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AngelCityOutlaw

The Deification of Film/Game Composers

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A lot of people out there seem to put film and game music on this pedestal; they seem to see it as like, the highest of musical honor. 

Everyone down to Axl Rose has gone on record saying about how much he respects film composers and wants to be one himself someday.

https://tonedeaf.thebrag.com/axl-rose-film-soundtracks/ 

As someone who has actually composed for some video games, has worked and studied with some successful film composers, etc. I don't really understand it — at the end of the day, you are just writing music for consumer products. You really are just another person in the chain, and actually pretty far down the list of production priorities. It's not like sitting in front of a screen, slaving away for 10+ hours a day and not seeing your family, or whatever else you're sacrificing on the altar of success to meet the insane deadlines is somehow "virtuous" or that your music is somehow of greater worth and "validated" because it is written for or featured in said consumer product.

Even John Williams has said that he doesn't see what he does as "all that important" and says that it shouldn't consume your life.

 

Obviously, there is plenty of great music written for films, video games, and such, but the older I get, the more confounded I become by people's deification of this music. Not from some classical elitism or anything like that (I'd much prefer most golden-age Hollywood music to most classical), but just because it doesn't really make sense.

I can only assume it has to do with the out-of-control consumerism that permeates all of society; the rise of "fandom" and that pop-culture has taken the place of most authentic culture.

Let me know your thoughts on this subject.

 

 

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Posted (edited)
18 hours ago, AngelCityOutlaw said:

A lot of people out there seem to put film and game music on this pedestal; they seem to see it as like, the highest of musical honor.

Interesting, because sample library houses capitalise on this weirdity - they all seem to claim with their syrupy seductive superlatives that THEIR product will make you the greatest cinematic composer that walked God's (or Whoever's) Earth.

But I wonder why? At best film music is incidental. Unless they become very famous film composers are basically hacks destined to write to order. They relinquish artistic control. Very little of their works stand in their own right (say, as concert pieces) beyond "the OST album."

And these days there's an unfortunate sameness about so many film scores. You find it here, young aspirants trying to emulate the formula.

It differs from a non cinematic commission (e.g. a BBC commission) over which a composer has far more control: the composer chosen in their own right, usually not to produce incidental music.

I personally hate film music to the extent I rarely watch films made in the past 20 years now. You get an action scene and you know what's going to happen. On comes the manic drumming usually with a big reverb; then the angry horns blazing away in their upper register; then the deep trombones....maybe some fiddlers fiddling away over the top...all to accompany gunfire, explosions, vehicle noises, people barking orders; hollywood smacks, aliens growling, the lot, a complete mash up of sound. My fervent wish is that the music could be put on a sub-channel so it can be turned off. Give me a film like Lone Survivor - musicless.

I was in contact with a composer, Chris Willis, who was invited to work with Hans Zimmer. He trolled off to Hollywood and hated it. The pay and work conditions were poor and the system was Hans Zimmer or one of his accolytes produced a short score and handed it over to the orchestrators who presumably beavered away at their daws and sample sets. Same, a music teacher friend who worked on a game. Soul destroying he says.

So while there are those who deify film composers (and perhaps the famous ones rightly deserve it) people in-the-know tend to look on it as a sweat shop.   

.

 

Edited by Quinn
because I can!

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Quinn said:

But I wonder why? At best film music is incidental.

I think that most people don't really remember the incidental stuff and more so remember the big themes. If one listens to even the bulk of John Williams' or Goldsmith's work on films, most of it isn't terribly memorable aside from the moments where the big themes come in or the suites at the end.

3 hours ago, Quinn said:

And these days there's an unfortunate sameness about so many film scores. You find it here, young aspirants trying to emulate the formula.

I think the reasons for that are twofold: One is that there has been a serious decline in standards for all things, and music composition is one of them. The other, is that a lot of the "epic" music and such is basically because that's all the samples can really do.

Probably 2 generations of composers now have grown up never really writing for real instruments (not just orchestra). I get into a lot of debates with people where I say that "these $600 sample sets actually really suck and can't handle basic repertoire", then, they get into the "I must justify my purchase" mode and fervently defend why their expensive purchase that can't even play "hot cross buns" cohesively is actually worth the money somehow.

In time, I've come to realize that, their expectations of what samples should be able to do is totally different (lower) from someone like me because they don't actually have any experience with what the ensemble they're writing for can actually do.

The failings of most orchestral samples is why I've begun to just avoid writing completely orchestral music entirely. 

3 hours ago, Quinn said:

I personally hate film music to the extent I rarely watch films made in the past 20 years now.

I rarely watch films in the last 20 years because they're mostly just 2-hour copy-paste propaganda pieces to be honest. 😀

3 hours ago, Quinn said:

was in contact with a composer, Chris Willis, who was invited to work with Hans Zimmer. He trolled off to Hollywood and hated it. The pay and work conditions were poor and the system was Hans Zimmer or one of his accolytes produced a short score and handed it over to the orchestrators who presumably beavered away at their daws and sample sets. Same, a music teacher friend who worked on a game. Soul destroying he says.

A mentor of mine's friend worked for Zimmer's factory and he had some horror stories.

It was like, the first day on the job. He was desperate to make an impression and do good at his "dream job". He didn't want to be the last one to leave, so he waited until all the other people in the offices were gone (which took him until 6 AM). So, he packs up, and when he goes out into the parking lot, he sees that there's still a couple other cars in the lot...so he turned around and just went back to work because he was so afraid someone was more "committed than he was".

