2012年2月24日 星期五

AMusTCL 有關電影音樂的考試題目示範作答


這不是 model answer。但有感考生不懂怎樣用文字去分析音樂,所以,文字功夫較差的,這條題目就答不好。我也不得不以 Croaching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 為例,寫出以下參巧文章。


Key words: Value. Techniques. Artistic attributes. High arts. Elite arts. Creative and innovative. Originality. High technicality. Expressivity. Program music. Programmatic meaning. Story telling. Narrative. Mood and atmosphere. Emotions and feelings. Imagined world.

Music is the heart of a film. A film without music is just like a man without a heart, only a body. From this sense, if the film only contains story-line carried out by characters’ dialogues, though it works, it hardly touches audience’s heart. Indeed, music is essential to trigger audience’s feelings and emotions, creating the overall atmosphere ready for them to immerse into an alien world of imagination.

Try to imagine the popular film in the 70s, “Jaws”. If this film has not used the driving two-note percussive motive to anticipate the approach of the huge white shark, or the film “Star Wars” without the now-famous noble trumpet fanfare theme to represent the princess’s lofty and majestic disposition, would the audience be so exciting and shocking? The top-selling of film soundtracks in the commercial market always evidences the important role of music in a film.

Instead of the top-selling billboard that reflects the commercial value of the music in a film, its artistic value can be largely lies on the attribute of expressivity. Film music likens to the program music of western music in the 19th century. Program music can be story-telling, attempting to describe a scene, a person, a subject, creating a related mood and atmosphere through sonic images. Similarly, Film music also can easily steps in an audience's soul so as to express what neither pictures nor words can, creating a new meaning to the audience. Furthermore, music adds extra-dimension to a given scene, not only emphasis but also giving more body and depth to the story, to the characters, to the dialogues, and to the actions. The analysis of the use of music in the film of “Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon” is as follows:

        In most action films, such as martial art film or Kung Fu film, the music always parallels and underscores actions. For example, in the scenario of Catching the thief’, the plot is about the night fight between Jen and Shu Lien. Jen, because of her arrogance and self-esteemed, she steals the precious antique sword which belongs to Li Mu Bai, the famous swordman of Wudong. Shu Lien attempts to catch her. The fighting occurs after Shu Lien’s chasing her for a period of time. Here, Tan Dun skillfully employs percussive sonority to create an exciting atmosphere of this fighting scene. A pair of Chinese drum can easily conjure audience up an imagination of the battlefield with the violent fight, since drum is always used in the real battlefield, so as to give signal to and to raise the valor of soldiers. Hollywood film music composers are without exception to exploit this handy, yet ready-made timbre, in many of the film music making.

 In the scene of ‘Catching Thief’, the two Chinese drums are used to enhance the both characters’ chasing on the roof. Shu Lien tries her best to catch Jen to get back the Li’s sword. By employing the devices of repeated rhythmic pattern (ostinato) and accelerando to speed up the tempo, the climax of this chasing scene is gradually built up. Furthermore, the pair of Chinese drums creates a contrapuntal texture so as to increase the intensity of the actions of two fighters. Hit points are multiplied because of the vivid percussive sonority. The pace of the fighting is thus intensified. Audience can easily catch up with the lively action and the violence of the fighting by the hit points of the heavy beating drums made.

However, is the violent mood the only purpose that Tan Dun wanted to create in this scene? Not really. Times Magazine once said that this ‘flying-running’ fighting was a fantastic exemplar of a Ballet dance, somewhat a Chinese style. Undoubtedly, Tan Dun successfully imbues the fighting music with the noble, yet graceful, elements that the dance music should have possessed.

In the climax of the fighting scene, the volume is also gradually increased, locking the audience in a hysterical abyss, seemingly to be the one who is also participating to the fight on the screen, as it were, experiencing the glory of win and the loss of failure. To be sure, without music, nothing can be experienced indeed.

