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The line between Soundtrack and Score Effects Pedals, Units & Accessories
Old 22nd December 2010
  #1
The line between Soundtrack and Score

Just wondering what the experienced viewpoint is regarding Soundtrack vs. Score. I'd like to approach a director about the composer's score as a more than "my temp cue was classic rock. Play some guitar that sounds just like that."

From my pov, soundtrack is preexisting and well suited for certain film scenes. Typically I view it as pop music that brings a certain world-view to the cut or solidifies the audience into a specific subcultural setting; classic rock for hippies, gangsta for thugs, indie for hipsters, Streisand for early boomers watching a romantic comedy.

A film score should be different. More holistic and serving theme and character of the film... How does one get that point across? I'm at a loss for convincing words.

Just venting... thanks for any tips or encouragement.
Old 22nd December 2010
  #2
Gear Addict
 

Not quite clear on the opposition or question here, but it seems to me in the way you are trying to define it...

I look at it as: a square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not a square. In my opinion, a soundtrack is any non-diegetic music synced to visuals. This can include pre-existing music. But a "score" is a piece of music specifically composed to match the emotions and actions of the visuals, no matter the instrumentation or method of delivery. But both are part of the "soundtrack", pre-existing or not. A score is "non" pre-existing, but both comprise the "soundtrack" of a film/broadcast/audiobook/web drama, etc. No?
Old 22nd December 2010
  #3
I guess technically speaking the Dialogue and sound effects are part of the "soundtrack" of a film, since they are all printed on the film stock's sound track.

"score" is nothing more than Underscore. Which is where the term comes from. It is background music. A jazz trio playing in the background of a smokey, dark bar while two characters carry on a conversation is just as much "score" as an 80 piece orchestra during a eulogy at a character's funeral.

Both help tell the story and set the scene. Both or neither can be original music to the film. In the end, the what/where/how/when is irrelevant.

If the director wanted a classic rock cue as underscore in a scene and you disagree with that choice... you either suck it up and write it or you realize you aren't the right composer for the film and tell him to find someone else. Because in the end, the film is the director's vision not yours. You aren't the architect, you are the carpenter.

Look at a film like Transformers. The Linkin Park songs used as underscore create a certain feeling and mood that an orchestral underscore wouldn't be able to create. If a film doesn't have a "Transformers" budget to afford the Linkin Park track used in the temp, then what? they should scrap the idea completely and use orchestral score instead? That would drastically change how the scene(s) would be received by the viewer and might not be what the director wants.

Look at it this way... what if you are writing a piece of music and you want solo violin. But then the contractor comes back and tells you the solo violin players are too expensive, so you should use an electric guitar instead. Will that give you the same effect you wanted in your composition? So why would you expect the director of the film to be ok with changing his rock temp score with orchestral score?

Quote:
A film score should be different. More holistic and serving theme and character of the film... How does one get that point across? I'm at a loss for convincing words.
My question to you is why can't you create themes that serve the characters of the film and still keep the genre (classic rock) and instrumentation (guitar) used in the temp MX? Ever seen/heard the Mission Impossible soundtracks? Same MI theme, done with a metal band. Maybe the composer rolled his eyes at the director when the director temp'd the film using some other heavy metal band's tracks and said to the composer "I want this kind of vibe, make the score sound similar"...
Old 22nd December 2010
  #4
Quote:
Originally Posted by Etch-A-Sketch View Post
If the director wanted a classic rock cue as underscore in a scene and you disagree with that choice... you either suck it up and write it or you realize you aren't the right composer for the film and tell him to find someone else. Because in the end, the film is the director's vision not yours. You aren't the architect, you are the carpenter.

Look at a film like Transformers. The Linkin Park songs used as underscore create a certain feeling and mood that an orchestral underscore wouldn't be able to create. If a film doesn't have a "Transformers" budget to afford the Linkin Park track used in the temp, then what? they should scrap the idea completely and use orchestral score instead? That would drastically change how the scene(s) would be received by the viewer and might not be what the director wants.

