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Why do many people think that classical music composed for film scores is not classical music?

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In the "Movie Corner" I opened a poll about the film scores which got the nomination "Best original score" in the Academy Awards (Oscars) of 1990: Talkclassical best film score award - 1990

This is for the first part of the competition Talkclassical best film score award.

Now, the score of the film "The Fabulous Baker Boys" (one of the film nominated in 1990) could be probably classified as Jazz (see for example the first theme) and Intrumental pop (see for example the second theme).

I think that no one would say that this is not jazz music because it was composed for a film. No one would say "this is not jazz but film music". Indeed, film music is not a genre of music: it only means that the music was composed for a film.

However, the other four nominated film scores, I think that can be classified as "romantic music".
Usually, the film scores which get a nomination for the "Best original scores" are more or less classical music.

That's why the radio Classic FM started to insert some film scores in the competition Classic FM Hall of Fame.
Their decision is criticized by many people. Read for example this article of the journal "The Guardian": Can film music ever be classical?

The argument of the writer of this article is that film scores can never be classified as "classical music" because they are composed for images and not for concerts (so, it is not standalone music, but a part of the movie).
If this argument is valid, then we must conclude that the score of "The Fabulous Baker Boys" is not jazz because it was composed for images and not for concerts.

However, I agree that pure "motion music" is not extractable from it's context, but the best film scores (the one who win at The Academy Awards) are not simply "motion music": it's music that can be extracted as standalone music. Indeed, the best score composers sell tickets for concerts.

Maybe the real reason of these people is that they think that John Williams is not as good as Beethoven, Mozart, Bach and so on and they see classical music as a "closed enclosure" where you can enter only if you have a special permission.
If it is so, still I don't see the logic: you don't have to be Roger Federer for being a tennis player. So, you could simply say "Peter is a tennis player but not the number one" and "John Williams is a classical music composer but not the number one".

You might say that Bach is the number one and John Williams only an ordinary composer, if you think this, but I don't see the logic of "the closed enclosure".
Someone could for example say that the composer of "The Fabulous Baker Boys" is a poor jazz composer, but it's still jazz.

To conclude, my opinion is that much of the music composed for film scores is good classical music: "good" is my personal judgement, but every one can have his own.
If you ask me "Don't you hear the difference between classical music and film scores?", my anwser is that usually film scores are built around one or more powerful themes, while some pieces in classical music are not so melody focused.
I won't say that film scores don't have their distinticive rules, but that those rules are compatible with classical music, because there are many pieces that are considered "classical" that are built around a main theme.
"Spring" of Vivaldi is a good example.
The idea that classical music must be "chaotic" is only a personal preference of some people and not a rule that every composer must respect.
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Hey Hans congratulations on the Oscar... ;)

If you listen to John William's 1st Violin Concerto and then compare it to his film work, you might get a sense of why he himself considers his film work distinct and a different musical aesthetic and technique to his concert work. Comparison of the two disciplines at work (yes, they are different disciplines in crucial areas), from a compositional and sounding point of view should go all the way to answering your question.

I've said this before in conversation with member Fabulin (who will chime in no doubt and make me waver in my opinion on the OP dilemna), that JW is quite unique in that his cue writing (as opposed to his excellent theme writing), is good enough to pass off as a more serious stand alone offering in the concert hall.

But it is rather telling that when he sits down and purposely writes for the concert hall, the language in particular is much more personal and one hears that his mindset and expressive reach is different and more personal. In other words just what you expect from absolute music, that of music from a deeper place within who's genesis is not instigated by what is fundamentally utility.
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From the composing pov, there is a considerable difference in mindset, circumstance, technique and crucially, expressive freedom between composing a cue/theme for film and writing music for its own sake. As a result of this I find that if one defines concert music as being an expression of the composer's own, untrammelled personality and artistry, as indeed I do, then it becomes that bit harder to see a justification for music that is dictated to in every aspect - from timings through to orchestration - to be classed unequivocably in the same way as perhaps a symphony, concerto or sonata.

Opera and ballet are not included in my distinction because music written for those genres is largely free from external expressive restraint other than service to dialogue, story telling and/or danceability. Likewise, there is no strict enforcement of timings, orchestration (other than numerical) and the composer's mindset and creative options have as much freedom in the language they use along with the expressive reach they wish to convey.

