Music has been bringing cinema to life since the earliest silent films. Film scores, also known as background or incidental music, play a very large part in the creation of a film. The function of a film score is to bring animation characters. Great film scores
create the mood of the film and give individuality to the characters. John
Williams, a prolific composter has had a long and prosperous career doing these
exact things in films such as Jaws and the Harry Potter series.
Film score is defined as “original music written specifically to accompany a film;” it can also be called background or incidental music. The process of film scoring begins with the
composer watching a rough cut of the film and making notes to know when the
music should begin and end, as well as the duration. It is important that the
music match what is happening in the film, and syncing as it is called can come
in different forms such as digital and written click track. After the music is
written and orchestrated appropriately it is now time for it to be recorded.
The orchestra performs the music in front of a large screen showing the film so
that the conductor can synchronize the two together.
Many films have a theme that relates to an event, idea, or a character, this can be related to Wagner’s’ leitmotif found in his opera Tristan und Isolde. Here
is an example of one of the many leitmotifs found in the opera.
A leitmotif is “an associated melodic phrase or figure that accompanies the
reappearance of an idea, person, or situation especially in a Wagnerian music
drama.” This reoccurrence can be found in John Williams simple composition for
the 1975 horror film, Jaws. The Jaws theme is an ostinato of bass notes, which
is either identified as an E to an F or F to an F sharp played on a tuba. Williams
was quoted saying that the theme was “grinding away at you, just as a shark
would do, instinctual, relentless, unstoppable.” Williams was also asked why
the part was not played on a French horn which would have fit the range of the
music better, to this he said it was “a little more threatening.” Other
elements that can be heard are the percussive string techniques used to give a
lighthearted pirate-feel to the piece as well. He found this air of piracy and
said it was “primal, but fun and entertaining.”
Although the shark obviously does not have a speaking role, this is an obvious example of how film scores can bring a character to life and give it eternal recognition. John Williams
continued his character creations in some of the film from the Harry Potter
series. Williams only composed for the first three films, but it was in those
that he was instrumental in setting up a base for all of the characters. The
first film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone gave Williams a lot of
opportunities to create different themes for the characters since this was the
first time they were being introduced. Here’s is Hedwig’s Theme, which most
people recognize as the main theme of the movie:
In this example it has a very ethereal quality, which encompasses the magical aspect of the
movie as a whole. The style heard in the piece is more of the Western Classical
genre and very heavy with brass. This type of orchestration is something
Williams does often; this can be found in his compositions for Indiana Jones
and Star Wars. The timbre of this piece changes throughout; in the beginning it
has a twinkling sound which epitomizes the mysterious wizarding world. The
instrumentation grows thicker as the pieces goes on and the timbre continues to
change as well.
An example of a more specific character theme is that of Gilderoy Lockhart’s:
In this theme it helps the listener understand more of who he is, a lovable narcissist. It has this lilting feeling and an air of conceitedness which is made by the sforzandos and lower
instrumentation. Williams created another layer to this characters theme by
giving it a more tango feel, which he says “can be found in this kind of fop.”
The function of film scores is to create a character that can be recognized even when there are no vocals or visual to guide you. John Williams has been doing this for years, whether it is in the Star Wars films, Jaws, or the Harry Potter series and he creates new and
interesting music for each character. Having these different themes for
character breathes life into any film and eternally distinguished.