Look at it this way... what if you are writing a piece of music and you want solo violin. But then the contractor comes back and tells you the solo violin players are too expensive, so you should use an electric guitar instead. Will that give you the same effect you wanted in your composition? So why would you expect the director of the film to be ok with changing his rock temp score with orchestral score?

My question to you is why can't you create themes that serve the characters of the film and still keep the genre (classic rock) and instrumentation (guitar) used in the temp MX? Ever seen/heard the Mission Impossible soundtracks? Same MI theme, done with a metal band. Maybe the composer rolled his eyes at the director when the director temp'd the film using some other heavy metal band's tracks and said to the composer "I want this kind of vibe, make the score sound similar"...
To use your example, the Transformers movie is exactly what I'm talking about. You can purchase the Soundtrack album or the Score album. The Soundtrack has songs by various artist, including Linkin Park, but the score only contains the music of Steve Jablonsky.

The director doesn't go to the composer and say, "I hired you to score the film but I'm broke and can't afford to license anything that sounds like Linkin Park. Will you write music that sounds exactly like that Linkin Park song I used in the temp? I need it to be the same tempo, instrumentation, and vibe. Just get as close as possible without breaking the law."

There's an established difference between Soundtrack and Score. I'm just looking for thoughts on the subject. Maybe someone will say something that helps me explain difference between wood and brick to this architect.
Old 22nd December 2010
  #5
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Uncle Bob's Avatar
 

The soundtrack is all of the sounds of the film in their entirety - dialog, sound FX, Foley, songs and score.

The score is traditionally music specifically written for the film. "Pop" songs used in the soundtrack can be diagetic - music of which the characters are aware (the radio, DJ or juke box or band playing in a scene for example) - and nondiegetic, used as a part of the score; music only the audience is aware of.
Old 22nd December 2010
  #6
Gear Maniac
 

I think it is pretty clear why directors do it and it is a marketing decision that probably has some weight from above. Cross marketing is important. They don't care about artistic integrity. I mean it is hollywood.

The composers especially ones that have connections to RC can easily do something that sounds exactly like some pop tune they had in mind and perhaps better but that isn't the point. Some music exec paid some film producer so much money to play 3 minutes of Miley Cyrus party in the USA. Some directors will not put up with that **** but others, I mean Michael Bay isn't exactly the Hitchcock of movie making.




anyhow, I think the definition of soundtrack has morphed into all the music present in the film while the score , often called OST ( orginal sound track ) is the original music composed pecifically for the film to support the drama, humour or whatever mood , emotion or ambience the director wants heightened or eliminated.

And Transformers ? Awful movie, awful soundtrack (not that he had much to work with ) awful acting .Just awful all round. Truly a monumental abortion displaying mankind and art at its very worst. Even the robots have this racial profiling that is rather distasteful. OF course the black robot. despite being from some far planet has to talk ghetto speak.The only demograph the forgot to target where people with half a brain. I suppose it is rather expensive to market **** to those people and you would actually need a movie and it just isn't worth it.
Old 22nd December 2010
  #7
Bwaahahahahah! That SP clip is hilarious.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BadOrange View Post
anyhow, I think the definition of soundtrack has morphed into all the music present in the film while the score , often called OST ( orginal sound track ) is the original music composed pecifically for the film to support the drama, humour or whatever mood , emotion or ambience the director wants heightened or eliminated.
I'm interested in the definitions. Post-audio has several terms that mean various things depending on who you're talking with. Soundtrack means one thing to the composer, another to the post-audio guy, something else to the marketing department and consumer.

How many people purchase the "soundtrack" with the expectation that ALL the dialog and SFX are present? (rhetorical)
Old 22nd December 2010
  #8
Jay
Gear Head
 

