10 Film Music-Related Things You Might Not Know About Jim Lochner

You can tell I’m going through a creative dry spell if I’m forced to focus a blog post solely on me. I usually try to be a bit more subtle about my self-aggrandizing than this. What makes it worse, with my Bio section and the numerous posts that I’ve posted over the last 18 months, you’d think I would have mined everything there is to know about me, at least with regards to film music. And perhaps I have. Only you can be the judge. If not, here are 10 film music-related nuggets that may or may not be of interest, in no particular order, and not a mention of THE OMEN anywhere!

  1. I’m not a fan of reviews, especially writing them. For me, they’re difficult to write well. And as much as I like to tout new and old scores (and spout forth my opinion) as much as the next film music fan, there’s no particular reason why you should take my word over someone else’s for a particular score, either good or bad. Who am I to judge another person’s artistic endeavor? But the reviews generate the most traffic on the blog, so I keep writing them. Just know that every review you read on this site is like giving birth for me.
  2. I like writing negative reviews even less. Unless it’s a score for a major film, I choose not to pollute cyberspace with or focus my time and efforts on more negative energy. I leave that to the message boards. Basically, I aspire to the words of Brad Bird.
  3. I like to have at least 4-5 listens of a score before I even begin to write a  review. It takes time for music to sink in, especially if I can’t (or won’t) watch the film. Between the need to live with the music for awhile and the birthing pains, some of my reviews are unfortunately not as timely as I’d like them to be.
  4. I usually don’t read liner notes. Having written my share, like reviews, they’re tough to do well. Finding that perfect balance of historical information and musical analysis is challenging. Like all writing, some people do it better than others.
  5. You wouldn’t believe this if you saw my housekeeping routine (or lack thereof), but I like order, especially in writing. Whether it’s a blog post, review, liner notes, what have you, give me a strong opening sentence that proceeds in a logical fashion to a strong closer. I can’t say I always achieve this myself, but it’s something I strive for…and wish more people did as well. (Is that too “Journalism 101”?)
  6. I tend to put up a wall when it comes to the latest popular composer or score. I also do it with movies, TV shows, books, you name it. The minute something smacks of pop culture, I tune out. The more people gush and fawn over something, the less likely I am to enjoy it, that’s if you can even get me to watch/hear/read it. It may take me years to get around to a particular score or composer. If it’s stood the test of time, great. If not, I didn’t miss anything in the first place.
  7. It may seem ridiculous to state it, but I like film music that has an emotional connection. As a music journalist, I can look at music objectively (or at least try to) and analyze it to death, usually finding a kernel of good in all but the most atrocious of compositions (which you’ll never hear about anyway–see #2 above). But if the music doesn’t elicit some emotion–sadness, joy, fear, excitement–then it fails, whether or not it “works” in the film.
  8. I can’t remember ever attending a full-out film music concert. I’ve heard bits and pieces of film music at pops concerts back when I lived in Boston, but I avoid full concerts of film music like the plague. The “greatest hits” selections that are usually performed don’t particularly appeal to me, and the performances (from what I’ve seen/heard) don’t usually capture the energy and enthusiasm of the score. Have I been missing out? Perhaps. But I’m not yet convinced.
  9. Out of the nearly 3,100 scores I own, I’ve seen roughly 1,000 of the films. In other words, just 33%. That goes to show that you don’t need to see a film (or opera, ballet, symphony, pop artist, etc.) to enjoy the music. The best film music transcends and lasts beyond its celluloid origins.
  10. I’m a few months in to the Managing Editor position at FSM Online and I must say it’s been a real eye-opener. Reading the magazine with my editing hat on has expanded my views of film music. I just spent many bullet points telling you things I don’t like to do, and yet when I open myself up to reading other writers’ takes on film music, I invariably learn. The fact that there are so many people passionate about talking and writing about film music–for the magazine, on blogs and, yes, even on the message boards–is pretty remarkable. A heartfelt thanks from a (mostly) appreciative fellow fan.
  1. Just 33%? Very interesting. While I can enjoy film music without the film, I usually enjoy music’s marriage with the visuals a whole lot more!

