Techniques of Scoring for the Screen I: Contemporary Compositional Practice / Supporting Story with Score

Put the principles learned in the Aesthetics & Analysis I module into practice as you compose original underscore for a curated selection of story outlines, scenes, and short films. Each key topic addressed in Aesthetics will fuel an exercise or a full recording project in TSS I. Understand the arc of a scene/film and how it shapes the music. Learn how to “read a director’s brief,” and gain skills in spotting, timing, and reading scenes. Learn how to compose with a defined and limited palette of orchestral and electronic colors.

Module 3 (3 credits)

In the first half of this two-semester course, designed as a complement to the Aesthetics & Analysis modules, you will be given a steadily expanding series of instrumental palettes, beginning with solo piano and concluding with a mid-sized studio orchestra, and a menu of writing assignments designed to make best use of these palettes, from composing a simple love theme in the contemporary style, to depicting a character experiencing emotional extremes, to following the arc of an entire scene. Each of these ensembles will be enhanced by digital instruments and electronics in the approach known as “hybrid scoring,” and modeling industry practice, each cue will be mocked-up in the DAW for approval prior to live recording.  There are four fully-assessed live recording assignments and a number of smaller exercises designed to build your muscles for particular genres and scene-types. Whenever possible, you will compose for original film footage, not rescores of commercially-released content. All recording assignments are intended to be suitable for use in your professional portfolio.

What will you learn in this module?

  1. Semester One opens with an intensive three-week “boot camp” designed to bring all new students to a level starting point with respect to DAW, notation software, and basic electronic scoring skills before the first official writing/recording assignment is given.

  2. Film music “tropes” (i.e., musical gestures associated with particular genres or dramatic situations) and how to use them, beginning with creation of a heroic action theme. 

  3. Preparing for Recording Session #1: Composing a hybrid cue for live piano trio  

  4. Preparing for Recording Session #2: Let’s Talk About Love - Composing a romantic theme for contemporary cinematic piano 

  5. Preparing for Recording Session #3: Scene Painting - Establishing Mood, Atmosphere and Environment 

  6. Spotting is Scoring: Scene Reading and Spotting for proper entry, exit and pacing

  7. Discussion of the timeless film genres of noir and horror includes electronic (“in the box”) scoring of an updated version of the classic radio thriller, “The Hitchhiker.” 

  8. Preparing for Recording Session #4: Depicting character and psychological state 

  9. Writing to picture: sync, phrasing and “hits”

  10. The musical landscape of science-fiction and fantasy is navigated through the work of composers like Danny Elfman, John Williams, Javier Navarrete, and Thomas Newman and explore in a short exercise in chromatic harmony for MIDI orchestra. 

  11. Preparing for Recording Session #5: Composing to picture for the small to mid-sized orchestra – how they get the most impact from even modest ensembles

How does this module meet industry expectations?

  • Professional clients will expect you to have not just good ideas, but the technique for executing those ideas. Beyond the baseline technical requirements for DAW mastery and knowledge of instrumentation and orchestration fundamentals, this includes the ability to read a scene properly and find its dramatic arc, spot it accurately for in-point, out-point, phrasing and pacing of music, and to read the filmmaker’s intentions. 

  • No amount of musical talent will compensate for missed deadlines, and this course seeks to model standard professional practice with its rapid-fire sequence of writing and recording projects, each of which will compel you to act as composer, performer and producer. The ability to generate ideas quickly and under pressure will serve you well. 

  • Meetings with content-producers will not yield work if your knowledge base is limited to music. This course will develop your literacy across the broad range of screen entertainment, as well as its inspirations in literature, drama and myth.

Assessed recording assignments

  1. Composer Self-Portrait for Piano Trio and Electronics

  2. Hybrid Cue for Solo Piano+VI in a contemporary Neo-Romantic style

  3. Tone Painting for hybrid ensemble feat. string quintet & two woodwinds

  4. Depicting Character with hybrid ensemble feat. 22-piece string orchestra

  5. Scoring a complete scene for hybrid ensemble feat. 38-piece studio orchestra

Have questions about this programme?

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