Quote:
"The director doesn't go to the composer and say, "I hired you to score the film but I'm broke and can't afford to license anything that sounds like Linkin Park. Will you write music that sounds exactly like that Linkin Park song I used in the temp? I need it to be the same tempo, instrumentation, and vibe. Just get as close as possible without breaking the law."
...Actually that happens all the time. Lots of composers get hired as insurance to ape songs that mid-budget films can't afford. As for instrumental scores, this happens all the time as well. Editors/directors just download their favorite music and cut the film to it. It's artistically lazy. They would never think to copy and paste the color grading from their favorite movie into their film. For whatever reason, with the score, most people don't care. Temp music really cheapens the film and usually paints even the craftiest composer into a corner. The best experiences I've had as a composer are when I've been able to meet the director and editor EARLY on in the process and try to write pieces based on their notes. It's more work initially, but pays dividends when you get to write some actual original music.
Old 22nd December 2010
  #9
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ggegan's Avatar
So many scores are derivative of other work that they sometimes just seem like a new arrangement rather than on original work. Often when the composers aren't borrowing from other people's work, they are borrowing from their own scores that they wrote for another movie. Considering how much music has to be churned out in a very short period of time and the fact that they are writing to someone else's instructions, this is pretty understandable, and just makes the really great scores that much more phenominal.

Regarding Popular music, I remember as a young kid wondering why some groups were raved over when their music was a direct steal from someone else, but then I realized that the person they were plagiarizing had stolen from an even earlier piece, which was stolen as well. They say there is nothing new under the sun, and that is especially true of music, with rare exceptions.
Old 22nd December 2010
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay View Post
... Editors/directors just download their favorite music and cut the film to it. It's artistically lazy. They would never think to copy and paste the color grading from their favorite movie into their film. For whatever reason, with the score, most people don't care. Temp music really cheapens the film and usually paints even the craftiest composer into a corner.
Glad to know I'm not alone in my opinions. My favorite directors to work with are the ones who either don't edit their own film, or don't use temp tracks to determine the pacing of their visuals.

The guys who spend weeks cutting the same 1:30 to the same temp cue always has creative blinders on. "I'm the grand architect of this film and, despite the fact that I don't know anything about music, I need this to sound just like Stairway to Heaven. The scene just isn't the same without it."

Perhaps that is because the only thing good happening in this edit is the temp track.
Old 23rd December 2010
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by spiderman View Post
Bwaahahahahah! That SP clip is hilarious.



I'm interested in the definitions. Post-audio has several terms that mean various things depending on who you're talking with. Soundtrack means one thing to the composer, another to the post-audio guy, something else to the marketing department and consumer.

How many people purchase the "soundtrack" with the expectation that ALL the dialog and SFX are present? (rhetorical)
Then what you might want to tell the director is that he needs to find a Music Supervisor to help him and that contemporary music is out of the scope of your position/ability/job description/etc...

Tell him to look up a music library like Megatrax, Killer Tracks, APM, etc. He can sign an blanket license with them for this one specific film or he can do a needledrop license for a specific track. All the libraries have "sound-alikes" with licensing fees that are significantly cheaper than what an Artist/Label/Publisher would want.

If he still doesn't have enough money to license from a library then tell him "If you want to dance, you gotta pay the band" and tell him to start pounding the pavement to raise more money for the film. LOL!!!

Or ask around and see if you know anyone who can produce the music. I've had the exact same situation happen on a film where I was the score recordist and score mixer. But I produce and engineer rock, pop, jazz, etc as well. The director wanted a rock track to open the film with. Didn't have the money to license one, but had enough for the composer to hire me to do it. The composer sketched out the idea on his own in midi and then I turned it into a rock song for them with live drums and guitars. Everyone was happy (as far as I know).

You might know someone who could help you with it, you never know. Look at it as an opportunity and a challenge, instead of a PITA. Nobody is remembered for following the mold, you are only remembered when you break the mold. Do something different. You might just be starting the beginning of a new genre of underscore. 10 years ago if I had mentioned Hybrid orchestra, you would probably have no idea what I was talking about... now it's all the rage. It had to start somewhere...
Old 26th December 2010
  #12
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drBill's Avatar
OP - what you refer to as "soundtrack" is normally in the biz refered to as source music. This (as you can see from above) is a pretty big gray area, and it gets bigger and grayer all the time. Note that the word "score" comes from "underscore" which is by definition made to underpin the dramatic, emotion or action aspect of a film. It deals primarily in the emotional realm, while source deals primarily with on-screen reality - ie: we're in a bar and there's a blues band playing.

