The ABC’s of Film Music

A is for the Academy Awards, my initial education into the world of film music

B is for Best Original Score

C is for the almighty CD, forever may it reign

D is for distasteful download only releases

E is for expanded editions

F is for Film Score Monthly, my first professional writing gig

G is for Golden Age film music (woohoo!)

H is for “Holy crap! I never thought they’d release  ______!” (Insert Holy Grail of choice. Oh, can also stand for Holy Grail.)

I is for inspiration, may every film composer find it

J is for Jerry, sometimes a first name is all you need

K is for “krap” (see D above)

L is for liner notes, preferably the properly researched and well-written kind

M is for meh, the generally agreed upon current state of film music

N is for Newman—Alfred Newman (and Thomas and Randy and David, but mainly Alfred)

O is for THE OMEN (bet you didn’t see that one coming!)

P is for Paramount Studios‘ mountain a-tumblin’ down

Q is for the questionable musical taste of today’s directors and studio execs

R is for Golden Age music restorations

S is for STAR WARS

T is for temp track (boo, hiss)

U is for useless soundtracks with a bunch of crappy pop songs and only one or two score tracks on them

V is for a distinct musical voice, something sadly lacking from much of film music

W is for “WTF?!” (usually screamed in horror on Oscar nomination day and again at the awards ceremony)

X is for “xtra” bonus tracks

Y is for you, my beloved readers

Z is for “Zounds, this is a lame ending to this list!”

What are your ABC’s of film music?

  1. Great list, Jim! How about:

    “Z” is for zither (see: Anton Karas, “The Third Man”)

  2. “W is for “WTF?!” (usually screamed in horror on Oscar nomination day and again at the awards ceremony)”

    Oh yes. Thank you so much for making W stand for WTF. Cuz that’s exactly what I’ve thought every year since 2004. What’s my favorite WTF moment?

    “Ok, that’s cool, you used typewriter sounds to create the percussion for one of your tracks…wait…it’s in almost every single track…wait, this is just the same stuff over and over…wait WHAT?! Oscar for best score?! WTF”

    A is for Amazon, who has the score I’m usually looking for when no-one else does.
    B is for Basil, who’s Conan score still inspires me, may he RIP.
    C is for Composer and Conductor, we hope may they be the same person.
    D is for disposable income. Which I wish I had more of to buy film scores.
    E is for Ennio. What more can I say.
    F is for Fiedel. I wish he’d return.
    G is for Goldsmith. Both Jerry and Joel.
    H is for Horner. Who has written my favorites.
    I is for iTunes, whom I love and hate.
    J is for John Williams, who introduced me to music through Star Wars.
    K is for Klaus Badelt. Who they should have hired to score POTC 2
    L is for Love. As in I LOVE FILM SCORES.
    M is for Michael Giacchino. A rising star with fresh ideas.
    N is for Newman. Thomas and Randy. They always seem to put me in a good mood.
    O is for Orchestra. May they make lots of money.
    P is for Portman. I love a woman’s perspective.
    Q is for questionable musical taste. I’m seconding that motion!
    R is for released. As in: previously unreleased tracks!
    S is for Star Wars. Music I love.
    T is for Tilton. I can’t wait to see him do his first film.
    U is for unappreciated. I think Stardust is.
    V is for various artists. I typically hate those words.
    W is for Willet. Who’s Dreamfall score is the best game score IMO.
    X is for X marks the spot. A great track by Williams.
    Y is for Yule. As in YULE hate your relatives for not giving your filmscores for XMAS!
    Z is for Zimmer. Whom I still love, despite POTC 2.

    1. What a great list, Matthew! Thanks for commenting. Yours is far more clever than mine. Hmm… (questions whether or not thunder has been stolen)

      I disagree about your WTF score. I actually like it quite a bit. But I digress…

      My favorites from your list:

      D – Amen!
      I – Usually the latter.
      L – Amen!
      M – Amen!
      O – Should also go for C.
      P – Especially her perspective.
      V – Ugh, me too.
      X – Bully for you! I never would have come up with that one.
      Y – Cracked me up.

      This was great. Thanks again. :)

  3. I thought I would have a go. . .

    A is Arnold, David Arnold
    B is for Barry, on whose shoulders Dave Arnold often finds himself standing
    C is for Critical, which is what everyone, most especially the film composer, is of every minor decision and detail in a film score
    D is for Delicious, as in the kind of lush textures one finds in scores for films in greater concentration and variety than in any other form
    E is for Everything, which is what every film composer must be able to do
    F is for Futile, referring to the desire of those who love aspects of the film music tradition that change despite our collective horror
    G is for Great, as in Goldsmith, KornGold, and sometimes Goldenthal
    H is for Herculean, which is the task of scoring even the simplest of films.
    I is for Intuition which guided the great composers of the the past better than the temp scores forced upon the great film composers of today
    J is for John and Jerry
    K is for kindness, which inexplicably exists among composers and musicians trapped in the studio machine run by evil overlords (eg those who claim writers credit just because they can.)
    L is for lowly, which is what film composers are in the hierarchy of the system
    M is for magical, for those dozens of scores and cues that will forever call for young composers to put up with all the *#$! and dedicate their lives to film music
    N is for New, which is the aspect of a score’s ‘sound’ that appeals to directors and executives
    O is for Old, which is the tradition the ‘New’ sound must be steeped in for it to stand the test of time.
    P is for piracy, which is the most complex issue of our times
    Q is for qualitative, which film scores will always be, regardless what that test screening report says
    R is for Royalties, the only way for composers to make a decent living (see P)
    S is for Salty Dogs (edited for content from S–thead S–s of B–t-h A–h—s), those composers who take advantage of the younglings of our craft.
    T is for talent, which is vastly overrated until it is all that matters.
    U is for Understanding, the universal motivation driving great scores
    V is for Vanity. There is plenty of it. Speaking of which, I am super excited to read a review for Voyage to the Moon! :-)
    W is for Why Not? – a question that often bodes well
    X is for xylophone, and instrument other composer use well that confuses me
    Y is for ‘Yes, I can do that” or “Yes, that is possible”
    Z is for Zeitgeist, which film music represents so well

    1. James, thanks for commenting! Yet another great list! And I love that it’s from a composer’s point of view. I hope everyone scrolls down to read your list. Fascinating! Thanks for sharing.

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