Friday, April 3, 2015

[Yasmin_discussions] Dramatic music

Hi, Roger,

Without putting this forward as a strong assertion, I do have a interesting question on the problem of dramatic music using the idioms of contemporary classical music.

Much contemporary classical music grows out of the tradition of chance and the purposeful rejection of music that creates meaning.

Drama is an encounter with meaning, a form of symbolic interaction. While some working composers create dramatic music for films, this is not generally what one means by "contemporary idioms." Successful film music succeeds in conveying dramatic intent by relying on the same traditions that Aaron Copeland or Cyril Mockridge would have used, or more recently Nino Rota, James Newton Howard, Randy Edelman or Trevor Jones.

While it is true that contemporary compose compose operatic music and cinema music, I'd say that these kinds of music generally don't convey dramatic intent, but rather that they serve as a kind of counterpoint or even an independent art form that works at the same time that the drama works.

This is only my view — I'd have to think on it more deeply to make a strong statement on this. It might be interesting to score art-science with contemporary music, but this might not be dramatic music in the sense that A German Requiem of Brahms or Bach's cello suites are dramatic. And certainly not dramatic in the sense that film scores are dramatic, written as a collaboration between the director, the screen writer, and the composer to develop and reinforce the cinematic narrative.

To see what this means for a film, have a look at the complete boxed set of Lord of the Rings. The "making of" and background material explains how Howard Shore developed the film score and shows how all the many activities of key artists generate the collaborative effort around sound. This is necessary for dramatic music.

In a sense, it seems to me that many of the old music genres work well with the visual material of science precisely because they are dramatic in some sense, while the contemporary music — despite other virtues — lacks dramatic purpose.

Warm wishes,


Ken Friedman, PhD, DSc (hc), FDRS | Chair Professor of Design Innovation Studies | College of Design and Innovation | Tongji University | Shanghai, China ||| University Distinguished Professor | Centre for Design Innovation | Swinburne University of Technology | Melbourne, Australia


Roger Malina wrote:


>> yes the images of the sun are fascinating- but its always disturbing to see
>> scientists use musical styles from a 100 years ago to accompany the most
>> contemporary of contemporary images !
>> why didnt they commission a contemporary composer to write dramatic
>> music using todays musical idioms !
>> there is a huge literature on the connections of science and music
>> and the musical avocations of scientists- but somehow there is
>> a 'decalage" !!


Yasmin_discussions mailing list

Yasmin URL:

SBSCRIBE: click on the link to the list you wish to subscribe to. In the page that will appear ("info page"), enter e-mail address, name, and password in the fields found further down the page.
HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE: on the info page, scroll all the way down and enter your e-mail address in the last field. Enter password if asked. Click on the unsubscribe button on the page that will appear ("options page").
TO ENABLE / DISABLE DIGEST MODE: in the options page, find the "Set Digest Mode" option and set it to either on or off.
If you prefer to read the posts on a blog go to