That said, I'm personally very happy to hear the best film work in the concert hall and love a lot of it. I can also see why others wont be bothered with the distinctions I make here. But a someone who has worked in both disciplines I am acutely aware that there is a fundamental difference in the compositional process for the two genres that utterly dictates the musical result. As always ymmv and on this, mine still does occasionally, especially when JW is on the programme.
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For those who would categorically reject film music as a form of classical music, I ask: If the first work below is accepted as classical music, can the second or third work be rejected?

Your so incorrigible Dave...;) In answer to your question, read my post below yours.
I did, but I wasn’t convinced of your reasoning. Some soundtracks which have snippets of music throughout to coincide with what’s going on in the movie would not remind me of classical music, but other soundtracks that have what is essentially a work (such as my examples) and full-fledged segments indicating a love-scene or whatnot do.

I ask again in another way: Why are avant-garde works with no melody, no harmony and, frequently, dissonance throughout considered classical music and film-related music with a melody, harmony and use of instrumentation that reminds of classical music is not?

I understand that you feel that a difference in the mindset of the composer is a factor, but I’m not convinced that the major film music composers would agree. (More likely, they wouldn’t care. :))

Just for the record, my position is that some, not all, film music reminds of classical music. And if push comes to shove, I’m not as fired up about the subject as some here -those on the side of dismissing all film music as classical music- seem to be.

The answer Dave to my way of thinking might lie in the idea that personal artistry and profundity expresses only itself in a concert work and not any extraneous aspects that severely limit the reach of the expression - music for music's sake. One could also argue, depending upon one's tastes, that because film music has to have immediate appeal for commercial reasons (whilst not drawing too much attention to itself for the most part), and is therefore written as such, then this is also a limit on a composer's personal expressive reach. Also, approved film music is most likely to include the aesthetic and emotional input of a director, and/or producer and even an editor, not to mention a music producer or a supervisor, irrespective of the technical demands. It may even include 'influence' from a temp track. You very often have to 'let go' of your best moments in a cue and leave them lying on the proverbial cutting room floor.

The composer often has a battle on his hands getting music approved via committee and trying to please many egos within a deadline and get paid is a great motivator to compromise all round musically speaking. The "A" list of composer's are known for their way of thinking and sounding and are employed for those very reasons, but even their voices are hampered by the reality and practicalities of scoring. One thinks of Zimmer's cue in Gladiator where he had no choice but to pastiche Prokofiev's 'Romance' from Lt. Kije, not exactly the most personal of utterances right? Worse still was Horner's utter rip-off of Britten's 'Sanctus' from his 'War Requiem'. Admittedly Horner was under a severe and pressing deadline with which to try and conquer the temp track of Britten's. Regardless of that, the music ended up more Britten than Horner and as a result also ended up in court. These are extreme examples of how individual expression is compromised in scoring but instances like this and how they affect a resulting score are a contributing factor imv as to the ambiguity of film score status in the concert hall. It has to be said too that only a handful of film composers actually have the training to create concert music or rather, have 'classical' training that infuses and informs their film work.

So the trials and compromises of film scoring are not ideal conditions with which to create art to the highest of standards we hear in the concert hall imo. That said, I don't object to the end result of a committe process being in a concert hall programme for the most part. But the purity if you like, of a composer's expression is severly restricted and maybe even tainted in film work and at worst not in evidence at all. This may or may not matter to the listener who prefers immediacy in music. It bothers me slightly because as I've mentioned, what the composer writes for film is not what they would write for the concert hall at all, Williams, Hermann and others prove this and I personally know it. Oh, and the art of music has much more to offer than instant gratification imo.

