The Function of Film Scores

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The King of Ragtime

Scott Joplin (1867-1917) was an American composer, pianist, and teacher. He began his music learning by being born into a talented family and was taught by local  teachers. Joplin’s musical prowess grew by creating a vocal quartet and learning to play the mandolin and guitar. In his later teens Joplin left his job as a laborer on a railroad traveled around the south of the United States. Eventually he ventured to the World’s Fair in 1893 in Chicago which in turn played a large role in the creation of ragtime. By 1894 he moved to Sedalia, Missouri and worked as a piano teach and still toured a bit around the south.

Though his musical composing career was short he was not lacking in his output of pieces. Joplin composed over forty-four single works, as well as a ballet, and two opera. What makes Joplin such a significant figure in American music history is that he was a proponent figure in the development of ragtime and a genre. Up until this time it was quite unusual to find operas composed by anyone other than those from the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic era’s, prominent in Europe. America, as a country, was still in its infancy. So, there were not many different influences and genres of music that composers could pull from. But because of slavery the country did have a new influence to pull from. Slaves taken away from their homeland in Africa brought the songs of their culture, that became passed down orally to the generations after them.

Soon after Joplin was born the Civil War, which had torn the country in two, was over. Even though slaves now had their freedom, they were not technically free. They still fought unfair laws such as the Grandfather Clause and Jim Crow. These things prevented African-Americans from doing things granted to them by their rights, such as vote or be equal to any land-owning person (specifically male during this time). These things motivated African-Americans to assert themselves in ways that were unique to them, such as music.

Although the ragtime genre was not something official in American music at that time, it flourished during 1897-1918. It was born from march’s of the time, like those composed by John Philip Sousa, and poly-rhythms from African music. Ragtime incorporated syncopation; this was different from the straight rhythms that had been seen before this. Ragtime is said to have its roots in New Orleans and St. Louis at the dance clubs in the African-Americans community.

Joplin moved to one of the ragtime centers, St. Louis, in 1901, still at the beginning stages of this genre. He continued his career as performer my playing in brothels around the city. Joplin, while still in the city, began scoring his first opera, A Guest of Honor, which is now said to be lost. he was also experiencing tremors, the inability to speak clearly, and fumbling fingers because developing syphilis. Later on, Joplin moved to New York City looking for help to get his new opera, Treemonisha, off the ground. It was finally seen by the public in 1915, but was not received well. Unfortunately, afterward his health began to decline and Joplin died at the young age of forty-nine in a mental institution.

Long after his death, in the 1970s, Joplin’s music was brought back into the public eye with the release of an album recorded by Joshua Rifkin playing his works. Joplin’s music was once again brought to the public by having several of his works featured in the Academy-Award Winning film The Sting. The most notable of his works in that film was The Entertainer.

Joplin is such a unique figure because of the fact that he was such an accomplished composer, teacher, and performer despite his race and the crushing time he lived in. As well as the fact that he composed works, such as operas and a ballet, in a style of music that was not established but not seen as a usual genre for these classical art forms to be in. Joplin also made a remarkable come-back after being deceased for over forty years and bringing ragtime back into the American culture. Though Joplin is not widely known his music is recognized world-wide.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Mama Afrika

Miriam Makeba is one of the most internationally well-known singer’s of all time. She was even compared to the famous Elle Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. Although her life did not start out so well she began participating in music at an early age. Makeba did not lead an uncomplicated life the one she did lead was very powerful and inspiring earning many achievement awards. Though she was never a citizen of any singular country throughout her life, Makeba was accepted by many different nations and was considered to have international citizenship.. Makeba’s career was full of successes, she was an accomplished actress, staring in films and musicals, as well as a world-renowned singer releasing  a combination of singles and CDs.

Born Zenzile Miriam Makeba March 4th, 1932 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Miriam Makeba’s mother was a Swazi sangoma, a traditional healer-herbalist; her father died when she was six years old. Makeba’s life did not start off  in a loving environment. Before she was born her mother was arrested for selling umqombothi, a homemade African beer. Makeba, unfortunately, spent the first six months of her life in jail as a result of her mothers sentence. When she was eighteen years old Makeba gave birth to her only child, Bongi Makeba, who she had with her first husband James Kubay. Shortly after Makeba was diagnosed with breast cancer, then Kubay left her.

The start of her career began in the 1950s when she sang for the South African jazz group, Manhattan Brothers. Soon after she left that group to record with the all-female group, the Skylarks, who sang a blend of jazz and traditional South African melodies. In 1956 Makeba released her famous single “Pata Pata” ( which would later become a hit in the United States. her second marriage came in 1959 to South African singer, Sonny Pillay. She made a short guest appearance in Come Back Africa, an anti-apartheid documentary that won the Critics’ Award at the Venice Film Festival in Italy. The same year sang the lead in the South African musical King Kong.

