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Why movie scores these days annoy me

It seems to me that more and more directors (especially but not exclusively in high-budget blockbuster-type movies) are using the score to bully you into feeling a certain way, when they should be using the score enhance the mood that the picture and story give you.

For example, to force you to have a "grand" feeling, the director will choose music played by an orchestra, emphasizing the strong instruments (trumpets and timponis), playing fortissimo at a slow tempo and using lots of major fifths; on top of that he'll crank the volume up to 11. It's so loud and forceful that it pretty much makes anything happening on the screen irrelevant. The characters on the screen could be walking down a tunnel to certain death, sleeping, playing in the grass, or having sex, it doesn't matter: you will feel grand because of the score.

You know what, I don't need a fascist director using the score to shove emotion down my throat. You want me to feel a certain way? How about using the story to do that? Use the score to enhance the feeling, not create it.


One movie that really irked me was the recent Narnia film. Take the scene where Lucy finds herself in this magical, serene, snowy land for the first time. Now, if I were choosing the music for this scene, I'd have an empty-souding score using maybe piccolos and chimes, no percussion, and maybe with a violin playing something ominous silently. That would convey curiosity, wonder, serenity, and a bit of danger.

What did Narnia have? A bunch of trumpets playing fortissimo. Yeah, real serene. There was absolutely no reason for any sort of grand feeling at the point in the story. But guess what? That's what the score conveyed: grandness. Guess what else? That's how you actually felt because it was overbearing and it didn't really matter that the picture and story conveyed something totally different.

Another thing: scores are way too cliche. Ever notice how every battle scene these days has a choir singing in 3/4 time? I mean, come on, do something original.


I confess I haven't seen many high-budget blockbusters lately, but I do know that in the past not every blockbuster had obnoxious scores.

A good example I can think of is Back to the Future. That movie knew that not every scene needed a loud, obnoxious score; in fact, the little ring of the chimes when something weird happened was better than any orchestrated piece of music could have done. And where the score did get intense, it was enhancing the intensity of the story. You could turn the sound off and still feel the urgency as Michael J. Fox was rushing to catch the bolt of lightning. The score wasn't creating the excitement.

Lots of successful high-budget movies in the past seemed to get by without fascist scores. Ghostbusters. It had music that was either ominous or light to set the mood, but nothing obnoxious.

Go back further. The Godfather. After Vito got shot, was there some orchestra wailing out a depression-filled dirge when we saw the family grieving? No! It wasn't needed: the camera did more than enough there. The music was sad but not overbearingly sad.

Further still. Casablanca. The night after Ilsa came back, we see Rick upset and drinking. The music? It was just Sam playing If Time Goes By. If Casablanca were made today, it would be depressing wailing song with lots of violas and French horns.

So why does it seem like so many big movies these days have obnoxious scores? I don't know, but I don't like it.

Tags: back_to_the_future, movie_score, narnia
Permalink: http://blog.aerojockey.com/post/moviescores
Last Edited: 12 March 2006, 2:28 PM
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