In regards to music in films, there's basically 3 things going on :

Score - that's primarily anything the composer for the film writes - as long as it's underpinning the emotion or drama of the film. SOMETIMES outside music is acquired to "score" a scene, but generally, that is why a composer is hired. Some films have 90% score and 10% source, and other films have 90% source and 10% score. It all depends on the film and the direction the director wants to take.

SOMETIMES, the composer is actually hired to write what would typically be considered "source" music. One score I worked on Sergeant Bilko comes to mind. Marching bands and on screen choral parts played a large role in the storyline, and had to be "scored" ahead of filming. Anything with a component of a "musical" falls into this category. Walk the Line also comes to mind, but again, straying outside the boundry as it becomes more "arranging" than "composing" as they were Johnny Cash songs for the most part. Starting to get confusing, eh???

Source - TRADITIONALLY (we're leaving tradition behind though), that's primarily any music that the composer of note does not provide - generally source is used in bar scenes, sequences where people are watching TV or listening to radio, in a club, etc.. It is there to back-up something that is physically happening in the reality of the picture. ie: making music come from the radio, TV, etc. that is seen onscreen or taken for granted that is just off-scene. Typically it is provided by a source outside the composer, but especially on low budget films, the composer often will pull source cues out of his library for useage.

Scource - That's what I call it anyway. This is the netherworld gray area that many of you are discussing above. This usually (although not always) comes from an outside source, and takes the logistical place of where score would normally be written to picture. It is not portraying practical on-screen "source music" but instead dramatically underpinning the scene the way score would, although it could be a pop song, indigenous world music, classical piece, or library music that was not provided by the composer. Literally anything that the composer cannot readily create or re-create. If the composer writes a rock song to dramatically underpin a scene, that is score done in the rock genre - not source. If a top 40 rock/rap/pop song is licensed, and the score pulled out and replaced with the song and used in a dramatic way - that is SCOURCE.

98% of every musical cue falls into one of these categories.


The EASY answer? Composers write SCORE to picture, Music Supervisors license SOURCE for Music Editors to CUT into the picture.
Old 26th December 2010
  #13
thumbsup ... and that's why I love posting in this forum. Thanks for some awesome comments Bill & Derek.

In this specific instance I just kept my opinions personal and did the tune. It wasn't a big deal but I still think that writing "scource" for this scene really misses a chance to underscore this specific cut. Whatever... on to the next one. I just hope he doesn't temp track using "Free Bird."

"I cut the scene to sync with the solo. I really need it to sound just like that."
Old 26th December 2010
  #14
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drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by spiderman View Post
In this specific instance I just kept my opinions personal and did the tune.
Smart move. It's not about the music, not about the composer, it's ONLY about the directors vision, and the producers direction over the director. Musical whim or thoughts really have no good place in this biz.

It's a lot like being a painter or wallpaper hanger. You get called in, they tell you what color to paint or what pattern of gaudy wallpaper to hang, and you do it to the best of your abilities. If you have a long standing relationship with the client, you might make a suggestion, but in the end, if you want to be hired again, you smile and give them what they want.

No different here, except a LOT of money and industry reputation is riding on their decisions, and it makes them more skittish than a deer surrounded by 200 hunters on opening day of deer season.
Old 26th December 2010
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by spiderman View Post
The director doesn't go to the composer and say, "I hired you to score the film but I'm broke and can't afford to license anything that sounds like Linkin Park. Will you write music that sounds exactly like that Linkin Park song I used in the temp? I need it to be the same tempo, instrumentation, and vibe. Just get as close as possible without breaking the law."
HAH! That's what you think! I've seen it with my own two eyes...
Old 26th December 2010
  #16
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by spiderman View Post
The director doesn't go to the composer and say, "I hired you to score the film but I'm broke and can't afford to license anything that sounds like Linkin Park. Will you write music that sounds exactly like that Linkin Park song I used in the temp? I need it to be the same tempo, instrumentation, and vibe. Just get as close as possible without breaking the law."
Ha! Just read that spiderman. Unfortunately, this happens ALL the time. It's quite possibly more the rule than the exception. Temp tracks are a double edged sword. They quite possibly make the director have tunnel vision-demo love, and at the same time give the composer direction without experimentation. The good and the bad.....

