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The Art of Composing Film Soundtracks

playingThe composition of a film soundtrack is not one for novices and professional composers are always individuals that can read and write music sheets for individual instruments, especially if an entire orchestra is required to reproduce the composition effectively. Movie soundtracks add atmosphere to all films, whether they are suspense filled thrillers or romantic tearjerkers and generally relate to two specific areas i.e. music that is composed specifically for the movie (a score) and music that is readily available for use, perhaps featuring classic tracks that reflect the mood, period in history, or genre of film.

Aligning Movies and Music

Suspense filled thrillers often use up-tempo music to reflect the onscreen action or to enhance the viewer’s anticipation of scenes to come. It is hard to imagine that the music utilised in Desperado, an action movie, could be replaced with the music from Titanic, for example, as two distinct genres are involved. Desperado used a combination of music, utilising popular tracks such as Six Bladed Knife from Dire Straits as well as custom tracks composed by the director Robert Rodriguez, all of which aided the action involved. James Horner, in his composition for Titanic created a unique score for the movie and one that underlined the main romantic theme, creating a number one hit for Celine Dion and music that is forever linked to the movie. Similarly, road movies such as the upcoming Asgar Leth production Move On, depend on their scores to give the audience a sense of location.


Modern film composers such as James Horner, Ennio Morricone, Hans Zimmer, John Barry and John Williams have created scores for many of Hollywood’s biggest movies ranging from science fiction Star Wars to suspense filled thrillers such as Jaws and Inception. Deservedly proclaimed as modern artists, these individual compose orchestral scores to suit each movie. Full orchestras are used with each orchestra member requiring sheet music for his or her instrument. The sheer amount of work involved in tailoring a piece of music to complement a movie is substantial.

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