For a composer, is learning how to create diverse musical moods and emotions a basic requirement of the art? I say the answer is “yes”. I felt it important enough that I devoted a large portion of my Secret Composer software to the exploration and analysis of creating musical moods and emotions.
Some might ask if that should only be of concern and interest to film composers. Well, let’s talk briefly about film composers. Want me to name a few? How about Aaron Copland, Sergei Prokofiev, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Leonard Bernstein, and Aram Khachaturian. All these renowned composers wrote film scores, as well as concert music, because they recognized that great music is great music, no matter what forum it is intended for.
From the moment we closed the door on the silent film era, there has been a blurring of the line between concert and film music. The common denominator between memorable concert music and film music is that they both have the ability to affect our emotions for periods of time; and audiences find that desirable.
So do film directors. It’s hard to imagine the classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey without the presence of scores by Richard Strauss and Gyorgy Ligeti. While an uncountable number of films use classical music as part of their soundtrack, great composers have created new works for film that have become part of the standard concert repertoire. Copland’s The Red Pony, Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky and Bernstein’s On The Waterfront are prime examples of this. Included in this list should be John William’s score to the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. His brilliant combination of Debussy/Ravel impressionism with the more modern tonalities of Takemitsu and others creates a unique and unforgettable listening experience.
How exactly do composers create moods and emotions through music? By careful manipulation of melody, harmony, rhythm and orchestration. Is manipulation too cynical a term? Not at all. Musical notes and colors can combine in ways that touch us on a deeply personal level. Master composers have been exploiting these properties for hundreds of years. In modern times, film composers do the same. If the motivating force behind creating music is to communicate our feelings to one another, what could be more important to a composer than learning how to do that?