TODAY'S CINEMA AND FILM MUSIC
James Horner then discussed how he came into film music:
"I started writing in classical music. I'm classically trained. I went to college and that was my whole life. I was going to teach music and write music and write serious music and I fell into film music almost by mistake. It was never my intention to go into film music. I was going to be a composer., that was my calling. And when I left academia, and left school, and started writing film, I thought I’d found a new media for myself because I thought going into a dark hall and just listening to Strauss or Brukner or Mahler being played–for younger audiences, that wasn't a world that was going to work for me anymore. What younger audiences were interested in was going into a mixed media world where there would be dance and music, or film and music, and that's what really drew me into film music, that it was mixed media."
Then the composer described his observations on current trends in film music:
"A lot of directors don't want melodic writing anymore, which is fine, but a lot of the scores that are being made now tend to, in a sense, very much sound the same. A big wall of sound. Very impressive sounding.”
According to him, the current situation has led to profound changes in the way a film score is created: financial issues, relationships, ways of recording are not the same.
"Music, to me, is just like painting on a canvas. I'm not interested in the performance aspect, conducting aspect, the being-in-front-of-the-people aspect. I'm very, very quiet about what I do and how I do it, and I work alone and it's very much painting and coloring, as I said earlier. And nowadays, to write film music, I’ll go in for an interview, and I'm talking to 15 people instead of a director. I already know what this is going to be like: it’s going to be so hard. It's going to be so difficult; there is so much money involved in the success of the movie, and even with small movies. My process is so intimate. It's very hard to imagine me having an engineer or having orchestrators or assistance–all things that are needed now to churn out a film score in three weeks for a 150 million dollar movie. It's insane, but that's really a lot of how Hollywood film making has become."
He explained this is in part due to special effects that intensify the constraints of what he can write and shorten the time devoted to music:
"All of the CGI has to be scored before orchestra. A lot of that CGI is going to get covered in sound effects. You go into a film, on the surface it seemed to be a wonderful project and you read it, and you say: “Oh my god! It's just going to be so hard to get through this in one piece.” And I find myself saying that more and more at the projects I look at."
Hence his desire to turn to more modest and human projects, which allow him to control all steps of the creative process.
"I'm looking for smaller and smaller, lovelier films to work on. For me, it's very tricky and, for others–there are lots of composers who compose differently than I do, that have completely different processes: they like to have a lot of people around and they like a lot of assistance. They do 8 movies or 12, 14 movies in a year. Movie after movie and when you do that many movies, you can't do that by yourself. You have to do it as a part of a group of composers, as I'm sure you are aware. And that changes the way the music’s made, and film makers themselves have changed."
The artistic intentions of the current production environment in Hollywood also lead him to reconsider his musical aesthetic.
"My aesthetic is changing, and when you look at 8 of the movies that may have come out of Hollywood this last year–it’s not just me. I'm sure–but when you sort of squint your eyes and just listen, they’re all same sort of sound. That's what the film makers all want, and I know that to create that, I have to create something that they want and they are already telling me what they want something like that, and I know the work that goes into that and I know the results aren't going to be something I can really put my heart into. I can make it sound great but I just keep referring back… for me, writing for film is all about being as intimate in the film as you can get. That’s often done by very few instruments, or very intimately done."