Tuesday, January 30, 2007

THE FILMMUSIC BLOG-A-THON

“A film is - or should be - more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what's behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later.”
--STANLEY KUBRICK



The time has come for Windmills Of My Mind to host its very first blog-a-thon, the subject of which was not difficult for me to choose as it is one that I am very passionate about and to which I feel not enough time is devoted discussing it. That subject is filmmusic (NOTE: It is also fitting given that the title of this blog, chosen before I even opted to make it into a "film blog," comes from the lyrics of a song in a movie).

I love filmmusic. At least 90% of my rather massive CD collection consists of motion pictures soundtracks (the other 10% being jazz, oldies, classical and opera): some of them are song compilations (a la The Big Chill) but most of them are film scores, which would have to be my favorite genre of music. I still remember when I first discovered that there existed these things called "soundtracks" and that they allowed one to be able to listen to the music that played in the background of a movie without having to actually hear any of the dialogue or sound effects. I thought this was just the coolest thing I'd ever seen because I began, at a very early age, to pay attention to the music I heard in movies. The first soundtrack I ever owned was actually on an LP (Superman II). Subsequently I graduated to tape cassettes (I think Ghostbusters was my first; possibly Back to the Future) and eventually CD's (Stargate).

Movies and music, of course, have gone together for a very long time. Before the films themselves had soundtracks (i.e. recorded tracks of sound effects, dialogue and music), movies were accompanied by music, usually in the form of an in-house pianist, organist or sometimes even full orchestra. Often they were original compositions created expressly for the purpose of being heard along with the movie and other times they were either current popular songs or classical pieces. Some filmmakers (particularly Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch) have even compared cinema to music claiming that the two mediums are, or ought to be, remarkably similar.

The artistic merits of filmmusic are still debated. its critics argue that the majority of music written for movies is trite and derivative, bringing nothing "new" to the ongoing devlopment of music history but simply recycling old styles, genres and sometimes even melodies (leaning very heavily on the Romantic period of classical music). Folks like myself, however, tend to consider it a neglected art form (there is even a book by Roy M. Prendergast entitled Film Music: a Neglected Art). We hold the modern motion picture score to be essentially the defining genre of classical music in the 20th (and now the 21st) century. We believe that music written by the likes of Erich Wolfgang Kornglod, Bernard Hermann, Max Steiner, Ennio Morricone, Elmer Bernstein, Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams and Danny Elfman will be looked at a hundred years from now in much the same way that we today look at the works of Mozart, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky (NOTE: I should probably add that, despite my best efforts, I am still terribly ignorant of things musical. I've never taken a class on music history/theory in my life and aside from a couple years of saxophone lessons, everything I know about music, be it classical, opera or otherwise, has been almost entirely self-taught, much like my knowledge of cinema. There are a lot people "smarter" and/or more "educated" than I am who do not share my opinion and who can actually back it up).

Either way, I have noticed that such significant cinematic elements as writing, editing, cinematography, acting and directing often get mentioned in movie reviews but music is almost universally ignored (unless it is poor in which case the reviewer wants to draw attention to that fact). Very little ink is spilled, even among cinephiles, on the subject of filmmusic. Well, no more. This blog-a-thon is my attempt to correct that error.

So, the subject is filmmusic... or, as it is often called, film music (two words, though I personally like to do it in one). Basically, I am referring to "music in film" which can be defined as broadly or narrowly as you want it to be. I originally was going to limit this topic only to film scores but decided that if you want to talk about songs that appear in films, then that's okay too. You can write about filmmusic as a genre. You can write about the history of filmmusic. You can write about your personal favorite use of music in a particular film. You can write about your favorite (or least favorite) filmmusic composer and/or score. You can talk about the difference (if you see one) between "indicental" music and "source" music. You can talk about the philosophy behind using music in movies. The sky is the limit. Whatever you want. The ONLY requirement is that your post be, in some way or another, about the use of music in film.

