Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Music VS Music and the Coen Brothers VS low budget films

[QUOTE]... what i don't get is No Country for Old Men. i thought that was an excellent movie, but i distinctly remember that it didn't have music in it. i thought the lack of music was one of its strong points (i.e. they CHOSE not have music in it). however, the wikipedia article states "Music By Carter Burwell", did i miss something in the movie?[/QUOTE]

No Country had no "score", it did have music, but it was all practical.

The other thing to remember is that the composed music is a balancing act with the "sound'. A good sound track plays almost like scored music. In a perfect world the composer and the sound supervisor and or designer would work closely with the director early on. Unfortunately that rarely happens. Low budget films often make the mistake of over scoring the film. An audience doesn't like to be beaten over the head every minute telling then how they should feel about every moment. And as a replacement for a decent sound track music generally sucks. The music only seq in a big film is pretty rare. Even the biggest "score moments" generally have a fair amount of "sound" to anchor the audience IN the story.

Which is why the sound folks and the composer ought to be working together. The two big questions are, "What does the audience WANT to hear now?", and "What does the audience NEED to hear now?". Some times it's score, some times it's the FX (I'm assuming they always want and need to hear the dialog), and sometimes it's both.

Lets take a big Knights in armor battle sequence.
Prep for the battle Knights getting on horses, sharpening swords etc. Probably all sound. WE need and want to be involved in this prep.
THey ride out. Probably more of the same but music may start to creep in.

We see the massed army at a distance moving toward battle. Perfect score moment. We can't hear them anyway and we want to get geared up for the battle.

The armies approach each other. Generally a big score moment that builds (and has sound start to come in more) till. THe battle explodes. At this point a lot of films will cheap out and put heavy score over big parts of the battle. This is almost always a mistake. It pulls the audience out of the world on the screen and we WANT to hear and be apart of the action. So as long as the camera is in the thick of it I think it should be all or at least 90% FX. If you pull out to a god view then you going back in to score land.

Aftermath. Often effective to start with just the quiet aftermath sounds but the right score can also work really well here.

Low budget films will usually slather music over the whole thing and often music that wasn't composed specifically for that scene so the beats aren't even on the money. They do it because even a picture editor can drop in some music the director has found but it takes a sound editor and a library and a bunch of Foley and time to really cover the battle. But it's not nearly as effective and often outright distracting to just slather music on.

As always just my 2¢