    Film music is very subjective like all art, I rarely disagree with your reviews though. You’ve opened up a World of music to me that I would never have heard had it not been for this site, and I can’t thank you enough for that.

    1. If I hand’t been a collector for 34 years (call me a qausi-hoarder, if you will) then perhaps the percentage would be higher. Ideally, I’d be able to watch all the films, but the time element is a factor. But if I waited to see films to appreciate the score, I’d miss out on a lot of international scores. I’m already woefully challenged in that area already. :)

      But your point is a valid one. And as a composer, I’m sure you see this differently. I often wish we all had the opportunity to score a film, even a short, just so we’d see the challenges that composers go through. Speaking for myself, it would probably make me much more appreciative of their efforts.

      1. I still buy music to films I haven’t seen, and I won’t go and watch a film if the music has had bad reviews.

        Also, I don’t think I can judge film music outside of it’s purpose i.e. to underscore a film. Although scores are very often crafted for a more enjoyable listening experience upon their release, I can’t attach as much emotion and meaning to the music as I would have had I seen it with the film.

        Even as a composer I’m more inspired by imagery than music which is why I got in to scoring and perhaps helps to explain my feelings above.

        I hope that makes sense XD

        1. It’s interesting that you’re more inspired by the imagery. Since I have absolutely no visual eye (as my apartment “decorating” will attest), I’m fascinated by people who can appreciate that.

  2. I don’t think I could compose were I to be suddenly blinded, I’d have to rethink my whole approach to making music. Even when I write songs it’s all about imagery and my imagination. Without imagination, I’d be lost.

    1. I would think your imagination would still be there, just maybe focused on sounds instead of images. You’re probably right, a rethink would definitely be in order. But, hey, if Beethoven can go deaf and compose, well then… :)

  3. An interesting conversation; I tend to question the fundamental need for imagery to create a great film score. I would speculate that Alex North could have conjured up the music for A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE based on Tennessee Williams’ words alone. His score is as sultry and lurid as the play, and the score is definitey more insidious and sensual than any imagery the compromised film could inspire.
    Another case is THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN: that lively theme accompanies some of the most leisurely sequences imaginable in the film. His music effectively fools the audience into thinking that more is going on than really is – an imaginative technique for sure. If you listen to the score never having seen the film, you would imagine a far more exciting picture than delivered. Note also: the Marlboro commercials were designed around that iconic theme and had much more visual appeal and impact on viewers.

    Your comments on live performances of film music intrigued me also. I think their value lies in the fact that they definitely develop a listener’s sense of live orchestral sound and timbre. It contributes to one’s ongoing appreciation of true, high-fidelity recording techniques; lest one spend their whole life sadly thinking that the Bose wave radio delivers lifelike, let alone, full frequency sound. :)

    1. I would think different composers work in different ways, much like any artist. As for STREETCAR, compromised or not, it’s still a damn good movie IMO. I’m just thankful for wherever North got his inspiration. Interesting point you brought up about MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. I knew the score for years before I finally saw the movie a few years ago. I was surprised that the movie didn’t fit what I expected from the music. Still enjoyable nonetheless.

      As for live performances, I’m certainly not debating their value. But it’s interesting that everyone latches on to different things when it comes to music. For some it’s all about the audio. For others, it’s simply enough to have the music. (That’s more where I come from.) And still others want the live experience with other people around them. I’m more solitary so my brain always wanders in live performance. And I can easily tune out audio infidelities in older recordings. Thankfully there’s something for everyone.

  4. I was reminded of a years ago interview in which Elmer Bernstein discussed using his rhythm change-up technique for the Exodus sequence in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. After first scoring the event in a style that more closely matched DeMille’s typically, uhm, stately pacing, he decided to evoke activity and excitement instead, much like the effect in MAG 7.

    1. Interesting. That explains why that cue sounds closer to Bernstein’s style and seems a bit at odds with the rest of the score, though it is memorable.

    1. I thought I had replied to this already. I remember typing the response. I guess I forgot to click “add comment”. Anyway, here, in essence, was what I typed before…

      “LOL No wonder why that cue sounds so much more like Elmer than much of the rest of the score.”

      Was that worth waiting for? Not particularly. :)

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