Music adds emotion to movies

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    By Brittany Wiscombe

    That haunting music that suggests something terribly eerie is about to occur. The sweet melodies that make hearts swell as a couple falls in love.

    Film scores – without them, films would lack soul.

    Kurt Bestor, composer of such films as “Rigoletto” and “The Lamb of God,” said music can move a scene along, can suggest deeper emotions than what the visuals present and can help establish a geographic setting or time period.

    “Music aids the emotion which is sometimes missing in the manufactured world of cinema,” Bestor said.

    Music can manipulate emotions by suggesting one thing while an audience sees another thing, Bestor said.

    This is called playing against a scene. Suspense films often do this to lead an audience through a scene or offer the audience a “red herring,” Bestor said.

    Music can seriously impact a film.

    Bestor said he has played a movie with and without music and seen a difference in the audience. But the relationship between music and film is symbiotic.

    “Film music doesn”t often satisfy without the accompanying film,” Bestor said.

    Jeff Carter, an audio engineer for Mach 1, a sound mixing company, said music can stand without a film better than film can stand without music.

    “You buy CDs with only music and no picture,” Carter said.

    Music is the only thing that creates the mood, Carter said. It evokes emotion.

    “Music creates the tone of the film. Sound effects are the reality,” he said. “But the music will create and change your emotion before you know what”s happening.”

    But Carter said some films have been ruined by the music.

    Ron Simpson, division coordinator for media music and jazz in the school of music, said music should enhance a film but never dominate it.

    “Music is there to intensify or clarify the audience”s perception. If it takes on a life of its own, then something has gone wrong,” he said.

    Simpson, who is also the general manager of Tantara Records, said he sees music get in the way of a film all the time.

    Simpson read a movie review last week about a film that had five tense episodes in the music, but only one actual suspenseful scene that justified the score, he said.

    The score provided suspense where there was none, Simpson said. Setting up the audience with music without carrying some emotion through film alone misleads the audience and hampers the movie”s overall quality.

    Another example was the score in a PBS documentary. Simpson said the documentary had loud and busy music, which competed with the content and narrative. In this case, the music overstepped its bounds.

    But overall, film scores compliment a film. Simpson said the American public appreciates film music as an art form.

    “Film music is a treasure,” Simpson said.

    Composers add to that treasure with each film project.

    Simpson said he goes through the movie script and marks where he thinks music should be included. Later he and the director meet to discuss the music.

    If the film has already been shot, the director will often include temporary music tracks. Simpson said he then builds off of those tracks, which have become associated with that film.

    For Bestor, approaching a new film project requires understanding the film.

    “I watch it many times before starting to compose. I try to ”get inside” of it and feel what it wants me to feel,” he said.

    By doing this, Bestor finds a musical palette for the film score. He writes a few small melodies that he uses throughout the movie.

    Next, he scores the film. Bestor said he is usually given about four weeks to finish a feature-length film”s score.

    “It”s never quite enough and I feel that the project could be better if I had a little more time,” he said. Bestor also orchestrates and conducts his own film scores.

    Creating film scores is something Bestor finds satisfying. “After 30 movies, I”ve yet to tire of it.” But he recognizes that he has to get away from music once in awhile.

    “If I”m to capture the myriad of emotion found in music, I need to be familiar with those emotions which are found in life – not just the music paper.”

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