The history and future of Hollywood film music

by Peter D. Marshall

from KPCC.org.

Long before movies could talk, they still had the power to tell a story – withmusic. In the silent era, Charlie Chaplin not only acted in and directed his own films, he wrote music for them. As film making evolved, so too did the process of scoring for the cinema.

Some of the greatest scores in film history are the product of a shared vision between directors and composers. The legendary pairing of director David Lean and composer Maurice Jarre resulted in some of the most memorable movies and scores of all time, creating a landscape both visual and musical, impossible to separate. Picture Doctor Zhivago and Lara defying the Russian snows with their passion, Lawrence of Arabia rallying his troops from the top of a train – what music do you hear?

When he made Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977, Steven Spielberg hired long-time collaborator John Williams to score the film before even one frame had been shot. But these days, movie budgets are shrinking and composers are feeling the pinch. Film scores generally comprise a very small portion of a film’s budget and are often commissioned so late in the game that the deadlines and demands on composers can be brutal. American films used to be scored by large orchestras; these days, thanks to budget and time constraints and the convenience of electronic music, live scoring is becoming a lost art.

What does all this mean for the future of film music? Are we losing touch with the art? How has technology changed the business? Is there more or less originality in movie music now than 20 or 30 years ago? Is the golden age of film scoring over? How are today’s working composers able to overcome the many challenges?

Watch the video at SCPR.org.

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