Movie Music Landscaping

Everyone asks me how I compose.

The other day I wrote about Ennio Marricone, the Oscar-winning composer who wrote the track to nearly 500 films including this year’s ‘Hateful Eight.’

Last weekend I wrote a soundtrack to a short film called ‘October 9th’. And, because I’ve been asked often about my process when I compose music, I thought I’d share a peek behind the music.

Music, to listeners, evokes emotions. To me, as a musician, emotions evoke music. I want to create the soundtrack of that moment. To compose the soundtrack, I watched the footage from the movie. As I watched I’d connect to the emotion the particular scene created in me and from there the scene’s music landscape came to me. So, I ‘paint the music’ over the action.

I start by creating a theme, or musical mood. We all recognize sad music, or the tense music of a thriller or horror movie. Think of Psycho’s famous soundtrack, it makes you feel afraid, where, without it, you might not have that gut-wrenching terror when you just know something bad is going to happen in that shower.

Try an experiment, watch a movie without the sound on. Try with a movie you’re streaming. Turn the sound off and see how you feel. Then scrub back to that point again and watch with the music? Did you feel the tension/happiness/sadness more clearly with the music?

Music affects our souls deeply. I’m always grateful to have the chance to help people ‘see’ the moments they experience. It’s been said that a painter paints their pictures on canvas, but musicians paint their pictures on silence.