I have an embarrassing admission. This weekend while I was watching the television, I saw an interesting commercial with a completely gorgeous song in it. I could have sworn up and down that the song was the theme from Alan Menken’s score for Beauty and the Beast.
Well, I was wrong. It wasn’t Disney but Camille Saint-Saëns’ the Aquarium movement from Carnival of the Animals. Talk about feeling sheepish.
So in addition to this little incident and the Oscar nominations on Tuesday, I was thinking about film scores and classical music, and how the two inform each other.
How many times have you heard music at the movies and couldn’t help but think it was Holst and not Horner who’d written the score? And how frequently have you seen outstanding orchestras and performers lending their talents to film scores?
Music has always been integral to the movie experience. It has to do a lot to support the film: characters, moments, cinematography, design of the film, and the mood.
Thinking about film scores, it’s hard for me to come up with any of my favorites that didn’t feel, at least in some part, influenced by some classical composer or musician. And I’m not sure I find anything wrong with it.
One quick Google search tells me that people are a bit sensitive about this in particular. Film scores deeply influenced by classical music get labeled as “heavily borrowed” and “plagiarized”.
A lot of classical music can’t stand on its own in film simply because it was not written to fit into the mood and movement of the movie and enhance or support the film (unless it is given an actual role like Looney Toon’s with The Blue Danube in Corny Concerto or in Amadeus or Copying Beethoven). Enter the film composer to imagine and interpret a score, and maybe, somewhere along the lines, incorporate a little influence from others?
I read an interview in the L.A. Times recently with pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet about the process of performing movie music. While he had a lot to say, one thing stuck with me.
“The good composers of soundtracks, I admire them as much as I do classical composers. I don't make a difference between them — a composer is a composer. The movies are the opera of modern times. Had there been movies back when, Puccini and Wagner would have certainly written film scores,” he said in the article.
Anyway, what I want to know is what you think about classical music and film music informing each other? Is it okay to have a score heavily influenced by a classical composer or is it plagiarism or just laziness? What about Thibaudet’s assertion? Is a composer a composer? Can movie music sometimes qualify as classical music?