Advanced Score Analysis for Screen Composers: 20th and 21st Century Explorations

From Debussy’s abandonment of functional harmony to Penderecki’s sonorism and Arvo Pärt’s tintinnabuli, the last century brought tectonic shifts in the musical landscape. Learn how music for the screen has absorbed these shifts and how to put your own music on this map

Module 2 (3 credits)

How do screen composers strike fear into the hearts of an audience, evoke wonder and amazement, or provoke the deepest contemplation? The answer often lies in the bold new combinations of harmonic language, sonic manipulation, and instrumentation introduced by composers studied in this module. Discover how to make use of theoretical frameworks like serial composition, sonorism, minimalism and Neo-Riemannian theory in your own work in order to more powerfully move an audience. Through score study and a unique series of guided exercises, begin to hear the development of your own unique voice in film and game scoring.

What will you learn in this module?

  1. Explore the late 19th–20th c. Viennese, German, French and Russian traditions that shaped contemporary film music, esp. Ravel, Debussy, Stravinsky, and Schönberg

  2. Get comfortable with non-functional harmony, extended tonality, post-tonal and atonal compositional technique

  3. Learn how to write pleasing, emotionally satisfying, and even “tonal-sounding” music without the anchor of a key centre.

  4. Discover contextual harmony

  5. Understand pan-triadicism and Neo-Riemannian harmony

  6. Discover how to use the language of minimalism in film score

  7. Penetrate the mysteries of holy minimalism and Arvo Pärt’s tintinnabuli

  8. Explore the new forms of maximalism and totalism

  9. Learn from living art composers who continue to shape the future of film and media composing.

How does this module meet industry expectations?

  • Film composers work with a post-tonal vocabulary, even when their music is melodious and consonant. You must learn to be at ease in this context. 

  • Music for science-fiction and fantasy, the most popular cinematic and game genres, is largely pan-triadic, sometimes pan-diatonic, and tonally ambiguous.  

  • Acquire insights into specialised forms and techniques, such as tintinnabuli and aleatoric forms, enhancing your ability to create unique and impactful musical moments.

  • Extended techniques, aleatoric experiments, and devices such as clusters describe a great deal of music written for genre films, such as horror and psychological thriller. 

  • Cutting-edge composers need to think outside the box; this course will compel you to. 

  • Learn how to use venerable forms like the canon in strikingly contemporary ways.

Have questions about this programme?

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