The problem becomes exacerbated when the director has lived with the temp for so long that he/she can't see the picture any other way. And with the way films are made today, this is a VERY, VERY, VERY common occurance.

[edit - HA! Lives for Fuzz and I must be on the same wavelength at the same time....heh heh]
Old 26th December 2010
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
Ha! Just read that spiderman. Unfortunately, this happens ALL the time. It's quite possibly more the rule than the exception. Temp tracks are a double edged sword. They quite possibly make the director have tunnel vision-demo love, and at the same time give the composer direction without experimentation. The good and the bad.....

The problem becomes exacerbated when the director has lived with the temp for so long that he/she can't see the picture any other way. And with the way films are made today, this is a VERY, VERY, VERY common occurance.
and then to complete the absurdity is then asking the composer to do sound design, or asking the sound to designer to essentially compose, or asking a band to score, etc, etc, etc... the lines get blurred all over the place... I've had to credit sound designers with "additional music by" on some films due to the "melodic content" of the composition.

my advice is, FWIW, to stay out of the crossfire if you want to keep working.
Old 26th December 2010
  #18
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Henchman's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by spiderman View Post
The director doesn't go to the composer and say, "I hired you to score the film but I'm broke and can't afford to license anything that sounds like Linkin Park. Will you write music that sounds exactly like that Linkin Park song I used in the temp? I need it to be the same tempo, instrumentation, and vibe. Just get as close as possible without breaking the law."
As others have said, yes, this happens all the time.
Your job as the composer is to give the director what HE wants.
Not what YOU want.
Old 26th December 2010
  #19
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Henchman's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by BadOrange View Post

And Transformers? Awful movie, awful soundtrack (not that he had much to work with ) awful acting .Just awful all round. Truly a monumental abortion displaying mankind and art at its very worst.
Transformers isn't supposed to be art.
I loved it. Can't wait to see the next one.

But then, I also love movies like "This is England", "Sexy Beast", Clint's latest "Hereafter". And though "Pans Labyrinth" should have won best film Oscar.

Sometimes having a burger can be as satisfying as having dinner in a 5 Star restaurant.
And sometimes, a dive restaurant has better food than a 5 Star restaurant.

And let's be honest, very few of us working in Post (if ANY of us) would turn down a gig on ANY big budget, fluff action film.
Old 27th December 2010
  #20
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The line between Soundtrack and Score

Quote:
Originally Posted by Henchman

Transformers isn't supposed to be art.
I loved it. Can't wait to see the next one.

But then, I also love movies like "This is England", "Sexy Beast", Clint's latest "Hereafter". And though "Pans Labyrinth" should have won best film Oscar.

Sometimes having a burger can be as satisfying as having dinner in a 5 Star restaurant.
And sometimes, a dive restaurant has better food than a 5 Star restaurant.

And let's be honest, very few of us working in Post (if ANY of us) would turn down a gig on ANY big budget, fluff action film.
You're nobody in this town until you can blow **** up. The brass ring is currently defined by any variation of Robots, Pirates, Wizards and 3D!
Old 4th January 2011
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by spiderman View Post
thumbsup ... and that's why I love posting in this forum. Thanks for some awesome comments Bill & Derek.

In this specific instance I just kept my opinions personal and did the tune. It wasn't a big deal but I still think that writing "scource" for this scene really misses a chance to underscore this specific cut. Whatever... on to the next one. I just hope he doesn't temp track using "Free Bird."

"I cut the scene to sync with the solo. I really need it to sound just like that."
just be glad you aren't working in the bollywood film scene. For indian movies the score composer is also expected to write all the pop songs (lyrics and music) for the film as well, because pretty much all indian films are musicals, and the songs are also released as albums under the actors names and released as singles for radio (and MTV)...talk about a PITA!!! LOL But just imagine the royalty checks you'd get if that were the case here in the US... heh
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