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Techniques and Technology for Composing for Film and Television

  • Module code: MU7008
  • Year: 2018/9
  • Level: 7
  • Credits: 30
  • Pre-requisites: None
  • Co-requisites: None

Summary

This module deals in depth with the subject of composition for film and television. Students explore, through lectures and seminars, the essential technology and techniques that composers for Film and Television need to master. Subjects covered include the use of Main Themes, underscoring and the harmonic languages of soundtracks, in both big and small screen contexts.  Coursework consists of several compositions to image, chosen to encourage musical diversity and exploration of compositional styles, together with a written commentary.

Aims

  • To familiarise the student with the essential processes involved in writing for broadcast media and with different styles and their associated techniques. 
  • To develop the student's practical compositional techniques and ability to write for both electronic and acoustic instruments.
  • To stimulate the student's imagination in composing to picture.
  • To enable the student critically to consider the various roles that music can have in films.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of the roles of music in relation to picture;
  • Demonstrate a practical knowledge of industry-standard electronic techniques for working to picture;
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the processes involved in writing music for the media;
  • Demonstrate a professional approach to writing music for picture;
  • Demonstrate a practical knowledge of both traditional and contemporary  orchestral techniques for working to picture;
  • Work within the discipline of a brief and show adaptability in the realisation of the music for a project;
  • Analyse sections of film music and discuss their relationships with the images.

Curriculum content

  • The role of music in relation to film (moving images?):  its history and its current place in the burgeoning media industry
  • An overview of jobs, roles and relationships within the industry
  • Exploring the opportunities offered by, and using video footage within, music software
  • Techniques for working effectively to a brief
  • Monitoring progress through scheduled meetings and understanding why composers may not ‘get it right first time'
  • Analysis of music composed for film and TV (e.g., varied genres, and scores which exhibit theme and variation)
  • The process and practicalities involved in writing for the media: visiting professionals cover topics such as writing music for film, television dramas and documentaries, advertising and providing library music

Teaching and learning strategy

This module will be taught through lectures, seminars and workshops.  Lectures introduce the subject-matter, and there are opportunities to engage with visiting professionals from the industry.  Workshops provide practical demonstration of techniques.  Seminars provide the opportunity for analysis and critical evaluation of music listened to, as well as for the provision of formative feedback on independent work.

Breakdown of Teaching and Learning Hours

Definitive UNISTATS Category Indicative Description Hours
Scheduled learning and teaching Lectures, seminars and workshops 33
Scheduled learning and teaching 267
Total (number of credits x 10) 300

Assessment strategy

The assessment for this module is designed to test the students' ability to explore and understand the processes involved in composing and producing music for picture. The assignments that are set will enable both creative and analytical processes.

Assessment will be by several compositions for extracts of film of 7-8 minutes in total length chosen by the Module Leader.  These will be submitted as recordings (synchronised to picture) and scores, and the assessment will be based on the complete production of each (including sound quality and production techniques as well as compositional content).  Work will be required to be of a professional standard.  A written commentary of 3,000 words containing a critical discussion and evaluation of the techniques used, and details specific to each extract will be submitted with the compositions.

Mapping of Learning Outcomes to Assessment Strategy (Indicative)

Learning Outcome Assessment Strategy
1) Demonstrate a critical understanding of the roles of music in relation to picture: Assessed summatively through the commentary.
2) Demonstrate a practical knowledge of industry-standard electronic techniques for working to picture: Assessed summatively by requiring the students to submit work that has been prepared and produced on particular software platforms.
3) Demonstrate knowledge of the processes involved in writing music for the media: Assessed summatively through the commentary.
4) Demonstrate a professional approach to writing music for picture: Assessed summatively through the compositions.
5) Demonstrate a practical knowledge of both traditional and contemporary orchestral techniques for working to picture: Assessed summatively through the compositions
6) Work within the discipline of a brief and show adaptability in the realisation of the music for a project Assessed summatively through the composition and the commentary, and formatively through feed-forward seminars
7) Analyse sections of film music and discuss their relationships with the images Assessed summatively through the commentary

Elements of Assessment

Description of Assessment Definitive UNISTATS Categories Percentage
Coursework Portfolio 100
Total (to equal 100%) 100%

Achieving a pass

It IS a requirement that the major category of assessment is passed in order to achieve an overall pass for the module

Bibliography core texts

Yewdall, D. L. (2003) Practical Art of Motion Picture Sound.  2nd edition. London: Focal Press.

Karlin, F and Wright, R. (2004) On the Track: A Guide To Contemporary Film Scoring, 2nd edition. New York: Routledge

Bibliography recommended reading

Adler, S. (1989) The Study of Orchestration.  London: W. W. Norton.

Brown, R.  S. (1994)   Overtones and Undertones - Reading Film Music. London: University of California Press.

Burt, G. (1996) The Art of Film Music.  Boston: North Eastern University Press.

Cooke, M (2008) A History of Film Music.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Eisler, H. & Adorno, T. (1994) Composing for the Films. London: Athlone Press.

Fiegel, E. (2001) John Barry: A Sixties Theme, From James Bond To Midnight Cowboy. London: Boxtree.

Gorbman, C. (1987)  Unheard Melodies: narrative film music.  London: British Film Institute.

Halfyard, J.K.  (2004)  Danny Elman's Batman: A Film Score Guide. Oxford: Scarecrow Press.

Palmer, C. (1993) The Composer in Hollywood. London: Marion Boyars.

Prendergast, R.  M. (1992) Film Music: A Neglected Art.  New York: W. W. Norton.

Rona, J.C. (2009) The Reel World: scoring for pictures, 2nd edition. Milwaukee WI: Hal Leonard

Thomas, T. (1991) Film Music: the art and craft of movie music. Burbank: Riverwood Press.

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