Composer Composure

It seems to me that the relationship between a film director and a music composer is one off the most minefield-laden relationships in the entire process. Here you have two people that speak entirely different creative languages, and they have to come together with perfect synchronicity to elevate a series of moments. It’s like a surgeon working with a serial killer, their individual fields are very different, but if they work well together they’ll create something you’ll never forget. Yikes. What’s more upbeat than that? It’s like a mortician working with a seamstress, even in the best collaborations it’s hard to do anything better than sew sew. Not any better. I guess I feel spooky today.

It doesn’t matter how beautiful a piece of music is, if it doesn’t match visual beats or is tonally wrong, it’s just not going to work. I’m the kind of director who edits a temp track to move exactly with the pulse of the edit too, so that it’s going to be practically impossible to get a satisfying sound-alike that hits everything the same way. And a lot of times what a director will talk about then is only what a piece isn’t doing instead of what it needs to do. I try to communicate all of these things as best as I can, but I’m still not a composer, a musician, a sound engineer, or final mix specialist. I just want my project to make an audience feel how it’s supposed to and I decided a while ago that I’m not going to “settle for almost” anymore. I’m not going to “get used to it.” It’s going to be right or it’s not going in the show. Too many other people are working their hardest on this thing and putting in too many hours for an integral part not to work. So here you have two (sometimes more) people who are passionate about their creative output, pulling against each other for days until something magically works.

One of the most famous action movie cues comes from Aliens, at the end of the picture James Horner wrote this thumping, escalating beast of a score that perfectly encapsulates holding your breathe as something spirals to the edge of chaos and surviving by the skin of your teeth. See? That’s how directors talk to composers. Now try and make a piece of music around that vague-ass description. Go! And that music cue was like the last thing dropped into the picture right before it was released because James Cameron was satisfied with nothing. Horner had to keep doing it over and over as the release date ticked closer and closer. Many screaming matches were had, and the greatest action cue of all time was born. Horner refused to work with Cameron again for a lot of years.

I have some great people working on music for the show. I sure hope I don’t Cameron them.

As I write this, I’m sitting on the third floor of a library observing the parking lot through floor to ceiling windows. I never before realized how mystified parking a car apparently makes people. I’ve seen at least 7 people slowly pull into a space, stop halfway in, and then abruptly jerk forward a foot at a time until they hit the concrete parking stopper like a boat running aground. It’s pretty amazing.



One Response to “Composer Composure”

  1. Donna Jarvi Says:


    Sent from my iPhone

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