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February 24, 2011 - Image 10

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.2B - Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Michigan Daily- michigandaily.corn

ORIGINAL SCORE
Keeping score with the music awards

The history behind
what makes a Best
Original Score
By JOE CADAGIN
Daily FineArtsEditor
Imagine watching the open-
ing scene of Stanley Kubrick's
"2001: A Space Odyssey" without
its iconic musical score. Instead
of the rumbling opening C major
chord of Richard Strauss's "Also
Sprach Zarathustra," the film
would begin with an uncomfort-
able silence as deep as the uni-
verse it depicts.
Scores provide a level of
meaning in a film beyond the
events that occur onscreen. The
added sense of aural dramahelps
capture the viewer's imagination
and pull him or her into the film.
"2001" would become a mind-
numbing series of long, boring
shots of outer space were it not
for the captivating score.
Since 1934, the Academy of
Motion Picture Arts and Sci-
ences has annually voted to
select film scores that best serve
as dramatic vehicles for their
respective films. According to
the Academy's official rules, a
film's music is judged on its own

quality as well as its contribution
to the film.
What seems like a simple task
of choosing the best score, how-
ever, has been complicated with
the introduction of an impor-
tant criterion: originality. Dur-
ing the 77 years that awards for
best score have existed, there
has always been at least one cat-
egory requiring that the scores
nominated are unique and origi-
nal pieces of music by a single
composer. Since the '30s, this
category has undergone several
erratic modifications, evolutions,
divisions and redefinitions.
Nathan Platte, a lecturer in
the School of Music, Theatre &
Dance who studied studio-era
film music as a doctoral student
at the University, explained
that the emphasis on original-
ity can be traced to the days of
silent film. When a new film was
shown, an organist or orches-
tra would perform excerpts of
pre-existing classical music as
accompaniment. Yet the fact
that these pieces were poorly
arranged instrumentally and
incomplete compositionally
angered music lovers.
"So (composers) started com-
posing, sometimes for special
films, an 'original score,' " Platte
said. "Sometimes it would be

completely original and some- - like Scoring of a Musical Pic-
times it would incorporate other ture and Scoring of Music, Adap-
music. But the idea was tation or Treatment - that give
that that music had these "unoriginal" scores the
been written specifi- a recognition they deserve.
cally for that film. Even today, there exists a
And that carried secondary category of Best
into the sound era." Original Musical - but it
However, this has never been awarded
insistence on original- because there haven't
ity is a double-edged been enough worthy
sword: Though submissions to justify
the category its inclusion.
encourages
creativity,n
it also

times a film was placed in both,
and sometimes a film that should
have been in one was placed in
the other and vice versa. It's
always been messy."
"I think it's an interesting
problem to have, though," he
added. "It reflects on the ideas
of what is original and why we
prize it over something that is
'less original.'"
Among the various music cat-
egories, the award for Best Orig-
inal Score has reigned supreme
since the mid '80s, resulting in
a trail of neglected "unoriginal"
scores that were ineligible for
nomination.
This year, it's easy to see the
controversial effects of this lim-
iting single category and the
debates that erupt as a result
of the originality requirement.
Composer Carter Burwell's score
for "True Grit" was ousted from
a Best Original Score nomination
since it contained arrangements
of American hymns and folk
songs. Likewise, Clint Mansell's
score for "Black Swan" was ineli-
gible because much of the mate-
rial Mansell used came from
Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake,"
albeit with substantial rear-
rangements.
While it is true that Mansell's
and Burwell's scores rely heav-

ily on pre-existing music, they
are by no means the only films
made during 2010 that make
use of outside material. In fact,
every one of this year's nominees
for Best Original Score includes
some sort ofborrowed music. For
example, "The King's Speech"
includes substantial portions
of Beethoven's symphonies
and concertos, and Hans Zim-
mer, in his score to "Inception,"
reworked the introduction of
Edith Piaf's hit song "Non, je ne
regrette rien."
The moment a pre-existing
musical source is incorporated, a
score becomes less than 100-per-
cent original. To get around this,
the Academy added a definition
of an original score as one that
is "diluted by the use of tracked
themes or other pre-existing
music." Yet who's to say what
constitutes that a film is "dilut-
ed" by outside material?
In the end, the decision is a
subjective one that lies in the
hands of the few Academy mem-
bers who select the nominees.Yet
as long as the originality criterion
continues to determine the Best
Original Score, the Academy will
exclude composers who may not
be original in their source mate-
rial, but who treat pre-existing
music in a new way.