Turned out the cars just belonged to the janitors. 

Another friend of mine worked for a very famous composer (I will not say who this composer is) and by the sounds of it, the guy was is a total psychopath. He gets angry over the most innocuous things and screams at people and throws things. He full-on plans out how every single meeting will go with a client. Like, he plans what he's going to wear and how people will react to it. What he intends to say, what he thinks they'll say, how he'll reply — total control freak. A lot of the videos that he posts online of recording sessions and stuff are actually fake and just PR things...

and my friend wears all the abuse he took by this guy and the industry as a badge of honor...

Edited by AngelCityOutlaw

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Agree fully. You bring up several more points.

It's one reason I'll remain happier composing (basically) as a hobby. No sense turning a wonderful hobby into a godawful profession. Having said that, commissions occasionally come up with a deadline which, if reasonable, it doesn't hurt (me) to work with a bit of pressure. If someone offers me money or even a dinner out or two I'll take it obviously. One recently came my way but has been scuppered by this virus thing. But as it also involves an amateur group it'll just get deferred until next year now.

I also go along with your sentiment about composing for full orchestra. I play in an ensemble drawn mostly from our town orchestra. It's no big deal as an orchestra, mostly amateurs but with a few ex-pros - retired or redundant and determined to keep playing. So the pros and a couple of good students got together, a basic core of about 8 and I write for them. I'm the worst player but that's an aside. I suppose we've all got used to acoustic instruments played through loud speakers but I still enjoy live music. It's a lesson for people to have to prepare their works - coaxing the ensemble to get the sound you want (or admitting you got it wrong and changing things), get the balance right and things. Challenging at times especially if you have a mischief-maker among them. One has to know one's score. 

I'd encourage any new composer to learn to play an (orchestral) instrument to an adequate standard to start or join an ensemble. The admin can be a bit heavy and there are usually out-of-pocket expenses, but they're part of it. Not only are they promoting live music but able to have their works performed hopefully with public exposure.

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Well.. I don't think it's an easy job. You have to be organized enough

to deal with dozens of different people and be able to call upon many different

musical frameworks and ideas. Generally most professions are blown 

out of proportion. Everyone is a slave to something, deadlines,

corporations.. whatever. 

I think the idolatry comes from the fact that they pulled off 

something everyone kind of fantasizes about. 

But.. you know there's a dark side to everything.

Playing basketball for a living.. great yeah but you

are generally a slave to professional sports contracts,

and media coverage.. but if it's for you it's for you
 

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On 5/19/2020 at 3:17 PM, Left Unexplained said:

I think it is virtuous if you are talented enough to preserve your integrity in the face of capitalist interest

Speaking of, it definitely seems to be the case that most established composers in hollywood and the like make a serious effort to stifle any competition.

Assistants basically have no chance of going anywhere anymore. There's no progression of "I started as an assistant and then became a composer in my own right" anymore, because these composers have no intention of retiring and don't want even one client to leave their grasp.

So many people get to be just nameless ghost writers or Hans Zimmer factory workers at best. No matter what you do, credit goes to "the composer"  and you are in a position where you will never take on any high-paying hollywood clients yourself. That has happened to everyone I know who wound up working for the big names. You do your job, and then when you can't take it anymore and quit, you will have no real career in the business.

Definitely by design and i've seen some composers intentionally give n00bs "advice" that, if followed, will make sure you never move past indie-projects at best.

The entire market is basically controlled by a handful of old guys. 

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On 5/19/2020 at 7:01 PM, marsbars said:

Well.. I don't think it's an easy job.

Working as a composer with other people is never, ever, ever, an easy job. Doubly when they're themselves not musicians. Triple if they're corporate.

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Huh, I want to be a videogame composer. 🙂 Also do some music for anime if possible.

 

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On 5/19/2020 at 11:08 AM, Quinn said:

Agree fully. You bring up several more points.

It's one reason I'll remain happier composing (basically) as a hobby. No sense turning a wonderful hobby into a godawful profession. Having said that, commissions occasionally come up with a deadline which, if reasonable, it doesn't hurt (me) to work with a bit of pressure. If someone offers me money or even a dinner out or two I'll take it obviously. One recently came my way but has been scuppered by this virus thing. But as it also involves an amateur group it'll just get deferred until next year now.

I also go along with your sentiment about composing for full orchestra. I play in an ensemble drawn mostly from our town orchestra. It's no big deal as an orchestra, mostly amateurs but with a few ex-pros - retired or redundant and determined to keep playing. So the pros and a couple of good students got together, a basic core of about 8 and I write for them. I'm the worst player but that's an aside. I suppose we've all got used to acoustic instruments played through loud speakers but I still enjoy live music. It's a lesson for people to have to prepare their works - coaxing the ensemble to get the sound you want (or admitting you got it wrong and changing things), get the balance right and things. Challenging at times especially if you have a mischief-maker among them. One has to know one's score. 

I'd encourage any new composer to learn to play an (orchestral) instrument to an adequate standard to start or join an ensemble. The admin can be a bit heavy and there are usually out-of-pocket expenses, but they're part of it. Not only are they promoting live music but able to have their works performed hopefully with public exposure.

 

I also wanted to have composing as a hobby, but I suck at anything else that isn't about music haha.

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