        The  scenario about the first appearance of another main character ‘Dark Cloud' is also worth of considering. In this scene, the somewhat exotic music is played by yun, a Chinese native instrument, supported by the strings accompaniment at the background. This is a typical example of how music can locate a geographical location in a film.  The plot is about the leader of the gang of robbers, Lo, whose nickname is called ‘Black Cloud’, came to rob Jen’s troupe in the journey to Xian Jiang, an area of minority ethnic group. After Lo has taken Jen’s comb, Jen chases Lo to get back her comb. It is the arrogance and self-centered personality of Jen that forced her to do so. When Jen is riding on the horse, and chasing behind Lo’s, the lively Xian Jian dancing music enters.  Then, when Jen fought with Lo in order to get back her comb, the fast tempo Xian Jiang dancing tune played by yun reenters again. It not only intensifies the pace of their fighting, but also creates an aura of Xian Jian territory, as well as, utters to audience of a romantic love story replete with exotic feeling. This dancing tune is made up from the Arabic scale which contains a distinctive feature, augmented second interval. The dance rhythm, together with the Arabic musical style melody, now called Xian Jiang Dance Style, links audience to this minority terrain. Afterward, while Jen stayed in the house of Lo for rest, the low-tone, quasi-murmuring cello stealthily steps in. The cello thematic melody easily reminds audience of the song ‘Love Before Time’, which elicits the endless sorrow of love. True, the romantic love, however distant, between Lo and Li is dommed to  be a tragedy since they belong to different social status and backgrounds.  The use of thematic melody here not only enhances the coherence of the story-line, but also tells the audience that this ‘unequal’ love between Lo and Jen, which is emphasized by the conflicts aroused from Jen’s personal arrogance, as well as her deep longing for liberty, against with a generation of strict moral standard, is doomed to be a tragedy, even in the very beginning as they firstly met.

        One of a remarkable example that uses music playing against scene or images can be found in the scene about Li fighting Jen in the bamboo bush. In this scene, swordman master Li is eager to convert Jen’s wild temperament by his skillful martial art, and he is ready to accept Jen as his disciple of Wudong. They were fighting, flying on the bamboo trees. The theme song melody played by the murmuring cello permeates the whole scene. Accompanying the occassional endless sorrow recalled from the evocative melodic fragments is the reed-like artificial gesture, recurring irregularly in a strict repeated note pattern. This glissando reed-like gesture, as well as the slow tempo of the moving ostinato strings, enhances the ‘flying-fighting’ of Li and Jen on the tree top moving under the support of the slow motion shot. The overall effect is that the violent fighting between them has been transformed into an elegant ballet with two figures dancing to and fro between the bamboo trees, however, dispersing drop by drop of the melancholy. The brutal excitement, thus, is softened because of the music, which is so sparse, tender with a little restless and agitated. With the support of music, everything in this particular scene, no matter it is the visual images or the aural perception, is romanticised, so unattainable, so distant, and so uncertain that deeply interlocks audience's heart. The murmuring thematic cello of 'Love Before Time' seems to tell audience that whether it is the teaching lessons given by Li to Jen in order to persuade her becoming of his disciple, or the unwilling regrets of Jen in her unsatisfied life,  the future of Jen is destined to be dark and gloom without bright sunshine. When Jen jumps into the river, the music increases the volume, again, intensifying the fighting actions and the restless agitated emotions of Jen. Her wildness and arrogance have not yet been surmounted. She continues to step to the road of no return.  

From the above analysis, it is clear that music written for film is not merely an accompaniment, just bringing a nice melody for the audience. On the contrary, music sounded behind each moving images requires composers’ endless imaginations, bringing immeasurable value to the film. This value inextricably links to music’s own expressive power. New meaning of the scene is often raised through the creative uses of music. Therefore, film music, as a form of high art, definitely requires a real genius to be handled with ingenuous craftsmanship and unlimited creativity.

David Leung (theorydavid)
2012-02-24 (published)