TECHNICAL CATEGORIES
Zooming in on the Academy's tech categories

By MACKENZIE METER
DailyArts Writer
Sometimes the Academy
Awards are boring. From Makeup
to Art Direction to the inevitable
awkward segues to the previously
filmed sci-tech awards, the cere-
mony can seem tedious. Nonethe-
less, amid the stifled yawns and
quick trips to restock on snacks,
some very significant honors are
granted to the thousands of art-
ists who work behind the scenes,
quietly making sure we never
notice they were there.
These award categories
include Cinematography, Film
Editing, Visual Effects, Sound
Editing and Sound Mixing. While
the techies rejoice, most viewers
are left scratching their heads,
not understanding why such a
distinction needs to be awarded
for something that goes unno-
ticed - purposely - by audiences
across the nation and the world.
Let's take this one step at a time
and start with the visual catego-
ries. According to Dan Herbert,
an assistant professor of screen
arts and cultures, cinematogra-
phy is a paramount aspect for the
success of a film and requires the
efforts of many.
"Cinematography is generally
all of the preparation and techni-
cal work to get an image on cel-

luloid," he said. "So, working with might not be as successful as it is.
lenses, working with light and "All of the images are so per-
working with the camera." fectly composed in terms of light-
Cinematographers for widely ing and composition," Herbert
acclaimed films like "Inception," said. "I think that there are really
a nominee for Best Cinematogra- interesting ways that the cinema-
phy this year, are responsible for tography creates moods in that
the cohesion of otherwise infea- film that aren't in the story itself.
sible films. Cinematography really makes
that movie."
While cinematography hap-
W hat's awarded pens as the film is being shot,
visual effects are often added
after shooting wraps by visual.
effects artists working
commercials. with computers. A
prime exam-
ple can be
found in
" 'Inception' is really interest- Visual
ing because it's a really complex Effects
narrative that uses a lot of com- nomi- -
puter-generated stuff, but Chris- nee
topher Nolan and Wally Pfister,
who's his cinematographer, go
for a very photo-realistic look in
the film," Herbert said. "Part of
what's impressive in terms of the
cinematography is that it draws
in the viewer ... convinces the
viewer that this is real because it
looks photographically real, even
though there are lots of special
effects."
"The Social Network" is more
subtle about its cinematography. "Alice in
However, without the vital role Wonderland." '
cinematography plays, the film The Queen

effects artists may win awards for
the larger-than-life images they
create, the editors are the true
masters of putting it all together
- quietly cutting and pasting
films into logical sequences and
making sure there's an under-
lying coherence to the film as a
whole.
"Hollywood films usually
try to have what's called 'invis-
ible editing,' " Herbert said. "You
actually don't see it happening,
which is tricky - because ifyou
want to get an award for it, you
also want to call attention to
lt."
Editors are ultimately
responsible, with the
director's approval,
for much of the final
product.
"(Editors) pick
up the themes
and kind of make
them happen,"
Herbert said.
"It's actually
the editor who
chooses the
angles that
actually end
up in the
final film, and
so in some ways
they can tell the story."
But what about the
way a movie sounds?
The way "The Hurt
Locker" - last year's
winner for Sound Edit-
ing and Sound Mix-
ing - leaves audiences
captivated by sounds of
explosions amid a stark
desert landscape? Though
these categories might
seem mystifying, accord-
ing to Associate Prof. Jason
Corey and chair of the Per-
forming Arts Technology
Department, the differenc-

The cinematographer of "Inception" was responsible for its phtao-realisticook.

es are simple.
"Sound editing is when you're
basically cutting between dif-
ferent takes," Corey explained.
"Sound mixing is more adjust-
ing the volume basically of sound
effects and dialogue and music."
Say there are three takes of the
same scene. A sound editor would
find the best sound in a scene and
put it together with the best-look-
ing scene to achieve the best shot.
Sound editing also includes noises
like slamming doors and crunch-
ing gravel - effects created in a
studio and then recorded using
special equipment. Sometimes,
even the voices of the actors are
recorded in a studio and then
spliced into the scenes.
Certain editors, called Foley
artists, record sounds using
everyday things, such as rusty
chairs for squeaking, and are
responsible for inserting these
sounds at specific times during
the film. These sounds can then
be layered to create a more exag-
gerated effect.
Though equally important,

sound mixing is often the last
thing to happen before a film is
considered complete.
"Sound mixing is just always
making sure that we can hear the
dialogue and always hear what's
being said," Corey said.
Without a sound mixer with
a strong grasp of the craft, many
of the noises in films would be
completely drowned out. It's the
sound mixers who will raise the
volume of actors' voices and make
sure there is a balance with the
background noise. Oftentimes
though, sound mixers and edi-
tors never get any praise for their
work.
"If it's done really well, people
don't notice it, but it really adds
a lot of impact to a film," Corey
said. "And when it's not done
well, people notice it. To be really
good, it has to be transparent."
Though both the audio and
visual technical categories are
known for being unnoticeable,
it takes a noticeable artist and
countless hours of work to create
films that the masses enjoy.

*I

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