Music Not Prescored

Most animation on the features was not done to a prescored track, and with the emphasis on acting and mood the scenes were better supported by a free tempo type of music than by the rigid beat. In those cases, the musician would ask for a dummy score to be made up showing him what he had to match and where things happened. A music check was made of the whole section w ith all the accents, the footsteps, jumps, staggers, displays of emotion, or strong looks. Foot-ages were marked for each of these, the same as on the bar sheets, but the choice of how to tie all of them together was left up to the composer. If they happened to fall in rhythmic patterns, he could use a fixed tempo if he chose, or he could do it all to a free beat.

Jim Macdonald devised an interesting way of making a precise guide for the musician with this problem. On a reel of blank film, he punched out holes that would make clicks and pops when the film was run on the sound head. These sounds were timed exactly to the action on the film, so the musician could hear where these accents came while writing a score to match.

The public continued to enjoy seeing cartoon characters move in close relation to music; there was something fascinating about it and something that felt right to them. However, it had to be done tastefully, with more nuances and surprises, carefully avoiding the choppiness and "ricky-tick" sound of the early cartoons.

become ordinary and drag his picture down. The song had to have a freshness and a vitality and something extra before he would accept it. If it did not make him feel the way he wanted the audience to feel, he would ask the composer to try again.

As he started work on Fantasia, he was very honest about his lack of musical knowledge, and it did not worry him in the least that his reactions were those of the man in the street. Leopold Stokowski was immensely helpful and spent some time explaining the construction of a musical number and the relation of the form to the reaction of the listener. He concluded, "If our picturization is contrary to the music, it will confuse the public; if it is in form, it will be clear and pleasing and they will enjoy it."

Walt's response was less erudite. "There are things in that music that the general public will not understand until they see things on the screen representing that music. Then they will feel the depth in the music. Our object is to reach the very people who have walked out on this Toccata and Fugue' because they didn't understand it. I am one of those people; but when I understand it. I like it!"

Inevitably as the work progresses on any sequence new ideas pop up, and surprisingly often these ideas actually will strengthen the music, since they sharpen the definition and emphasize exactly what the composer is saying. If truly creative people are involved, the musician is quick to realize the improvements and eager to adapt his score if that is still possible. The happiest solution to all of this was the "temp (temporary) tracks" that were used so extensively throughout the thirties, forties, and fifties.

In concept, the musician would record his ideas in a purely temporary form as a guide for all the production that would follow. In some cases, a small orchestra was brought in and the work so carefully planned that the result could be used for production—if desired. In others, the studio composer would play his score on the piano or organ.

The advantage of this early test recording is obvious. It presents a strong musical concept that is stimulating and inspiring. As the director and animators develop the graphics, they are guided but not restricted by this track. Being temporary, the music-can be changed and new ideas tried; the man who wrote it is standing by to help decide just what those changes should be and where in the score they should come. He is not beaten down by what seems like daily trivia, but is available when help is needed; and having made his initial statement of how he believes the music should be, he exerts more influence than when he tried to do instant composing in the room with the director.

The best music was achieved when it could springboard from the hours of thought and refinement that had gone into the story development and acting. If a sequence is well balanced, builds properly, has life, good textures, and a flow, the musician has a much better chance of writing a superior score than if the picture is dull, lifeless, and spotty. Even the grandest score will seem unimpressive under those conditions.

With a smaller crew and extended schedules for the pictures in the sixties and seventies, it was no longer possible to keep a musician on full time, so we shared one with the live action units. George Bruns worked equally well in either medium, writing "Davy Crockett" for the live TV show at the same time he was adapting Tchaikovsky's ballet score for Sleeping Beauty to our animated version of that classic fairy tale. George was big and easy-going, but he worked very hard and produced a seemingly endless string of fresh melodies and haunting scores.

He did temp tracks, prescored some selections, orchestrated songs, jumped over to the live action shows, then back to consult on the best musical treatment for the next sequence in the cartoon. When there was more to do than he could handle, he suggested that we find a piece of music from an earlier picture and "track" our picture with that. It enabled us to find just the mood we wanted, the tempos and phrasing to support our action, and kept us from wearing him out with too many changes.

When the time came to write the final score, George was fresh and enthusiastic, suggesting more effective ways to present our concepts, and writing lovely new ballads in the same tempo and feeling as the ones we had used for our "tracking."

All of our feature cartoons took anywhere from two to five years to complete; so no matter what the involvement of the musician during the formative period. there was still much to be done in the final.days.

found effects were a very mportant part of the musical score. requiring musicians with unique talents— nost were percussionists vith stage bands. Here, 7rank Churchill conducts is Walt listens (lower left). ?/// Garity balances the ■ound (right foreground). md Wilfred Jackson fol-ows the score in his dope took.

"he composers of "When 'on Wish Upon a Star \s caricatured by T. I lee. Musician Leigh Harline, at he piano. and lyricist Ned Vashington. on bended nee. selling the song.

Invariably there were many surprises and changes from those first excited plans. T he director has gone through the reels with the musician hour after hour, discussing, planning, changing, humming; but he is never sure that the musician understands what is wanted, and the musician has an even more difficult time getting his own ideas across since the language of music is not something the director understands. Sometimes the music will lack the magic anticipated, and whole sections of the film will seem to fall short of what they

might have been; but just as often, everyone will be startled by how much more powerful and intense the actions have become when fortified with the music.

We had worked hard on The Rescuers, trying to make the mice seem very small and inadequate to the task facing them, but the confidence and spirit in the voices seemed to dispel any concern we could develop for them. When Artie Butler wrote the music, he felt the predicament of the mice acutely and wrote music that immediately made their task enormous, while somehow keeping them virtually helpless. When they tried to move the huge diamond from its hiding place, the score added a good one hundred pounds to the weight of the gem. The animator exclaimed. "1 tried to make the mice strain and heave and use every bit their strength when they pushed against that diamond! but this—this exhausts me!"

Such effects are not evident in a piano track or evert when played with a couple of instruments on a tempj track. It takes the full voicing of the orchestra tobri the music to life, and until that time the director mi go on faith that the score will fulfill his hopes ai dreams. There is no way a single musician withonl small piano and an enthusiastic voice can convey! feeling or spirit that will come from the same noli played on all the instruments. This is unfortunate, si twenty-five musicians sitting on the stage awaitinj instructions have an uncomfortable effect on a di tor's judgment of revisions when the first rehe reveals a different feeling in the music than had anticipated.

All the other functions in the making of a film ai built through constant testing and correcting and k> ing the best relationship to the whole, and in the begin! ning music was done the same way. For over fc years, great scores have continued to bring new life the studio's most popular films, even though the te niques of matching sound to picture have changed s completely. It encourages one to believe that there still arc many more ways, exciting ways, inspiring ways, to meld music and picture together.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Pencil Drawing Beginners Guide

Pencil Drawing Beginners Guide

Easy Step-By-Step Lessons How Would You Like To Teach Yourself Some Of The Powerful Basic Techniques Of Pencil Drawing With Our Step-by-Step Tutorial. Learn the ABC of Pencil Drawing From the Experts.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment