© 2018 by GABRIEL FIRMIN

/

FINAL PROJECT DESCRIPTION

The aim of this project was to successfully re-score the 1949 motion picture, 'The Third Man'. As the film is iconic within the genre of Film Noir, I understood that it was important that the score I created accurately fitted with the themes, stylistics and aesthetics of the film - and Film Noir in as a genre. However, I was also conscious that the original score might seem dated when compared to modern day film soundtracks, because of this I understood the need to adapt the soundtrack to allow a modern cinema audience to identify and engage with it as they would a contemporary film soundtrack.

In my original proposal I stated that I planned on making the score 'more futuristic', however further research into the genre of Film Noir scores led me to understand that an entirely futuristic soundtrack would not be appropriate for this film as it would have abstracted too much from the ideas and style of the original film. I came to understand that I could adapt the score in a modern manner without straying too far from the characteristics of the genre. ​

Baring this research in mind I came to understand that the most appropriate style of music for this genre of film would take strong influence from jazz music and jazz soundtracks, like those of the original Film Noir films of the 50's and 60's. In using jazz as a base for my soundtrack I was able to encompass the original film noir style as well as including contemporary electro-acoustic elements. This allowed me to create a contemporary soundtrack that would appeal to a modern audience without disregarding the traits of the original.

 

This re-score has culminated in an amalgamation of ideas from which I originally intended and some which have developed and progressed with my understanding of the genre, scoring technique and musical theory. Although still sticking to my plan of being a modernisation, it has evolved into something less centred on being updated and more focused on using modern techniques to achieve a score which a contemporary audience can relate to and understand.

My original idea was to score the entirety of the film. However after discussion with my tutor and some prototyping I realised that scoring the whole feature was perhaps too ambitious and unnecessary for the purpose of the project. I decided to choose three sections to score. These sections comprise multiple scenes but come at points in the film that felt most suitable for re-scoring. They contain multiple musical cues but are divided into three sections which I have titled; 'Satchelfoot, The Porter is Kaput and Into the Sewers'. Each section contains a slightly different musical approach whilst maintaining a consistent style and feel. The idea behind the score as a whole was that I wanted it to progress, as well as descend from start to finish. It begins largely instrumental, with a prominent mysterious yet playful jazz feel in 'Satchelfoot' that then carries on into the beginning of 'The Porter is Kaput' where it then starts to evolve into a more dissonant, clashing composition that features more electro-acoustic elements. From there the score descends even further into the chaotic, dark and driving ‘Into The Sewers’ which contains much heavier electronic production.

 

Another element that changed from my original idea was that I had to do a lot of sound editing and produce a lot of sound design and foley for the film which I had not planned on doing. The reason for this was that there were parts of the scenes where there was original score on top of the dialogue and so I had to repair and construct a lot of foley and dialogue to make the rescore run smoothly and professionally.

 

/

CONTEXTUAL REFLECTION

As the idea of this project was to adapt a film which is now almost seventy years old with a soundtrack which could be appreciated and understood by a contemporary audience who are familiar with the scores and soundtracks of modern day films, I understood that I would have to balance the score so that it didn’t clash with the images and yet had the feeling of a modern score. This meant that the whole way through the project I was constantly comparing and referencing against both scores from the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s as well as present day contemporary scores to see how I could best find a cohesive middle ground.

 

A lot of influence was taken from the jazz scores of Film Noir, such as Miklos Rozsa’s ‘Double Indemnity’ which features both classical and jazz composition and orchestration. I was aware that I was never going to be able to compose something on that scale as I did not have the ability to record either an entire orchestra nor a full jazz band. However, by listening and studying to such soundtracks I started to understand how the composition and instrumentation worked. I realised what instruments I would like to use and how I could arrange them to get the desired tones, combinations and textures. My rescore has elements of 50’s and 60’s jazz similar to that of the original Noirs; it features saxophones, muted trumpets, brushed jazz drum kits and double and standing bass, in this respect I feel that I quite accurately captured a genuine feel of the Noir sound. In addition to that I feel I successfully captured some of the orchestral elements that are prominent in early Film Noir scores. I included string sections, dissonant string harmonies, and occasional woodwind and brass as well as grand piano. What I learnt from listening to early scores was that quite often what gave the characteristics to a lot of these instruments was the manner in which they were played or the articulation. I tried to emulate this as best I could by playing with note velocity, stacking instruments and working with note positioning to create flams, rolls and accents. I am aware that as I was using virtual instruments (as good quality as they were) the sound was never going to match that of an actual band or orchestra, this is one challenge that I faced. To combat this I decided to record actual instruments to stack and layer on top to create a sense of realness and integrity, these included saxophone, jazz guitar and piano. I feel that this worked very well and masks the sometimes recognisable sound of virtual instruments.  

 

In contrast to this I included a lot of elements influenced by modern scores that I felt would fit with the Film Noir style. Some that I was heavily influenced by and would compare my score to would be Johan Johannson’s ‘Sicario’, Mica Levi’s ‘Under The Skin’ and Howard Shore’s ‘Seven’. Johannson’s style of scoring where he manipulates and contorts orchestral sounds into unrecognisable walls of sound was very influential, especially his use of distorted, monstrous percussion - audible on his ‘Sicario’ soundtrack - which I took massive inspiration from, especially for the last scene ‘Into The Sewers’. Mica Levi’s haunting, alien sounds on ‘Under The Skin’, especially the cue ‘Death’ has some similarities to my score; the consistent drum beat and satanic, distorted string arrangements definitely influenced my composition. Although my score is not as experimental, I feel that some of the eeriness is definitely echoed throughout. Shore’s score to ‘Seven’ consistently features climatic, dissonant string arrangements to build tension and this is a technique I tried to use within my score to heighten tension at the suitable moments.

 

One score which I studied more than any else was Jerry Goldsmith’s score to ‘Chinatown’. It was vastly inspirational and I found myself constantly borrowing and stealing ideas from for instrumentation, whether that was note articulation, instrumental panning or phrasing. There is a nonchalance and mystery to that score that I tried to emulate heavily in mine. I am aware that mine in no way measures up to his work but it was undoubtedly one of the biggest inspirations.  

/

PROJECT SUMMARY

In general, I am extremely pleased with how this project turned out, it has exceed my own expectations and I am really proud of the end result, so much so that I would say it is possibly my best work to date. When I started this project I had pictured myself making a dark ambient score using pads, synths, some virtual instrumentation as well as including some elements of dance music, as I stated in my brief. I had intended to meld together a cinematic score with some forms of electronic dance music. In the early stages I created some basic prototypes which reflected this notion (https://soundcloud.com/rusticamusic/sets/the-third-man/s-oeazr), these were a combination of some electronic ambient sections, basic orchestral instrumentation, jazz elements and programmed electronic 'hip-hop' drums. These proved useful in understanding what kind of sound palette I was actually intending to aim for, however they also led me to realise that the inclusion of electronic dance music elements was perhaps unnecessary and ill fitting, leading me to steer clear of this approach. Nonetheless, one positive that definitely came out of this prototyping stage was that I developed three melodic themes that became the foundations of all the compositions.

I later went through a stage of experimentation where I adopted an approach which was highly influenced by Hollywood type scores similar to that of Hans Zimmer. This manifested itself in early versions of scenes which featured a hybrid style of composition featuring electronic ambiences, grandiose choral sections and epic orchestral instrumentation (https://drive.google.com/file/d/1W8-xpQYBYRqWZ0hxWCdtfp83ddDBW6m-/view?usp=sharing). Although helping to initiate the scoring I did not like the way in which it was heading as I felt that although modernising it, it failed to take into account or recognise the stylistics or characteristics of the film itself or Film Noir as a genre. This stage was useful as it mainly allowed me to arrange the scenes, I made timelines of events and moments within the projects in Ableton Live and this helped me to understand how I was going to arrange and sequence the cues (insert screenshots here).

There was a period where I got into a bit of a creative rut, I didn’t know what direction to take the score in and all of the compositions I kept coming up with didn’t have the sound I was looking for, they were either too grand or too flat and minimal. When this happened I decided that instead of trying to force out what I was after, I should try and find out what it was that I was looking for and why I was looking for it. I spent two or three days listening to soundtracks and scores of films that I knew had the sound I was trying to recreate and writing down notes on the parts that I liked and what it was that made them interesting. It was at this point that I really started to understand what it was that I both wanted and needed to be doing. As stated earlier, Jerry Goldsmith’s ‘Chinatown’ played a huge part in this, I studied his instrumentation and arrangement and started to understand how to compose in the way I wanted to.

 

Another element of this project that I was pleasantly surprised by was the sound design and foley work I had to do to it. I had to repair many sections where the dialogue and production sound overlapped with the original score. With the help of Jan Meinema I learnt how to properly use Izotope RX to extract dialogue and for other scenes I had to make foley both from production sound and my own recordings/sample libraries. I feel the end result is pretty smooth and unnoticeable and in that respect also succeeded.

 

In summary I feel that the project was really successful, I feel that it has its place as a score that is both in touch with the past as well as relevant to the present, which is what I set out to achieve. I think it is respectful and accurate to original Film Noir whilst being forward thinking and innovative. Quality wise I feel that it is one of the best pieces of work I have produced and am extremely proud of it. In conclusion I feel that I could show this to both my peers and friends and to my grandparents and both would be able to enjoy and appreciate it equally which is all I could have hoped for.