The initial point at which a composer presents music to the director for approval is often a situation of anticipation for the composer. Over the years though, I’ve been surprised to find that directors often have a harder time with this stage than the composers. Yes, the composer is wondering if the director will like the music, but the director is often wondering…what if I don’t like the music? What if it doesn’t work? How do I tell him? Will he be defensive? Will he take it personally?

That’s why I think it’s so important in the creative relationship for the composer to make it clear that ego is not a factor when it comes to the music. The composer has a responsibility to create an environment where the director is comfortable enough to be free and honest with his feedback. Any comments or criticisms are more than welcome. Yes, it’s okay if you don’t like a cue. Yes, it’s okay if you don’t like the initial concept. A negative response to a music cue gives the composer as much insight into the director’s vision for the film as a positive one. Making changes and rewrites are part and parcel of the collaborative process and are how you end up with a score that is to the director’s satisfaction and the film’s betterment.


  • September 20, 2012, 2:07 pm  Reply

    As a filmmaker with a slightly-better-than-basic understanding of music, I can tell you it’s not just the fear of offending the composer. A lot of it has to do with a fear that I don’t have the vocabulary or musical background to properly express what I’m looking for in the music (especially if the composer’s initial cues don’t work the way I’d like them to). I imagine that for people with no musical background at all, this is even more intimidating. Music has a language all its own, and without the vocabulary, it’s very hard to talk about.


    • admin
      September 20, 2012, 2:27 pm

      You’re pre-empting my next blog post, Arnon! πŸ™‚ Good to know I’m on the right track, talking about film music issues that matter to directors.

      It’s never a good idea if the composer puts the director in the situation of having to try and communicate using musical jargon or necessitating a musical background. It’s inefficient, to say the least, besides being an almost guaranteed minefield for misunderstandings. Next blog post will be my take on this subject.

  • Wayne K.
    September 20, 2012, 1:59 pm  Reply

    Good post, Aaron,

    As a director, one the worst traps one can fall into is falling in love with the temp track.

    In many cases, the composer will deliver a track that is better than the temp track, but one
    if often unable to ‘hear it’ because the temp track has become emblazoned into ones sense-memory of a scene.

    I’ve found it incredibly helpful to lay in the new music and spend as much time as possible watching the scene with the new music – as many times as possible – BEFORE giving feedback to the composer.

    First one needs to purge the old music, before you can even begin to appreciate the new.

    Thankfully it’s a skill that improves over time, but it trips up a lot of people, and can create a lot of anxiety in the editing process.

    Regardless, having an open dialogue with the composer, as you suggest above, makes all the world of difference.

    • admin
      September 20, 2012, 2:14 pm

      Excellent point, Wayne!

      Temp tracks are a double edged sword. They can be a very useful tool, but like you say, it can trip people up. It’s always a joy to see a when a director is aware of it, it’s half the battle fought. I think I have a blog post or two in me about it. πŸ™‚

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