The dates of the blog-a-thon will be JUNE 21-25 (Thursday through the following Monday). I know it's a long way off yet but I wanted to give time for the word to spread throughout the blogosphere and to allow for people who might, as I usually do, need time to think about what it is they're going to say. So, right after you celebrate the beginning of summer (or return home from seeing Evan Almighty) I'd love for you to share a few thoughts on the subject of filmmusic and to pop by Windmills and leave me a link so I can include it here. I look forward to reading what other people have to say. Who knows? I might even chime in with some opinions of my own. :)

30 comments:

Squish said...

just thought you'd like to know, you made the top of the Squishlist

http://www.filmsquish.com/guts/?q=node/9

Damian said...

SWEET! Thanks. :)

cineboy said...

Damian, y'know I was thinking you would do something like this. I don't know just what I would write about, but in the last three weeks I have watched with Lily: Singining in the Rain (her second time), Gigi, Top Hat, and we are now working our way through Fiddler on the Roof. My intention in general would be to not write about musicals, but we'll see.

You know my tendency to make comparisons between cinema and food. Lately, however, I've been thinking how cinema and architecture have similarities - films offering an experience one "enters." It seems to me that music is a big part of that. maybe I'll explore that some.

Damian said...

That sounds great, Tuck, and yes, musicals definitely fall within the subject of "music in film," so if you should choose to write about them, I look forward to reading whatever you write.

BTW You just listed three of my all-time favorite movie musicals in one sentence. Lily is indeed getting exposed to some great stuff. :)

Emma said...

Brilliant idea. I give you my word that I will participate.

Brian Erickson said...

Awesome idea! What can I do to be a part of it?

Damian said...

Emma:

I thought you might find this appealing. :)


Brian:

All you have to post something about filmmusic on your own blog and send me the link. I'll include it in a list here on my site along with all of the other bloggers who wish to participate. That's all. I can't wait to see what you contribute.

cineboy said...

just an fyi: nice little Morricone piece recently on npr here

Damian said...

That's great, Tuck! Thanks. I had actually heard that Morricone was receiving a lifetime achievement Oscar this year. I'm looking forward to seeing that.

CINEBEATS said...

I just read about this blog-a-thon over at The Bleeding Tree and it sounds like it would be a fun one to participate in since I'm a soundtrack collector. I hope I can join in the fun!

Damian said...

That sounds great, Cinebeats. I'm a soundtrack collector myself and I'd love to have you join in on the fun! :)

Ted Pigeon said...

Sounds interesting! I am about as big a proponent of film scores as you will ever find. I have entire CD booklets filled with film scores. Although I haven't written about it yet on my blog, I intend to sometime perhaps do a series on the mechanics and history of film scores and the relationship of music, images, and narrative. It's nice to see that there are other film bloggers out there who share a love of film music! I will look forward to contributing to this blog-a-thon.

Jeff Duncanson said...

Damian - Count me in - I have been dying to write something on the great Talking Heads concert film "Stop Making Sense", and this gives me the perfect forum for it. Is that an OK topic?

Damian said...

Certainly it's an okay topic! In fact, I look forward to reading it. Incidentally, we have Stop Making Sense here at the video store. Should I see that first?

Jeff Duncanson said...

Y'know what else? I'm going to do something On the Popul Vol music in Werner Herzog's work,too.

jschoolnyc said...

I came here by way of The Bleeding Tree (by way of The Film Experience) and I'm interested in contributing, but I'd like to get your thoughts on my potential topic first. I'd like to write about the soundtrack vs. the score of a film and how different they can be. American Beauty is the film that comes to my mind first: the soundtrack is, frankly, ridiculous. But the score by Thomas Newman is still being copied by film and TV composers, almost 10 years after the film's release. Whaddaya think?

Scott said...

Hey, this sounds like a great idea and I'd love to participate. Can't wait for June 21!!

Kamikaze Camel said...

I'm in for this!

Damian said...

Catherine, Scott, Kamikaze:

Can't wait to see what you guys contribute.

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