Six Quick Lessons in Film Music

Ok, so it’s not really quick lessons, as such. You may have to work on this for a while, but if you’re setting out to be a composer for the movies, you can definitely learn a thing or two (or six) from Michael Giacchino. As it’s so eloquently put by Matt Patches over on, the “French jazz of Ratatouille, the hyperactive pulsation of Speed Racer, the retro-futuristic adventure ballads of Star Trek, or the unexpected melancholia of Up, Giacchino’s orchestral sounds aren’t just logical responses to a picture. They’re the culmination of the composer’s vast pop culture memory, and when Giacchino starts banging out the notes that will eventually comprise the score to a movie like The Incredibles, he’s tapping into his affection for film and letting it pour.”

Please go to and read the full article – complete with video samples of the scores in question. Here they are in summary:

1. Up‘s “Married Life”
Lesson: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Michael Giacchino explains: “What you have to do is spend time celebrating this couple’s life together,” he says. “But by doing so, you’re setting people up to be completely sad when the inevitable happens. So it was about building an idea and theme that kept coming back in different ways.”

2. Super 8‘s “Letting Go”
Lesson: Do the Opposite of What You’re “Supposed” to Do

Whereas John Williams in the eighties may have gone big and bold with symphonic orchestra, Giacchino opted for the opposite effect. “For me, when [the locket] starts to float away, it’s about getting as quiet as possible,” he says. “If you’re dealing with someone who is going through a hard time, you’re not going to sit there and yell at them and ask them how they’re doing and be loud. You’re going to be as quiet as possible and talk to them and figure out how to help. That’s how I think music should be.”

3. Star Trek‘s “That New Car Smell”
Lesson: Know When to Strike Out on Your Own

After hitting wall after wall, writer Damon Lindelof eventually provided Michael Giacchino with sage advice: “Why don’t you forget we’re making a Star Trek movie and write a score to a film that’s about two guys who meet and become the best of friends?”

4. John Carter‘s “The Fight for Helium”
Lesson: People Still Want Melody. Give It to Them.

“[Golden age composers] weren’t afraid to come up with a melody and play it,” he says. “Play it, play it again, and play it again. You’re introducing an idea to an audience that they can hold on to.”

5. The Incredibles ‘“100 Mile Dash”
Lesson: Don’t Be Afraid to Crib

“The idea for that was to get the feel of an era of filmmaking that doesn’t exist anymore,” Giacchino says of his lightning-speed chase music.

6. Lost‘s “There’s No Place Like Home”
Lesson: Be Quick

“[Lost taught me] how to be quick, be fast, don’t overthink things, go with your gut, and get it done as efficiently and properly as [I] can,” he says. Giacchino didn’t discuss musical ideas with J.J. Abrams or anyone on the show — there wasn’t time. For “There’s No Place Like Home” and its repeated use, it was hitting the notes, orchestrating, then sending off for recording.


Mads Black

About Mads Black

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Mads is a Scandinavian-born, Los Angeles-based actor and aspiring film maker. He's dabbled in stunt driving (no one got hurt) and once rescued a baby bunny from his garage.

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