The Lab; Portnoy Media Group Blog

The Score: The Character of Music

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 10 days, you’ve heard about Inception. Last week I sat in the theater and was blown away by the film but what stuck me the most while watching gorgeous scene after scene was the score. It was alive, it was it’s own character. Track after track of emotions ranging from curiosity to true love – all with an intense undercurrent of maglev train going 90 mph across the Japanese countryside.

I had to talk to an expert about all that I was experiencing, so I looked up Josh Myers. Producer, composer and general brilliant music guy and asked him a little about the process of composing for films.

As a composer, are there any steps you take when you’re starting a project?

That depends entirely on the client and at what stage they bring me onto the project. It rarely happens, but I prefer to be brought on early enough to read the script a few times and take a few weeks to really absorb the story. That way I can create themes and sketches and try to set a musical landscape before seeing a single image. And all that work may very well be thrown out the window in post, but it’s a useful process for me.

What kind of research is involved?

Usually lots of music listening. If the story is set in Greece the director might want music which reflects that. It’s different every time, so I have to do my research. In that case reading about Greek music history and listening to loads of music. And then finding session players that can pull it off authentically.

When do you typically get involved when writing a piece? At picture lock or before?

Totally varies from project to project. I prefer to start scoring after picture lock.

How do you go about crafting a musical pallet to coincide with a visual piece?

It’s just a gut feeling really, and it depends so much on budget. I love using live instruments, but I rarely have the funds to hire an orchestra. So most of the time I’m limited to solo instruments, midi instruments and the instruments I can play myself.

In the recent film, Inception, I found the music just striking in scene after scene – what’s your take?

I loved it. Hans Zimmer is a genius, continually reinventing himself. That last cue of the film is simply mind-blowing. I love it when the guitar comes in. The perfect sound for a perfect ending.

Who are some of your favorite composers and why?

I love Debussy for his textures, Stravinsky for his rhythms, John Williams for his melodies, Danny Elfman, Michael Giacchino, and anyone who can introduce something new to these ears.

Josh Myers is currently working on projects for Discovery Channel, Deidox, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Ireland-based radio station, and a feature documentary entitled A Highway Called 301.

Here’s a live performance of Hans Zimmer’s Inception (on Guitar is Johnny Marr of The Smiths)

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