Last night I saw the movie Spider-Man: Homecoming. I enjoyed the characters and special effects, but what really stayed with me after the movie ended was the music. During the long rolling of credits at the end of the movie, my senses were focused almost entirely on the music. Of course, the heroic Spider-man theme was the rhythm I was humming on the way home, but the other tracks in the score were memorable as well, with soaring woodwinds, throbbing strings, and dramatic percussion sequences. Usually, I’m not consciously thinking about the music while watching a movie, unless it’s to mentally acknowledge a familiar pop tune or classical piece, but of course most movies would be unwatchable without the musical foundation playing in the background.
The movie’s theme was still hovering in my mind today, which led me to the question:
Just how, and at what point in the movie-production process, does a composer write the score for a music?
Luckily, Spider-man was looking out for me because I found the answer right on composer Michael Giacchino’s website. Giacchino has written music for video games (Medal of Honor, Call of Duty), TV Series (Lost), and many movies (The Incredibles, Jurassic World, Star Trek, Up, Ratatouille, Doctor Strange), but he received his undergraduate degree in film production before studying music at Juillard and later at UCLA. His first jobs in the movie industry were with Disney and DreamWorks in publicity and production, and no doubt his intimate knowledge of the film production process helps his composition work and his rapport with directors and producers.
Giacchino’s website is a treasure trove of information for those, like me, who are curious about the score-writing process. A page entitled “Behind the Scenes” describes the entire process in detail. It begins where it should, with a discussion of basic terminology (I wasn’t really aware of this, but the score is the music composed specifically for a film, while a soundtrack also includes dialogue, sound effects, and songs). The composer usually starts his or her job at the editing part of the film-making process, although there could be exceptions for rush projects. The page also describes the recording process, in which the studio musicians making up the orchestra see the music for the first time at the recording session and don’t even rehearse the music. (That takes such amazing skill it’s hard for me to contemplate!)
If you’re at all interested in the film score composition process, give this website a read. Not only is the explanation of the various terms used in the movie industry fascinating, it can give a better appreciation of the composers and musicians who create that beautiful background to our favorite movies.