Tell me a story

I’m sitting in the recording studio right now listening to my friend construct a soundtrack to a video I’m making. The video is simple – just a series of statistics and other titles, but they tell a story: they paint a picture. And now, more than ever, I appreciate the role of a film composer.

So often, we underestimate the ability that music has to lead us on a journey, to tell us a story, to communicate that which is beyond words and needs to be injected directly into the soul. Many people downplay this powerful role that music has, some try to strip it of its power and relegate it to the ‘background’.

Enter the filmmaker – the person with a story to tell and 24 frames per second of widescreen technicolor canvas to do it. They can create a convincing set, sculpt emotion and mood by lighting, place memorable lines of dialogue on the lips of the actors, but without a musical score, the story is two dimensional. It is a series of lines, events and places strung together to create a narrative. But the music adds that third dimension: it brings movement and emotion to an otherwise flat picture.

Music is the ultimate storyteller because it sticks with you long after the more tangible aspects of the story (or film in this case) have left you. You may not be able to recall the overture or the predominant theme note by note, but you are left with the essence of the story. You will remember the celebration; you will remember the tragedy. You will remember the tension; you will remember the resolution. The skilled composer will use all the tools at his disposal – dominant melodies, crafted harmonies, blends of complementary rhythms and instruments – to take you on that journey, as he knows better than anyone else the lasting effect of a story told by music.

The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.
— William Wordsworth

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