I'm not engaging you on Fernyhough because I know where that's coming from with you and we'll never agree aesthetically speaking because I don't bemoan the decline of CP writing as much as you do ....;)

EDIT...I've just remembered that a well known classically trained and respected composer used to have a bonfire party when he'd completed a film score to ceremoniously burn the manuscripts, such was the disdain he had for the resulting music. Damn though, I can't remember who it was...Fabulin any ideas? He was a golden age composer iirc.
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@mikeh375 do you work for Hollywood? Is it possibile to know on which scores did you work?
I did do some. I'll PM you.
I frankly doubt John Williams or Hans Zimmer write even a small fraction of their film scores. It’s all done by algorithms and graduate minions, under contract, earning buttons…
Zimmer has a team and is actually quite a creative force himself, but Williams is a trained composer and relies solely on his own substantial musical wits. Apparently even JW's short score is so detailed in its scoring (and around 12 staves deep in places), that orchestrators feel more like copyists. If you are referring to a DAW when you mention algorithms, then believe me, the DAW also needs talented musical manipulation if a composer is to have any chance of a career in of film scoring.
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Just as an aside given the OP's name, I watched 'Dune' last night. Zimmer's Oscar for the score was certainly well deserved imv. The music is absolutely not classical in the Williams sense and amid the 'Gladiator'-esque ethnicity, there was also the usual sound design approach to the scoring in places, brilliantly done and immensely effective in situ, adding real emotional wallop and power to many scenes.
Hans Zimmer is no John Williams, but then again, John Williams is no Hans Zimmer.
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(film music)...... also reveals how pathetic and awful some contemporary classical music is. There is some great 20th century and modern classical music out there, but no one is convincing me that there is a good deal that is just a sham. Talentless composers who write things that no one could objectively say is a better composition than from another modern composer. There are no more rules and that's why there is so much chaos in modern art. Try writing a film score with no rules involved, no theme, no structure. See how that works.

There are rules (i.e. techniques), in much contemporary art/concert music, there has to be in order to impose will. Obviously they are not the kind of techniques used hundreds of years ago but they could also be adaptations and developments of past practices. Using different techniques does not imv imply inferiority in any way. Ironically I think it's fair to say that the "rules" are the root cause of alienation from the last hundred years or so of music for some listeners.

From what I know of film scoring, there are some composers I've heard about, who do not follow compositional rules because they don't actually know them, preferring to work on instinctual musical wits, employing trained professionals and and being able to deliver high end production quality. Some are rather good at it too and have influenced the genre away from any classical model of film scoring, such as Williams' more traditional approach.
I still don't understand which definition of the word "classical music" tells that it must not be composed to accompany images. If the definition doesn't say so, then it's only a personal opinion of some people.
I can say from a composer's point of view, the mental and technical approach to film score writing is not the same as classical or concert music writing unless there's a classical temp track to be gotten rid of from the film during post production. I could go on but already have in post no.5 of this thread and given examples, so I shant... :)
..................."When I’m writing for the concert hall I’m thinking about shaping long arches or sustaining a 15- or 20-minute movement. When we’re writing film cues, we don’t think that way, because we have to work within much shorter time limits that are given to us. "
good to see Corigliano (along with John Williams) has backed up my posts nos 5 and 53 in this thread .... ;)...
There is no real debate about this thread's title so far as a composer is concerned, especially regarding approach, application and end result of film music. There is aesthetic and technical compromise in film scoring and that adversely affects the expressive freedom one might expect from concert/art music.
This debate is more a distinction or categorisation issue for listeners only imv.
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^^^ I've been a fan of Silvestri ever since I heard this beauty...

He's got some gut wrenching musical moves too......

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LOL. "Trailers music". That's actually an entirely different category (although there certainly is a lot of overlap).

I find it amusing that music found in some trailers aren't actually part of the actual film's soundtrack. Sometimes scenes in a trailer end up being cut from the final version of the film.
You are probably aware that there is a whole industry based on composers supplying trailer music to music libraries and the film industry. These are generally not A or even B listers nor even the composer who has been commissioned to do a score.

Trailer music is also where a form of composing for film known as 'Epic' is often used. The music is designed to sell the film and as such is often derivative and the production and emotion is hyped up way over the top i.e. epic, even for film. So called 'Epic' genres are used especially in sci-fi and fast paced action film trailers and are often characterised by heavy percussion, full on and loud orchestration and a somewhat bombastic mood. I'm guessing but from my experiences, I bet some trailer music has at least made it as temp tracks for editing and some have probably gone all the way and ended up as part of the final score.
In a way, you can think of trailer music in the same way one might think of advertising music, in that the aims of both are the same - to sell a product.
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The standalone music of John Williams is strange because his purpose is to compose contemporary classical music. The music he composes for films is different because it follows the rules of older classical music: melody, harmony and coherence.
That is not the real reason his concert work is different. His concert work also has internal coherent logic - melodic and harmonic and utilises classical techniques. But his concert music is a different composing paradigm and aesthetic altogether, a freer and more personal one, which explains the differences between that and film work. It's also the reason I for one don't see film music as exclusively classical, apart from trivial and obvious superficialities.
We're still going on about the elderly, passed or soon to be passed soundtrack composers. Doesn't anyone have any regard for any of the younger generation?
yep, I do but my take on this does not change.
..............Ok, now we can go on with the debate: are some film scores a modern and adapted form of classical music?
That seems a reasonable proposition to me but I would word it slightly different as in "are (some) film scores an adapted form of modern and classical practices?" To this I'd say yes with the qualification that the end result is still only a superficial comparison imv because despite any similar practices, the compositional procedures and mindset between film work and concert music are totally different.
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JW to retire his film writing and concentrate on concert music...
Here's a pertinent quote from the article..
“A purist may say that music represented in film is not absolute music. Well, that may be true,” says Williams. “But some of the greatest music ever written has been narrative. Certainly in opera. Film offers that opportunity — not often but occasionally it does. And in a rewarding way musically. Occasionally we get lucky and we find one.”
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oops...sorry VFTE, I didn't see your post although how I missed it is troubling, must pay more attention... ;)
I wonder if you have an example of such a successful film (a lucky find above)?
You'd have to ask the man himself. My guesss is that he means he was able in some films, to exercise and think in longer and more concert/theatre orientated phrasing, development and techniques (multi themes, motifs etc.), because of the vast amount of music required for certain projects (Star Wars, Raiders et al).
He is also given much licence in movies thanks to his genius and with Spielberg in particular, that trust gives him some considerable musical latitude. The famous story about the last 15 mins or so of E.T. show how much respect Spielberg has for JW. No matter how much he tried, JW could not conduct his lengthy and brilliant cue to get it in synch with parts of the action on screen. Spielberg told him to conduct it the way he wanted the music to go and the film was subsequently re-edited to the track.
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Can we say that John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Alan Menken, Thomas Newman, Ennio Morricone, Alan Silvestri and others COMPOSE music for a general purpose and then they ARRANGE it to fit the scenes of the film?
While they are COMPOSING the music they are already thinking about how it would sound outside of the film (because they want to sell albums and tickets for concerts), although when they arrange it they have to think about the images of the film.
Nope, that's not how it is. They may have bottom drawer music rejected from other projects that they can re-purpose and that might even include a suitable theme. Actually all media composers have big bottom drawers full to bursting of rejected music however generally speaking, each score has its own unique set of issues and needs to be written bespoke and in collaboration the director, producer etc.

Writing music to film is also instinctual, responding to the emotional and practical needs of any particular moment in the film with the appropriate mood, so clairvoyance is out too. The bottom drawer is useful if a composer is lucky, but not the answer to the puzzle a composer is beset with in writing a score. As part of solving that puzzle, composers will also strive to find a 'soundworld' for a score and that can only be done with the film and brief in front of them and after much thought and experimentation.

The only scenario where music is pre-written to a certain emotion or mood is in Library Tracks and there is a huge industry supplying such tracks to media. These can be used by editors as temps and some might even make it to the final cut but very, very rarely does this happen.

Nice try though HZ.... ;)
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Modern scoring has a different aesthetic and technical paradigm to the JW/Goldsmith/Hermann tradition which was much more traditionally based when it comes to composing. There is also directorial and commercial pressure involved that has been totally influenced by the digital means of creation and musical tropes that have developed in a more sustained fashion since the early 90's (ish) to accompany moods on screen. These ubiquitous tropes allied to the ease of creating music have all but democratised the job of film scoring to the point where in theory (but certainly not in practice), composers who are technically ignorant of the older school of composing can potentially break into the industry and do very well.

I personally don't mind this so much because imv, the film experience can and does benefit from a vastly expanded pallette of sound and approach even if that sometimes means a blander, stereotypical kind of music (Marvel,DC et al in particular) which I'm not much of a fan of. Occassionally there are real gems of approach and effect in scoring from quirky and unique individuals that contribute greatly to a film as a result of a different musical upbringing.
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