Exploring the Craft: Cinematic Scores

Exploring The Craft is a new series of articles in which every month, we delve into an area of filmmaking, assessing its importance and giving examples of films which use these certain aspects seamlessly. This month, we will be exploring cinematic scores.

“To me, movies and music go hand in hand. When I’m writing a script, one of the first things I do is find the music I’m going to play for the opening sequence.” – Quentin Tarantino

Music and visuals have almost always gone hand-in-hand. Before films had synchronized dialogue, they would often have music to enhance the visuals. Now, this is known to be a cinematic score, one of the oldest and most important aspects of filmmaking.

Why are scores so important to films? Well it’s quite simple; a score can set or enhance a mood. One of the best examples for this is in horror films; the music will have a lot of build up, maybe with sinister sounds, to create suspense. Then, loud noises are timed perfectly to inflict a jump scare. On the other hand, however, a romantic film may have an uplifting soundtrack, or an action film may have a dynamic score with a lot of drums. Ultimately, all of this is used to enhance what is on our screen. Something you may have heard is that what we see is 50% because our brains use all of our senses to process a mental image. If you were to take a film and remove the score, it would seem a lot less dramatic and maybe even disappointing. Music is a good manipulator for mood. Have you ever been listening to your favourite song and it’s made you feel happier? This is, in essence, what film scores do but with a wider range of moods.

Iconic composer Hans Zimmer

Iconic composer Hans Zimmer

An article about scores wouldn’t be complete without Hans Zimmer. After all, he is often regarded as one of the greatest composers of cinematic scores. He has seemingly done a score for every type of film from Inception (2010) and Pearl Harbour (2001) to The Lion King (1994) and The Simpsons Movie (2007); he is pretty much the most popular composer in Hollywood and one of the most innovative, taking the song Edith Piaf’s Non Je Ne Regrette rien and slowing it down to represent music whilst in a dream state in Inception, and forming supergroup The Magnificent Six to compose the score for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014).

Wondering what films to study in admiration of the score? Some of the finest recommendations of recent years include Inception along with Mad Max: Fury Road (Tom Holkenborg, 2015), Requiem for a Dream (Clint Mansell, 2000), Transformers (Steve Jablonsky, 2007), Gravity (Steven Price, 2013) and Drive (Cliff Martinez, 2011).

Scores are not specific to film, however, with some TV shows demonstrating excellence in the field, such as Game of Thrones (Ramin Djawadi, 2011 -) and Utopia (2013 – 2014).

Scores are vital to any film, most of which are tailor-made. Although their films aren’t always received well critically, like Transformers, the score can be phenomenal in its own right.

What’s your favourite film score?

Comment with yours thoughts.

– Dom Shaw


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