The History and Future of Hollywood Film Music – Highlights form the event with Michael Giacchino and Randy Newman

History and Future of Hollywood Film Music

If you’ve seen a Pixar movie (of course you have) then you’ve experienced the musical compositions of Randy Newman (Toy Story 1-3, A Bugs Life, Cars, Monsters, Inc.) or Michael Giacchino (The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Up, Cars 2).

Of course, there have been more composers for Pixar films than just Randy and Michael, but these two gentlemen, in addition to David Newman and Trevor Rabin are the panel of experts who are fielding questions about their careers and the history and future of Hollywood film music (as presented by 89.3 KPCC radio).

Below is a summary of Randy and Michael’s comments – I hope you find them useful to get a little more insight into the movie-making process of Pixar films.

  • Michael mentioned that when composers get the animated storyboards or the first cut of the movie, they have a temp track associated with them. The temp track is a temporary track of music that the director and editor have attached to the scenes – this music is music from other movies that have already been released. The director/editor does this to try and test the scene when a base level of music to see if the scene is feeling like it works as they intend. Michael noted that he works very closely with directors and they often tell him to turn off the temp track and create what he feels, but there are times when they will say, “listen to this moment – that’s the feeling we’re very specifically trying to get here”.
  • The panel all mentioned that they get involved with the film process quite early. Michael mentioned that he wants to get involved with the movie as early as possible and will sometimes go to the production set (or screening room) to get the early feel.  In true, quirky, somewhat dark fashion, Randy Newman mentioned that he would never go to a movie set even if it was in his backyard – he will wait until the first cut is done.
  • They talked about the current trend of rock musicians pairing up with a composer to score a movie (after Trent Reznor scored The Social Network soundtrack). They said it’s too early to get a real feel if this will stay or if it is a passing trend, but Randy noted that it’s a big talking point in the industry right now. He compared it to how rock musicians always banter about what is “real rock”, the classical and movie composers are also asking who are “true composers”. He thinks it’s a bunch of snobberies and it will take time to see how the industry moves on this.
  • Michael went out of his way to praise the live musicians that he works with. He noted that he uses the same full team of musicians on all of the live recordings he does – he feels this gives him a more family feel for his compositions and allows for more emotion to come out while they’re recording.
  • The panel all agreed that you have to “feel” the scene in order to compose music that contains emotion behind it. Michael mentioned that he was really connected with the opening scene in Up and said that he cried when he was solely viewing the storyboards because he was thinking to himself, “oh my gosh, this is something we’re all going to have to go through”.

In my opinion, Michael was a complete class act at the event and definitely seemed the most upbeat of the four panelists. He provided the most insight into composing for film and presented his information in a professional manner.

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