Monday, 14 January 2013

Howard Shore: Film Score Composer

Having recently watched the 2002 movie 'Gangs of New York', I was captivated by one of the scores composed by Howard Shore titled 'Brooklyn Heights':

To give some background on the context and plot of the movie so that we can understand Shore's choices with the composition, 'Gangs of New York' is set during the Mid 19th Century. This was a very significant political era with the Civil War regarding slavery. It was also during this era that an influx of Irish immigrants moved to America. The main protagonist 'Amsterdam Vallon' is of Irish routes, most likely resulting in the celtic influenced section of the score beginning around the one minute mark. We can hear stringed instruments and flutes which to me communicate a theme of Irish tradition. We also hear a tradition hyme-like vocal performance, obviously Catholicism tying in very strongly with Irish culture. As the score begins, there is a very minor feel, again with the choir-like vocals. It seems to communicate loss and grieving, like something that might be sang at a funeral gathering. This perhaps is to signify the death of Amsterdam's father, 'Priest Vallon' and it's effect on the protagonist. I am personally captivated by the motif which is introduced around the 3:10 mark in the video. This melody is re-introduced at various points throughout the film, usually when see the protagonist making significant moves towards his ultimate goal, which is to avenge the death of his father. It seems to enforce motivation and drive which fits with the theme of vengeance which runs through the movie.

As music and sound design is another interest of mine, I was interested by how Shore incorporates a sense of narrative and storytelling in his compositions. I found this video:

In this video, Shore talks about how when working on this particular score for 'The Hobbit', he began by reading the book. Whilst reading, we see him 'sketch' on a music sheet the notes he hears in his mind as he reads the piece of literature. It is interesting to imagine how the moods and emotions he feels while reading the tale translate into music. This is likely what makes Shore's compositions fit in so seamlessly with the images on screen and immerse the audience.

It is interesting to consider the important role that music plays within storytelling, as piece of narrative cannot be fully effective with visuals alone. Shore's compositions are dynamic and convey the moods and themes within the stories they correspond with perfectly. So much so perhaps, that some may not even consciously distinguish the visual elements from the audio elements. This is likely Shore's intention, just like it is the editor's intention for the cuts between shots to be un-noticable to the audience.

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