If you are thinking of becoming a composer for television or film there are many composer to choose from when looking for inspiration and points of reference. Automatically when any one thinks of a film composer the name John Williams is the first to come to mind. John Williams has a infamous list of credits including Star Wars, E.T. Schindler’s List, my favorite Close Encounters of the Third Kind to name just a few, and the Academy Awards to go with them.
Close Encounters of The Third Kind Suite by John Williams. Listen closely for hints of When You Wish Upon A Star from the the Disney classic Pinocchio
Now I am not suggesting that John Williams is not a virtuoso film composer. He as been regarded by some as the best of all time which is of course just one opinion over another. There are a few others film music composers that you should become familiar with though.
In no particular order of importantce.
Bernard Herrmann scored some of the most important movies in film history. Most notably Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, Vertigo, North By Northwest and Orson Well’s Citizen Kane. My favorite of Herrmann’s work is definitely Vertigo. Bernard Herrmann’s sound became such an integral part of Alfred Hitchcock’s work that if you watch the movie Cape Fear it almost seams like a Hitchcock movie because of the score.
Listen to Bernard Herrmann’s score of Vertigo. The music is has a dizzying effect and leaves the listener feeling confused and hypnotized at points. Lady Ga Ga also took the Vertigo theme and used it as a intro to her Video Born This Way.
Ennio Morricone is most famous for scoring the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns featuring Clint Eastwood. The theme from the Good the Bad and the Ugly is associated with western movies like the song Jingle Bells is thought of with Christmas. As I started listening to Morricone’s work more and watching the films that he scored I fell in love with the epic theme from Sergio Leone’s masterpiece Once Upon A Time In The West. The movie also gave harmonica players every where a new hero to idolize.
Hans Zimmer has become one of the masters of film music in the last 15 years. Hans Zimmer first made noise in the world of film music with his score to Rain Man. Hans Zimmer has continued his style of synth heavy scores blending with orchestral techniques with heavy sound design. Hans Zimmer is equally comfortable working on beautiful power themes like Chevaliers de Sangreal featured in the Davinci Code and intense pallets of original in your face sound design that turn in to thematic elements. His best examples of this are the beging of the Dark Knight and 2010′s Inception.
From the Davinci Code
From The Dark Knight Note: for best results turn this up and put your headphones on. Simply an amazinf set of textures and development of tension.
I have never been a huge fan of Howard Shore’s work but his contribution to the Lord Of the Rings Trilogy can not go with out mention. The words epic to do not begin to describe the energy and undertaking that went into scoring the Lord Of The Rings Trilogy. The complete score ranges from the playful folk like twiddles of the shire to the dark drastic textures of the final film.
Of course there is an endless list of other composers to listen be this is a perfect starter set.
Listening to the music of other composers and learning their respective sound is just as important as buying sample libraries and equipment. Now with large catalog of music on Yuutube and music services like Spotify it very easy to find recordings of a score so there is not excuse to start developing your ear now.
Youtube is an endless resource of information for any subject you might be interested in. Lets say at 3:00 am you decide to you want to decorate cupcakes. Easy just search youtube. Have the sudden urge to learn to play the harmonica or maybe learn the latest Alicia Key’s song on piano? Easy just search youtube. Youtube is such a vastly growing library of information that I don’t think there is any resource in the world that compares to it. The trick is you must see youtube as an education tool and not just something that people use to put up silly videos.
What makes me think of all this is my adventures in trumpet practicing late last night. I was working through a few pages in a a famous trumpet method book called The Arban Complete Method. I got stuck and was needing a little inspiration. I went to youtube and typed a few things into the search field. In seconds I found numerous trumpet players from beginner to expert levels playing the piece of music. Very cool. 15 years ago when I was studying the trumpet in school that question would have had waited till the next lesson I had with my teacher. There were no easily accessed recordings of etudes in the Arban book. If you went to a really good music school there might be something as a reference in the schools music library. Even in that rare circumstance you would be forced to search through catalogs of records, CDs and cassette tapes and then be tethered to a desk with headphones at a listening station. Your instrument was no where you near you. I can search youtube from the computer in my studio, with both the music and my instrument in front of me. The tools to make practicing product and efficient have never been better.
As my practicing continued I browsed through related videos on youtube and found a cool series of play along videos from NY trumpeter Charlie Porter. I sat and played with Duets with another trumpet player for 30 minutes and had a blast. Again ten years ago this would have had to wait for a trumpet lesson or an after school session with friends.
Youtube is all about letting you connect with other people so you can learn from them. It’s okay to let it make you laugh but use it for something educational or motivational first. You can never stop learning.
Jim Carey has always been a hilarious and inventive comedian. I have been watching him through all his shows and movies since the In Living Color days. While browsing youtube this afternoon looking for other renditions of the famous christmas carol White Christmas I cam across this video of Jim Carey with Leno. Warning this might only be funny to musicians!
An amazing side note is that Jim Carey can actually sing. So to sing in those intervals and pitch relationships against the band like that is VERY difficult.
I have been trying to get to this for a few years now. Every year in the past something would come up. What could express the love and joy of Christmas time more then the sound of TUBAS. Today at NY’s Rockefeller Center a few hundred Tuba, Sousaphone, and Euphonium players got together to play Christmas Carols.
I took a giant leap today towards my goal of completing my first triathlon. Even though I will not be entering one this year I got one step closest his afternoon as I purchased my first road bike. Now besides running (which I have been a bit lazy with since I started spending time in the pool swimming and the weather has gotten colder) and swimming, I have added the last sport, biking to my list of exercise. I hope to go on my first long ride right after the holidays.
I went out for a short ride around the block this evening just to get used to being clipped into the pedals. It was awesome.
Today celebrates the birthday of one of the greatest American Composers to date, Aaron Copland. I first encountered Aaron Copland’s music while studying trumpet more then 20 years ago. As a gift for christmas I was given a Compact Disc of the greatest fanfares. Copland’s Fanfare For The Common Man was instantly my favorite track on the disc. A few years later in college I heard the ballet suite Appalachian Spring which after more than 15 years still ranks as one of my top 10 favorite pieces of classical music. Aaron Copland’s writing in many case that were more intervalic and open. This was especially true in Fanfare For The Common Man and Appalachian Spring. The open sound of his harmonies and melodies to me always reflected an honesty in his work that showed people and America as hard working and the land surrounding the vast and great.
Hans Zimmer is a constant source of inspiration for every modern composer. If your not familiar with the Hans Zimmer sound the intro to the Dark Knight has to be one of the best cues he has ever written. Its maddening sound and building tension gave the joker sonic life.
Never heard this before? Turn lights out and the volume on your headphones up. You are in for one hell of a ride.
Below is a bit of behind the scenes with Hans Zimmer talking about the Dark Knight.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is the amazing story of Louie Zamperini. I am just past the midway point of this book and can not put it down. It is easily becoming one of the best things I think I have read this year. I would love to write more but I would honestly keep reading the book instead. As soon as I finish I’ll post more details of the story.
I took the plunge last month and bought a pair of the controversial Newton running sneakers. They tak a bit of getting used to but after a few miles I am starting to love them. I plan to run in them through the next few months and see if my time improves by the spring. Here is more information of how they work.
Who wants a happy halloween when you can have a psycho one. The film score that can scare any one: Bernard Herman’s Psycho . Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece has become famous not only for the shower scene in which actress Janet Leigh is murdered with kitchen knife but for the clusters of string dissonance that went with it.
Try to the resist the driving urge to do taxidermy work. For more fun listen for the samples of Psycho used in rapper Busta Rhymes hit single Gimmie Some More direclty below it.