Composer Mark Isham talks about his process, his use of melody and how he combines acoustic and electronic elements.
Key Insights

  • Traditional instruments communicate human emotions; electronic music is great for building fresh, unknown, magical environments. By combining the two, a composer has all the tools needed to create a unique score.
  • Composing music takes time regardless of whether you’re creating something totally new or finding your voice to recreate a version of the temp music.
  • Melody has emotional impact - it can be simple or complex, but is a strong way to communicate emotion. 
  • Music in film goes through trends - currently melody is being put aside while there's a shift to more atmospheric, ambient music in which the dialogue is “the melody”.
  • You can score for concept, theme, emotion and characters in creating the sound of the film.
  • A composer should decide on the couple of scenes they want to use to best define what the film is going to communicate musically. 
  • Scoring comedic scenes doesn’t require making “funny music” - music can be used to juxtapose against the visuals, more effectively enhancing the comedy of the scene. 
  • A composer can come in at different points of the process - usually it’s at the beginning of post, but ideally it’s before the film goes into the production so the composer and director can create the sound together.
  • A composer should find a way to get directors to express what they want musically and find an effective way to interpret their responses during the scoring process
  • The act of creating can be immediate - pick up your instrument and play or start doing anything to jump start your process.

Mark Isham is an electronic music innovator, jazz artist and prolific film composer. He traverses the musical landscape with unique performances and imaginative scores. more...

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