Vienna Symphonic Library Forum
Forum Statistics

181,889 users have contributed to 42,190 threads and 254,623 posts.

In the past 24 hours, we have 3 new thread(s), 17 new post(s) and 57 new user(s).

  • Greatest Film Composer

    This thread is another of my not-too-serious attempts at generating some discussion via lists, only this time there is no list, just a singular item.  It would be interesting to hear who is considered to be the greatest of all film composers.  But also, why is that person the greatest?

    I feel that Bernard Herrmann is the single greatest.  The reasons are basically three:

    1) His music fits the films he scored so flawlessly that in all the films I have seen - which is almost every one he scored - I never once thought "that music is out of place!"  or something similar.  This is in sharp distinction to some other, even great, film composers.  I remember seeing "Woman in White" which had a score by  Max Steiner,  who is truly one of the greatest, but who in this instance wrote something that was really over-the-top and irritatingly unnecessary.  Herrmann never once did that, in all the scores I have heard, and he added so much that the films are absolutely unimaginable without his music.  For instance, Vertigo or Psycho.  They do not fully exist without the music he created - sometimes against Hitchcock's original directions as to what was to be scored. But even in the lesser films - such as De Palma's "Sisters" or "Obsession" - films that are not perfect by any means - his music was so intensely expressive that it elevated the films far, far beyond what they would have been without it.  I am certain that De Palma would agree.

    2) He created an art form out of what is most essential to film scoring.  Prior to Herrmann, film scores were basically adaptations of opera and operetta music.  Herrmann was the first to realize that the Wagnerian leitmotif approach is unnecessary to a film score, and is often in fact artificial. Today, many lesser composers use this fact to create a score out of mere block chords.  Whether they know it or not, they are doing something that Herrmann invented, albeit on a vastly superior level.  His style uses a direct development of motifs without reference to characters, themes, etc.  In other words, a purely musical development of  motifs, rather than a leitmotif development/recurrence.  It is interesting how recently the leitmotif has had a resurgence in the scores by Howard Shore for Lord of the Rings and of course in John Williams.  But these films are long, highly detailed epics somewhat similar to Wagner in the many characters and themes that can benefit from the extra musical "organization" that the leitmotif creates, as opposed to the often mechanistic and artificial approach of Steiner and others who - in the Studio Era - were scoring single 90+ minute features.  Though Steiner's work in classics such as King Kong is fabulously great, he was sometimes sabotaged by his unswerving devotion to the leitmotif.  Herrmann however bypassed all of this, and created a style that he seemed to gravitate to very naturally, with his straightforward variational/timbral development of extremely simple motival constructions.  He was in this regard also the first "minimalist" film composer, though people may not fully recognize that fact due to the extremely espressivo/romantic nature of his music in combination with the films he scored.

    3) The last main reason is something that is not really definable, but is simply the musical quality and originality of his ideas.  The basic musical ideas of his scores are simply beautiful, whether one is considering the Wagnerian Leibestod-like appoggiaturas of Vertigo, or the "monochrome" avant-garde intensity of the dissonant and rhythmic Psycho, or the elegiac beauty of the viola d'amore of On Dangerous Ground. He had what most composers would kill for, but which cannot be taught no matter how hard you study - the ability to create musical ideas that are simply beautiful. That is why his film scores can be listened to as pure concert music.     


  • I don´t intend to argue with you about the things you wrote, the only thing I have to say is, that I would always hesitate to speek of "number one this and that..." because in art there is not really a quality-scale that makes it easy to make up a list of artists... art is not meant to be competitive, but an expression, hence I believe we should leave formulations like "the number one filmcomposer" to the tabloids. cheers s.

  • Well actually i agree with that, and think that each artist creates his own world in a sense and so there is no competition at all.  But this is simply for the sake of looking at composers who are the most significant to people, perhaps as influences, rather than "better" on some absolute scale.


  • I sport a foible for films without film music.


  • "...sport a foible..."

    I must admit I've never heard that phrase.

    Herrmann stated that films without music were unwatchable.

    Bunuel on the other hand disliked film music and considered it a crutch for poorly filmed scenes.

    I sport the foible of agreeing with both of them to some extent.


  • last edited
    last edited
     

    @William said:

    Herrmann stated that films without music were unwatchable.

    Makes perfect sense from a film composer. He possibly also knows that his music is unhearable without a film.

    Watched several film lately without music, it was a relieve. Then yesterday the new Bond, horrible. I don't wanna be called composer anymore, I need a new name for my profession, one I can put a trademark on.

    Caché

    Directed by Michael Haneke
    Produced by Veit Heiduschka
    Written by Michael Haneke
    Starring Juliette Binoche
    Daniel Auteuil
    Maurice Bénichou
    Music by None


  • last edited
    last edited

    @William said:

    Herrmann stated that films without music were unwatchable.


    Take for instance, No Country for Old Men. Very difficult film to watch I felt. Hardly any score at all and boy, did that film need a score. Never mind about all the Oscar bollocks.

  • last edited
    last edited

    @William said:

    Herrmann stated that films without music were unwatchable.



    Take for instance, No Country for Old Men. Very difficult film to watch I felt. Hardly any score at all and boy, did that film need a score. Never mind about all the Oscar bollocks.

    I must completely disagree. No country for old men did not need a score in my opinion. a score would have destroyed the atmosphere of the film. and why would it be easier for you to watch the film with a score? silence is also important to point out certain things in a movie. for example: if the protagonist is desperately waiting for something to happen, the audience will more likely understand his despair when there is no sound at all, which may destract you from what is going on inside...

