overall amount of music in the film, but because of music itself.

That oboe scene in AI where the couple is arguing... I would dial that out for sure. Just because I don't like the way it enhances the cheesiness of the acting and writing. Another piece would have been great, but I'd never track one in.

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There's actually a lot of unnecessary moments in the prequels. Namely the ships landing/taking off all the time. As Neil already said, it's redundant material. So to try and make it interesting, some little ditty has to be inserted.

To be fair, we always see the ships taking off and landing in the OT too, on Empire we see the Falcon leave Hoth, Luke's X-wing leave Hoth, Luke arriving at Dagobah, Luke leaving Dagobah, the Falcon arriving at Cloud City, etc... of course it seems people travelled more in the prequels.

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As George Lucas frequently says, the SW films are like silent films.

I never understood why Lucas says that. It's utter nonsense since the Star Wars movies are the farthest thing from being silent movies. It's either a movie with dialog and sound or it's not.

What he means is, just put the images up there with music and they'll tell the story just as effectively. Which is true, at least for the OT.

Which still makes no sense. Silent movies needed music to play constantly because it had to not only heighten drama but to also carry the narrative. In a sense, music in silent movies has quite a different function than it does in movies with sound.

Movies with sound and dialog are a very different animal. Dialog advances the narrative and sound effects add sensation to physical action. It could be argues that you don't need music for either case. Watch Fritz Lange's Metropolis, which is a silent movie, and compare it's structure to any of the Star Wars movies and you'll see the absurdity of what Lucas proposes.

What Lucas has done is simply add another, often unnecessary, sonic layer to the film. It just becomes wallpaper. Even the original trilogy did not use John Williams' music in that way.

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The prequels are a prime example of over scoring, hardly a moment when there is no music.

But it works well in the prequels.

I disagree. Deciding where to have no music is just as important as deciding when you do. When the entire film is scored wall-to-wall it loses its impact.

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I think the Hedwig's Theme as played when the train starts its journey is tracked. They should have left that out, IMO.

I don't believe that's tracked. The ending of that cue certainly isn't. However, the Halloween statement of the theme is most definitely tracked.

The problem with the overuse of Hedwig's theme in HP:SS is not that any of the individual statements are inappropriate. Each one works wonderfully in and of itself. But there's just too dang many of 'em. :thumbup:

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How do you determine when a film is overscored?

When music tries to enhance every frame of a movie, like the Indy films, for instance. Those who adore the Indy films probably don't believe there is such a thing as "overscoring".

Alex

Meaning everybody on this MB except you?

Do you think the Indy films are overscored? No, you don't. So, if these films aren't overscored, what movie is?! Hence, those who adore the Indy films probably don't believe there is such a thing as "overscoring".

Alex

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Do you think the Indy films are overscored? No, you don't. So, if these films aren't overscored, what movie is?! Hence, those who adore the Indy films probably don't believe there is such a thing as "overscoring".

Do you honestly believe Raiders is overscored? As far as I'm concerned, TOD easily is, and TLC is not far behind...and I'm not too knowledgeable as KOTCS. But the first film has plenty of silent moments that work very well. The music is crafted to accentuate certain scenes, sequences, and moments. It was only after that that the art of spotting became a little confused for the saga.

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