How We Create Soundtracks: Introduction

The Pledge

Woman, early 30’s, gorgeous, tailored, is looking speechless out of a train window as the train passes endless landscape.

Alternatively we can see her in a modern bedroom packing up. Her putting on makeup, black elegant dress, jewelry. Her fondling a sleeping boy, her son, trying to mask tears in her eyes. And her going straight through a huge crowd in a great old train station, buying a ticket, nervously awaiting a train.

The train leaves a great amount of land behind and the woman is watching her window projection with an intense, decisive look…

What happened? Where is she going? How does she feel? And… How does it sound?

Welcome to the life of a music composer.

Introduction

As you might have noticed, Exit Empire is not just a band. It’s a studio as well (http://exitempire.com/studios) and besides of producing music, we create soundtracks. And that’s when I come in.

Writing music for a band and composing a score is very similar. In both music tells a story. The difference is, as a musician in a band, you can determine that story. When you compose music for a project, the story has been already written, in a script, novel or a director has got his vision.

And your mission as a music composer is to support and embrace that vision with your music. That means really dive into the plot and the most important thing, understand the characters and the universe it lives in.

Rules Are Made To Be Broken

Music is not rational. It is not made by templates. Music is felt. It is pure expression of emotions. That’s how I decide whether to play this or that note, which instrument to choose or what kind of sound to create.

And how do you know what to feel?

Pick the director’s brain if he has a vision of how he wants things to happen in every aspect of the project and how much he is leaning on music to carry scenes and manipulate emotions. You need to listen to the cues he drops, if he is not specific about how exactly he wants his theme or a melody element to sound.

Then you can study the architecture of the script, where the script is more defined and when you feel pacing from it.

There are also two types of ways of creating a score. If you think about building a house, some people will build the house and then let you cover the walls. Others will let you be the foundation of it.

Time To Create

So you have done all your homework. You know the story, each scene and the characters. From now on it’s all in your head and you are about to create something which will only suit that only moment, that only scene. You are like a painter who is painting a portrait, living in the moment.

And this is what I love about being the musician the most. You let go. You’re sitting in your chair, thinking about the scene. Imagining yourself being the third person in that scene, speechless narrator who can only speak throughout the music.

How do you know that the music will work with the scene?

The Turn

Sometimes it’s not you who is composing. If you are connected deeply enough with the characters, you let go and let them speak through you… after all, you are just an instrument.

The Prestige

Remember the woman we talked about earlier? Her name was Anna. Listen to the whole soundtrack I made for Anna Karenina theater adaptation on Spotify:

or Soundcloud:

Thanks for reading. Next time we’ll look closely behind the curtains of soundtrack composing for projects I’ve been working on.

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