  • last edited
    last edited

    @PaulR said:

    Take for instance, No Country for Old Men. Very difficult film to watch I felt. Hardly any score at all and boy, did that film need a score. Never mind about all the Oscar bollocks.

    The trailer was so good that I didn't had to go to the cinema.

    Apropos bollocks, I do not like to waste my time with such incomprehensible evil bull****, not even if Vivaldi would have written the score.

    .


  • Well I am not  arguing against music in films, since the two art forms of music and film are maybe the best combination of any (though maybe opera is as good a combination of art forms with its blend of music and theater) however - this statement is not exactly the justification intended:

    "silence is also important to point out certain things in a movie. for example: if the protagonist is desperately waiting for something to happen, the audience will more likely understand his despair when there is no sound at all, which may destract you from what is going on inside..."  aural

    The reason that this does NOT support the idea of no music in films, is that films with scores always use silence, as a contrast to the music sections. 

    But anyway, an example of a great film with no music is Bunuel's Discreet Charm of the Bourgoisie.  It has a stark reality to its surreality as a result of no music. 


  • last edited
    last edited

    @William said:

    "silence is also important to point out certain things in a movie

    That's the problem I have with many otherwise nice films, no silence in this movies for the kiddies. I can not listen to the few movies which are perfect over and over again, that's like listening to Miles Davis's recordings, there comes a day where you heard them all more then once, and the trumpetist is also dead in the meantime.


  • last edited
    last edited

    @aural said:

    I must completely disagree. No country for old men did not need a score in my opinion. a score would have destroyed the atmosphere of the film. and why would it be easier for you to watch the film with a score? silence is also important to point out certain things in a movie.


    Let's not forget that films aren't real. They're not meant to be real. If you want to watch real - then watch documentaries. And most documentaries aren't real either because they carry the political slant of the director and thus become tainted with personality.

    So silence of course is important in a film - but silence is only really effective in a film when it's juxtaposed against scoring. Just as wall to wall scoring throughout is just as bad. In this film there is virtually no score whatsoever.

    This is where The Birds went wrong too. Hitchcock had at the time some sort of arty farty continental idea that 'noise' would be better than a score - and completely wasted the talents of Herrmann. Trust me - The Birds and No Country would have been exponentially better with good scores.

  • last edited
    last edited

    @Another User said:

    Trust me - The Birds and No Country would have been exponentially better with good scores.
    that would be very hypothetical to talk about, right? after all it´s simply not a matter of "better or worse" but a matter of personal taste.

  • The Birds I am sure would have been better (though it is a great film) simply because Herrmann was a genius, and came up with things that no one ever imagined, surprising even Hitchcock.  Psycho is the main example in this context - Hitchcock wanted the shower scenes silent to make them more realistic and horrific, but Herrmann went against him and came up with the most famous film cue in history.


  • last edited
    last edited

    @aural said:

    that would be very hypothetical to talk about, right? after all it´s simply not a matter of "better or worse" but a matter of personal taste.


    Yes indeed Bill - The Birds is a classic example of what could have been. Even director's like Hitchcock and their huge fucking egos have no idea what a waste of resource that was having Herrmann available and reducing him to ' sound bollocks' or whatever they called it. On top of that, he still managed to mess up the ending.

    Yes - unfortunately you will learn very rapidly Aurai - depending on your level of intelligence and understanding of the art form - or forgotten art form as it has become - that the biggest load of crap ever talked about when it comes to judging films - is personal taste and personal opinions, both of which are bollocks.

    That is to say - there is personal taste and there certainly is personal opinion, almost always generally crap.

    And then there is what is correct and what actually works.

  • last edited
    last edited
    well i agree that there are things, you cannot discuss about, which is the craft. and i also agree that taste very often is an excuse for bad craft, but i do not mean that. if a certain film would be better with or without a score... well thats hard to say, sometimes highly speculative and that is a matter of personal taste to some extent. and then there are people like you who believe that their personal taste is universally applicable. that´s too chauvinistic for me... especially if someone tries to shut me up with sentences that contain the word "intelligence"... that´s too childish, i´m out of this one... there is a tremendous amount of frustration in your post and i don´t believe there´s any sense in continuing the discussion...

    @Another User said:

    And then there is what is correct and what actually works.
    talking about correct: art is not maths. sometimes there is not the one correct way. there is definetely the thing that works though. what works for you may not work for me and vice versa. i respect your opinion concerning this issue, but i deserve that you also respect mine... different opinions are vital to a discussion.

  • You shouldn't give up so easily.

    What are music scores in film for?

  • Yes, PaulR is just being his normal warm and fuzzy self.  


  • alright, one more post :) well, as william said: one job of scores is to tell and show things that otherwise cannot be shown or told or made clear to the audience. or as victor hugo said (I hope i translate it into english correctly): music expresses what can´t be told but is impossible to keep silent about. my translation sounds really stupid, but i´m sure you know the quotation... I do not disagree with either of you on that point. all I´m saying is that there are artistic decision being made, which are based on (hopefully) taste. certainly many movies that do not have scoring would be more appealing to the audience and many critics. nevertheless the persons in charge made that decision because they were (possibly) aiming for something else.



  • This is Mark - my favourite film critic by a mile. Very funny and quick thinking guy. This is a short review by Mark on No Country for Old Men. In this case I don't agree with him.

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=fNUQDzVK-fE

    Did you see the England reserve team last night in Berlin btw?