With two months until entries close, now is the time to get cracking on your Score IT! composition…
If you’re still getting started, there are plenty of awesome resources on our website to give you some inspiration and help you get underway, which you can check out here.
Feeling a bit daunted by the task ahead? Don’t stress! We sat down with Hudson Beck – previous entrant, two-time Score IT! Plus winner and Griffith Conservatorium Composing student – to chat about the composing process, what he looks for in a film score, and tips for anyone who is getting started, feeling stuck or on the fence about applying. No matter where you are in the Score IT! journey, it always helps to hear from someone who has been in your shoes! Check out the interview below and get composing!
“A great work of music is only possible with equally as great motivation, inspiration and preparation.”
When you get started on a new composition, what’s the first thing you think about?
When beginning any new composition, the first thing I do is to set some time aside to really think about what it is I want my piece to be; Do I want it to dramatic, calming? should it make people dance or make them cry? Once I’ve sorted those things out I then plan out the ensemble that is going to be performing the piece. In the case of Score IT! Plus, you are given set instrumentation – but don’t let this limit you! Think about the different ways each section of the ensemble interacts with each other; Maybe the Bass instruments are playing something against the Treble instruments, or the warm timbres of the string section play under the rich and resonant voice of the French Horn. Feel free to explore the entire timbral range of each of the 13 musicians to make your music as texturally diverse as you can. Finally, it’s time to start writing your piece: start by experimenting with different melodies, see how different intervals can evoke different feelings and begin to categorise them in different groups that you can draw from as you compose the piece. A great work of music is only possible with equally as great motivation, inspiration, and preparation.
What do you do when you get stuck on a composition?
Believe me when I say that as a composer, you’ll get stuck on a piece A LOT. The first thing I will always do is to just stop working on that piece – it might seem like the worst possible thing to do when you’re trying to finish a composition, but it can be really good to just take a break, maybe work on another piece you’re writing or try doing something else for a bit to let your creativity rejuvenate. I’d also suggest just listening to the music of other composers, try to pick up on the subtle things that make their compositions so great and let them inspire you. Finally, don’t feel bad about borrowing material and ideas from other composers, there’s no point in trying to reinvent the wheel when you’ve got access to so much great music available to listen to and be inspired by. Take small things from other compositions and try to tweak them and make them work better for your piece, it can really help your writing move forward and you will learn plenty along the way.
“The number one goal of the composer is to serve the action that is happening on the screen by providing the atmosphere, mood, and emotion and connect the audience into that world.”
What is the most important consideration when composing for a film?
There is one thing that all great film composers have to master, and it’s the art of subtlety. The number one goal of the composer is to serve the action that is happening on the screen by providing the atmosphere, mood, and emotion and connect the audience into that world. Some of the greatest film scores throughout history do this job so well that when you’re watching the movie, the music seamlessly slips out of your attention to the point where you don’t even realise the music was there to begin with – but would be absolutely noticeable if it were taken away. Go and see it for yourself: try searching on YouTube for famous movie scenes with no music and see how when the music is taken away, the scene is just empty and devoid of any emotion. The famous Binary Sunset scene from ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’ just turns into Luke Skywalker awkwardly staring into the Suns and then walking away, there’s no way for the audience to connect with our hero and share his feelings of hope and determination.
“When you add music to a film it should complement what is being displayed on the screen, nothing would be more distracting in a movie than music that just doesn’t fit…”
What makes a great film score stand out?
What makes a film score stand out for me is when a composer can perfectly embody the unique character of the film in their music and transport the audience into the world the director has created. When you add music to a film it should complement what is being displayed on the screen, nothing would be more distracting in a movie than music that just doesn’t fit; picture the final rumble scene from West Side Story with its intricately choreographed and aggressive fighting between the two rival gangs, but in the background – Julius Fucik’s, Entry of the Gladiators. You wouldn’t be able to keep a straight face, trust me, I couldn’t. What would’ve been an all-intensifying-audience-on-the-edge-of-their-seats fight sequence now turns into something you might see from the clowns in Cirque Du Soleil for their scene-change act. But whilst we’re on the topic of West Side Story, you can hear how Leonard Bernstein has perfectly portrayed the urban city streets of the New York west end with his music, with an (at the time) contemporary jazz-orchestral score. At no point throughout the film would you ever think, “This is not what New York in the 1950s would sound like.” Bernstein’s music is a perfect balance of creating an authentic sound for the place and time, whilst perfectly maintaining the serious nature of the characters and their story.
What are some of your favourite film scores and why?
Growing up as a kid and still to this day, I was always greatly inspired by the music of James Newton Howard, especially in his two early-2000s Disney movies, Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Treasure Planet. Howard has created some epic symphonic universes to complement these two very unique films with similar designs; olden time periods juxtaposed against Sci-Fi fantasy technology. This was most evident in the score for Treasure Planet where Howard was tasked with the vision of directors Ron Clements and John Musker to retell Robert Louis Stevenson’s story, Treasure Island in a Science-Fiction fantasy universe where sailboats became space ships that sail through the Ethereum. The score Howard wrote was absolutely perfect and the cue, ‘To the Spaceport’ will always be one of my most favourite film score moments of all time.
“…remember to try your best when you’re writing your music, make something that you’ll be proud of and want to share with others. The more you try your hand at making music, the more you’ll learn and the better you’ll get, it’s just like learning an instrument.”
What’s something you wish you knew before applying for Score IT! ?
Honestly, I wish I had known about Score IT! a couple of years before I first competed just so I could’ve entered even more. I guess I’d also wish I knew how much work it would be trying to create just 3-5 minutes of music. There’s a lot of things you need to consider even before you put pen to paper, (or I guess today it’d be a cursor to computer) but I’m glad that the Score IT! website gives lots of information about the scoring process so that everyone can have an equal opportunity. I’ve seen the competition grow quite a lot in the 3 years that I’ve competed, and I hope to see it keep growing even more.
Why is Score IT! special and why should students give it a go?
I personally believe that QMF’s Score IT! competition is so special for those students who are new to composing. As it goes, there is not much opportunity for young composers to have their music performed public in the wider area of Queensland with most composition competitions aimed at older and more experienced composers. Score IT! is one of what I hope in the future to be many, a competition dedicated to getting young composers started in their career. Throughout the whole competition, you learn so much about not just composing for film, but all types of music and you get to meet so many amazing people from Queensland Music Festival, the Queensland Conservatorium, and the film scoring industry which is a great opportunity to start networking with others. If I have any final words for those who are entering Score IT! 2019, or not even sure if they should, it’s this; remember to try your best when you’re writing your music, make something that you’ll be proud of and want to share with others. The more you try your hand at making music, the more you’ll learn and the better you’ll get, it’s just like learning an instrument. So, don’t give up and remember to dream big.Good luck everyone!