Makeba left South Africa to make her debut in the United States on The Steve Allen Show in 1959. After visiting London she tried to return to South Africa for her mother’s funeral but was denied access because the government at cancelled her passport. Instead of dwelling on the fact that she had been exiled from her own country she began her career in the United States. Makeba signed with the record label RCA Victor and released her first album Miriam Makeba in 1960. A few years later she was honored by meeting the president of the United States, J.F. Kennedy after performing at his birthday party in Madison Square Garden.  She continued her work by releasing a second album from the same studio entitled The World of Miriam Makeba, it rose to the eighty-sixth spot on the Billboard 200. That same year she was officially exiled from her country, having her citizenship and right to return to South Africa completely taken away. many countries came her to side such as Belgium and Ghana, who issued her international passports.

She married Hugh Masekela in 1964, but divorced two years later. In 1966 Makeba was awarded the Grammy Award for Best Folk Recording along with Harry Belafonte for An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba. This album talked about the hardship of South Africans dealing with the apartheid. Makebe continued releasing more of her famous hits such as “The Click Song” ( and “Malaika”. According to Time magazine she was the “most exciting new singing talent to appear in many years,” and was said to have “the smokey tones and delicate phrasing” of Ella Fitzgerald and the “intimate warmth” of Frank Sinatra by Newsweek magazine. In 1967, almost ten years after its original debut, “Pata Pata” was released in the United States and became a hit throughout the world.

In 1968, Makeba married a man named Stokely Marmichael a civil rights activist and Black Panther. This union caused her record deals and tours to be cancelled in the United States. The couple fled to Guinea where the befriend the president and his wife. Makeba became the Guinea delegate to the United Nations. In 1973 she separated from Carmichael and began touring in Africa, Europe and Asia. She officially divorced Carmichael in 1978 and married an ariline executive in 1980. Sadly, in 1985 after the death of her daughter Bongi, Makeba decided to move to Brussels. the next year Hugh Masekela, who was to be another husband of hers, introduced her to Paul Simon and they began their famous Graceland Tour. After the tour Warner Bros. Records signed Makeba and she released the album Sangoma, in honor of her mother. The album consisted of acapella healing chants.

In 1990 after the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, Makeba was granted citizenship again to South Africa and returned that same year. Her career continued to blossom as she made appearances on the American TV show The Cosby Show, and films such as Sarafina! and Sing me a Song.

Her life ended doing what she did best, standing up for those fighting for a cause to end unnecessary violence. On November 9th, 2008 Makeba became sick after being a part of a concert to support a write named, Roberto Saviano, who was fight the Camorra, an organization similar to the mafia. Makeba suffered from a heart attack after singing her famous song “Pata Pata”. She was taken to a clinic where she could not be revived.

Miriam Makebas life was full of trials, tribulations, and heartbreak. From her small beginnings she created an incredibly successful career for herself that I’m sure she had never before dreamed of. Though her citizenship was taken away from her native country she was given so many honorary awards and accepted by so many different people and countries that she found a home wherever she went. Makeba never backed down from supporting her own beliefs. Through her great work Miriam Makeba is well-known worldwide for her amazing vocal talents and never backing down from a fight.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Comfort, Inspiration, Passion.

Music has been a part of my life since my earliest memories. It has sheparded me through my roughest times, given me the drive to do new things, and woven itself so deeply in my life that it could never be removed. What music has done for me is what I think it should and can be for many others. I can’t really say that music should be something because it already is what it should be. It’s comfort, inspiration, and passion.

Music is a comfort to people in many ways. People listen to it when they are upset, having no one else to turn to, music is the thing that people use to wade through their dark times.  Music is also used in medicine with the growing profession of music therapy, it’s wonders can be seen in the healing of congress-woman Gabby Gifford.

Music is an inspiration because who hasn’t heard that wonderful piece or song that really touches them and gets them inspired to make their lives better. Or in another way when you need that push to get homework or chores done, you play that loud song that gets you going.

Music is a passion, not only for myself but for so many others as well. I can’t imagine one single day without it in my life. Making gorgeous music to share with others is what I love to do, day in and day out.

It’s not my job to say what music should be, because it’s already so many things. It connects different countries around the world, even if girls in China and America fall over crying when they see Justin Bieber. The emotion is the same and touches them the same. They come together with a commonality because of his music.

Music should be whatever anyone needs it to be. Whether it is comfort, inspiration, or passion.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Hello world!

Welcome to Longwood Blogs. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment