In Part 1, Joaquin Elizondo explores the importance of music in film and how to find the right soundtrack for your project.
|You’re going to learn:
The history of sound and music in film, the use of diegetic sound, how music is used to escalate tension, and why needle drops are used in place of an original score.
THE HISTORY OF MUSIC IN FILM:
Today, music plays an essential part in cinema – but where did it all begin? Back in the early days of cinema, audiences were only greeted by the visuals on the screen. If music accompanied the film, a live orchestra played in the theater alongside the moving image. While the music added depth to the cinematic experience, it also had a more practical function – hiding the sound of the projector.
It was in 1915 when the first score was composed for the film, Birth of a Nation. The score was created with classical works rather than original music. It wasn’t until 1927 with The Jazz Singer that diegetic sound was introduced to audiences. For example, if an actor played the piano, you would hear the sounds emitting from the piano. However, there was still no original music written for the film.
|DIEGETIC SOUND: Sound that originates from within the video of the world of the film. It may occur either on-screen or off-screen but transpires simultaneously with the action.
The first film with an original score was King Kong in 1933. Between the 1930s and 1940s, films primarily incorporated orchestral music. Then, in the 1950s, there was a transformation in the musical tone. Audiences were greeted with jazz music in place of orchestral music. One explanation for the switch up in musical tone was that the cost of orchestras was too high, whereas a smaller jazz quartet was much more affordable.
Next, this brings us to needle drops and source music. This technique could be used while a character is in a car and listening to the radio or in a diner listening to a jukebox. While it is popular music, it is still used in the way that you utilize score to enhance the story.
|NEEDLE DROP: The use of an existing recording rather than an original score in a film.
A return to the past
In the 1970s, John Williams brought back the big orchestral sound from the early days to fit the scale of the space epic, Star Wars.
In the 1980s, as technology evolved, more music was created with synthesizers and computers. All the sounds that once required many musicians for a score could then be accomplished by one musician.
This leads up to the present day where one person with a computer can create the score. However, filmmakers still use all of the aforementioned ways to create music depending on the project’s scale and budget.
INCREASE TENSION WITH SCORE:
A film that stands out for its score is Dunkirk. The film’s director, Christopher Nolan, heard the ticking of his wristwatch and asked Hans Zimmer to incorporate that sound into the score. From the beginning of Dunkirk and until the end, we hear the ticking. Throughout the film, it shifts in intensity and where it’s positioned in the mix.
In the scene where RAF pilot Farrier (Tom Hardy) is in an aerial duel with an enemy fighter jet, we hear the ticking clock along with some slight strings. The score itself is atmospheric and compliments the vastness of the imagery comprised of the ocean and the clouds. We feel as if we are floating in the sky amidst the dancing aircraft. What breaks the dreamy imagery and soundscape is the rattling of the machine gun that lets you know that they are in a deadly dogfight.
Then, as Farrier shifts his attention to his countrymen in the water below, the score shifts which triggers a shift in our emotion. We, along with Farrier, care about those soldiers who are in need of help. The shifting score introduces more instruments along with more strings and brass – plus, the ticking clock feels more and more relentless.
What was once almost a peaceful scene shifts to reveal a sobering tension that climbs as Farrier notices a fighter jet right on his tail. The progression of the scene is guided by both the visuals and the score in unison.
USE NEEDLE DROPS INSTEAD OF SCORE:
The film Baby Driver is a great example of how to use needle drops instead of score. Remember, a needle drop is popular music that you might, say, hear on the radio, and is not originally written for the film.
The film’s director, Edgar Wright, chose all of the needle drops before he shot the film and had an idea of how to use the songs in different scenes. In the case of the opening scene, we hear the song Bellbottoms by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. The song seems to drive the edit of the scene – so much so that the edit almost feels like another instrument in the song.
Initially, the song lets us know that its source music comes from Baby’s (Ansel Elgort) headphones. We, as an audience, realize that music is an important element and part of his character. As a getaway driver, the music helps him stay calm and motivates his talents behind the wheel.
When the bank robbers come running out of the bank, the chase is on and the music kicks in. Now, with the cops in close pursuit, we’re really feeling the cuts. The beat of the music compliments the sharp cuts as they work in sync with one another.
MUSIC LICENSE AND SOUNDTRACK SELECTION COURSE:
As the course progresses, Joaquin Elizondo reveals how you can source the music for your own project using Musicbed.
Every filmmaker knows that finding the right music for your project takes a lot of time. Think of all the hours spent listening to track after track, trying to find the right sound. Musicbed makes the experience so much easier with its user-friendly interface and filtering tools that help you find the exact sound you’re looking for. Really, there’s no other filtering system this good.
To gain access to the rest of the course, become an All Access member of Filmmakers Academy. Coming up, Joaquin shows you how to find the right soundtrack for action, comedy, and drama genres and how to professionally work sound into your project for the best effect possible!
If you don’t have a composer or music supervisor handling your music, then trust us, you’re not going to want to miss this course! It will change how you select and license music. You will never look at music selection the same way again.