Cinescore: The Director-Composer, Score Generating Software, and What it Means for Film & TV Composers

By • June 8, 2006

Is Sony’s new Cinescore software, marketed as being able to generate “fully composed music” for film and television, the beginning of the end for film and TV composers?

No. But it should serve as a huge wake-up call about the importance of composers doing more than just “keeping up” with technology, and the fact that filmmakers would probably rather do the composing themselves if they could.

Cinescore and similar soundtrack generating software will likely grab a share of lower-end production where the musical needs are not that complex, just as Turbo Tax is used by consumers and small businesses for many simpler tax filings to replace the hiring an accountant or tax preparer. I suspect music libraries may actually have more to lose than composers in regards to score generation software, but only time will reveal the full impact of this new technology.

To me, this makes it all the more imperative that composers embrace new technology as part of the creative process and lock in their positions as collaborators with directors in the creation of scores. Clearly filmmakers want a role in the composing process – some filmmakers perhaps more than others. But I believe composers need to be more collaborative in the process in order to truly realize the filmmakers’ artistic vision.

Is music composed with this collaborative model of better quality than music composed solely by a trained composer? In the world of classical music and commissions and grants given to composers, that might be a relevant question. But with film score, the question of better really means is it better for the film in the opinion of the director, as the film composer’s job is not to write the best music, but to write the best music for the film as defined by the film’s director’s artistic vision. That’s a crucial difference.

By letting interested directors be more involved in the scoring process, composers can align themselves more closely with directors (rather than working “for” directors) and the creation of the score becomes much more of a collaborative and joint effort. While some composers may see this as an unwanted intrusion into their creative domain, I believe it’s the way of the future – especially with filmmakers who now, thanks to a digital world and rapidly expanding array of digital filmmaking tools, have very exact and specific control over every element of the creation and editing process for film.

The new business model of collaborating with directors on the composing of score music also brings with it new questions, including to what extent the director should participate in the writer’s share of performance royalties – which more and more is becoming the primary source of income for composers in an era of plummeting composer fees.

Today’s successful composers – especially on low and medium budget projects – need to embrace new technologies and new ways of working with today’s directors and producers. The digital tools are out there and will only get more powerful and capable as time goes on. The real question for composers is: are we ready to share the musical creative process on film scores?

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