Analysis – Dr. Rothbart Lecture

Dr. Peter Rothbart is a Electroacoustic Music Professor at Ithaca College.  This professor gave a lecture at my college and discussed many important things when it comes to music in film.  Rothbart talked about the very crucial role that music plays in movies and television shows.   He discussed choosing a composer, the true purpose of music in film, good and bad techniques of composing a film score, and about how music can really have a great effect on the viewer’s emotions and really make or break any piece of art.  Having strong music is just as important as having strong imagery.  Clearly, music is not something that is to be taken lightly and is not something that can be overlooked.

One thing that Rothbart talked about was how important choosing a composer for your film is.  He stresses the idea that if your music is weak, your film will be weak.  Films are all about emotion, and a big reason for this is the music that is going on in the background.  The music tells a story just as much as the images that are being shown on the screen.  In tandem, they can create some very strong emotional art that could potentially change someone’s life.  This will only truly happen if the composer’s heart is in the piece just as much as the producer’s is.  If you don’t have any feeling or purpose behind the music you’re writing it simply will not turn out good.  The composer needs to understand precisely what emotions that he is to capture in the music he is composing.  He needs to understand what is going on in the scene and how he can best play with the viewer’s feelings without distracting or taking away from the film.

Rothbart tells us that music is never something that should be used as just filler.  There always needs to be a strong purpose behind where the music goes, and exactly what it is doing.  If you use music just as filler you will not make it as a producer.  It’s the difference between music adding an effect to a heroic Spartan battle, emphasizing the courage and bravery that is being shown by the men in the Spartan army; versus music adding no emotion to a scene where not much is going on.  It is very evident that music is something to be taken very seriously in filmmaking and is not something that is to be overlooked.  The subtlest detail in the music could make a break a film.  Picture how a dissonant chord would function in a scary movie versus a very romantic love scene.  Producers must be very meticulous about the music that the composer has written so that it serves it’s intended purpose and conveys every emotion that is being depicted by the film.  He did an exercise that truly showed us how music can really set a tone in film.  He played the video for an intro to a TV show four different times.  Each time the scene had different music and it changed what the entire show could have been about.  This exercise really emphasized the importance of music and how it can really change everything.  He watched several sections of films with us and identified who things were and were not working.  This made it very clear and easy to see how exactly what he was talking about, and will make putting what he said into practice much easier.

One thing that Rothbart discussed was how music should be implemented in a film score.  He said that music should always enter into the film in a very subtle way.  He goes on to say that you should never notice when the music starts playing in a film.  This will create for a very strong emotional feeling for the viewers.  If music is just thrown in without any subtle fading it will often times appear very cheaply done and not very many viewers will take the piece seriously.  He also stressed that while it’s very important to be very emotional about your piece that it’s important to be able to take a step back and take a non-biased, objective look at your work to decide which aspects in the film are really working, and which aspects aren’t.  If you can’t critique your own work, you will not go far.  Art in general is all about being able to look at your work and fixing your mistakes; it is clear that this applies to all forms of art, from the music of the film, to the imagery displayed on the screen.

This talk was very informative and taught me and all who had the pleasure of learned a wealth of knowledge.  Seeing this was a very interesting experience, and if he ever decides to come back to my college I will surely attend his lecture.  As someone who almost entered a music major, his talk really spoke to me and taught me many things that I will not learn anywhere else.  What I learned will help me when I start putting together scores for animated short films.  I am excited to use all of the things that he discussed and seeing how it will affect my work compared to those who didn’t witness the informative lecture.  I feel very lucky to have witnessed such an event.  This was a very informative experience, and I will never forget the things that he showed me.


About JamesWrobel

I'm a junior at Alfred State College majoring in Digital Media and Animation. I specialize in digital art and photography rather than drawing and painting. It's a work in progress and I'm working hard to achieve my dreams.
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