Animated Feature – finding a voice
Doing an animated film you have to follow certain conventions like the ones set out by the great composers of the Disney films and Warner shorts, the most well known of which is perhaps Carl Stalling.
Which means I have to follow the action with the music, something referred to as Mickey-Mousing.
Before and during this project, I spent considerable time studying this music: transcribing and playing it on the piano in order to understand it.
But doing exactly that in the film would have been too old-fashioned, so I had to find a way to adapt this style of music to the film.
Here are some of the things I do to make the score more contemporary sounding, while still being a nod to the old style of writing:
- Not treat the music as a sound effect as much as they did on those old ‘toons. I did it a lot of course, but the melodic threads are the primary music ingredients and these are being decorated by the wooshes and splashes rather than those being the primary musical element.
- I am making the music have more form. The changes of mood and melody and tempo in those old cartoons were almost schizophrenic. Of course, I have written moments like that already, but they are the exception and when they happen, they are more effective and funny.
- More chromatic: for the last few cues I wrote I did the Bartok accidental dissonance thing, where I set up individual contrapuntal strands that flowed with their own logic while still working together. There were lots of dissonances, cross-relations and it sounded fantastic: sort of like if Bartok did Mickey-Mouse, and no one will know or care! It will be a fresh sound that will still sound familiar. I am proud of those cues.
That’s it for now. I am meeting the director in less than an hour, so I have to get ready.
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