[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 6 January, 2005, 16:18 GMT
Shaping Hollywood's sound
Woody Allen
Woody Allen waits until he has completed his film before choosing the music
Hollywood movies have always involved some of the top names in music - but the number of music stars cropping up with original work for films is rapidly increasing.

In 2004, rock star Beck produced original work for Charlie Kaufman's film Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, modern classical legend Philip Glass composed the score for documentary Fog Of War, and the White Stripes' Jack White made one of the songs for Cold Mountain.

Shaping the sound of a film, however, is becoming an increasingly tricky - and long - process.

Director Woody Allen - who is himself a musician, with his own jazz band - told BBC World Service's The Music Biz programme he believes the music is as important as the film itself.

"The nicest part of the movie is when it's over and I can go to my record collection and insert the music into the movie," he said.

"I can sit back with my Duke Ellington or Louis Armstrong or Errol Garner or whatever I want and drop them into the movie.

"Sometimes I use [classical artists] Schubert or Bach, and when it doesn't work I simply switch and take a different recording, and finally the movie has an exhilarating feeling because it's being supported by such as Ellington, or Mozart, or Cole Porter."

Director involvement

Getting involved in making film music can be very hit-and-miss, depending on the director and budget.

"On the one hand, they want to like your music," argued Rolfe Kent, composer of the music for Sideways - hotly tipped to win the Oscar for best score this year.

Most composers are not afforded the ability to write a unique, original score
De-Lovely music director Stephen Endelman
"On the other hand, there are a certain number of calls that come through simply because your name's on a list of approved composers or people they've heard of."

Mr Kent added that he felt the secret of composing successful film music was working with the director - and that it was not possible simply to come up with a bolted-on score at the end of the process.

"I don't really know what the director wants unless the director's involved with me on a fairly regular basis," he said.

"I'll write some music and the director will come in several times a week to talk about what I'm doing and where it should go.

"So I depend upon directors being involved and being able to articulate what they want and help shape the score.

"Frankly it makes me much better at doing what I want to do."

Stephen Endelman, the music director of Cole Porter biopic De-Lovely, said that he agreed.

He stressed the importance of being given free reign - something he said he enjoyed on De-Lovely.

"I was the master of my own world on this film - I had this palette of songs, but I was able to treat them how I wanted to treat them in relation to the script and the filmmaker," he said.

Temp score terror

However he also added it was increasingly rare that a composer would be allowed simply to write the music he saw fit, explaining the problem of the "temp score" - previously-written music for other films, inserted into a rough cut of a movie for the purposes of preview screenings.

"Coming to score a movie today is not the same thing. You have a 'temp' score on those, and it's not original - most composers are not afforded the ability to write a unique, original score," Endelman said.

London Philharmonic Orchestra
The London Philharmonic Orchestra features on a large number of soundtracks
"They are afforded the ability to try not to copy the score that's been 'temped' into the movie."

He further stated that directors often become attached to this "temp score", and then insist the composer stick as close to it as possible.

"If they test the movie and it does well, it's very hard to get away from that," he said.

"So a lot of composers are having to regurgitate other composers' music, [while] making sure that they're not getting sued for it."

One man who has seen this happen is world music and jazz star Roy Ayers.

Ayers originally agreed to score blaxploitation film Coffy in 1973 - after receiving a personal call from the head of PolyGram, which was making the movie.

Coffy starred Pam Grier, who 18 years later appeared as the eponymous heroine of Quentin Tarantino's film Jackie Brown - a film which borrowed elements of Coffy's music, for which Ayers received "very special thanks" in the credits.

"They must have known what they wanted, because they asked for Roy Ayers - they must have liked the music," Ayers said.

"They used the music for Jackie Brown, so I thought, 'fantastic - two soundtracks to my name'."

Film music loses leading light
19 Aug 04 |  Entertainment
London is 'classical music capital'
24 May 04 |  Entertainment
Hollywood comes to the Proms
17 Aug 01 |  Entertainment

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific