Increasingly, I encounter the problem that directors have the need to certify the use of music externally. For example, there should be a radio or a stereo system on stage that an actor uses to turn on the music. But why? So why shouldn’t there also be a light desk on the stage, where the actor turns on the light and changes the scene?

Not only since the Danish Dogma95 Manifesto do directors ask themselves this question. There is this famous anecdote by David Raksin and Alfred Hitchcock: When Alfred Hitchcock was making “Lifeboat” at Twentieth Century-Fox in 1944, Raksin, then on staff, let him be known he would be interested in writing the score. An intermediary informed the composer, “Mr. Hitchcock feels that, since the entire action of the film takes place in a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean, the audience will wonder where the music would come from?” Replied Raksin, “Ask Mr. Hitchcock to explain where the cameras come from and I’ll tell him where the music comes from.” (check here and here)

“Ask Mr. Hitchcock to explain where the cameras come from and I’ll tell him where the music comes from.”

Hitchcock’s objections to a film score at the time were a counter-reaction to the overzealously illustrating film music by Max Steiner and Erich Korngold. The same may be true for the authentication needs of theatre directors. I experience many performances that are accompanied by poorly motivated, endlessly tinkling music.

So what would be an impetus for music that doesn’t require external certification? The great Bernard Herrmann said: “the music can tell you what people are thinking and feeling—that is the real function of music”. It cannot be overemphasised that it is not about telling the audience what they should feel, but about telling them about the inner life of the person portrayed.

Whose inner story does it tell?

When I use music in theatre and film, I always ask what is the inner reason for music, who triggers it and who owns the music. Whose inner story does it tell? If you can answer these questions properly, then the question of the external motive no longer arises.

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