• Helmut Calabrese, Ph.D.

Why You Should Hire A Film Composer, Part One, An Analysis of Using Music Libraries

Helmut C. Calabrese, PhD

February 22, 2020

Filmmakers need to be educated on why they should hire a composer. This essay explores the various issues related to the necessity of hiring a composer to create an original score for an original film.

Let me start by quoting an Icelandic filmmaker,

“I believe that the main reason that every filmmaker who appreciates their work, whether it be a short, a time-lapse or a feature film, must hire a composer is because only the close collaboration between director and composer will create the perfect synergy between images and music. The right composer will be able to see what you want to communicate or express through your images, and they will compose an exclusive piece that adapts precisely to your film generating in the viewer a feeling of perfect synchronicity and balance” (Pacheco, 2020).

Mr. Pacheco states that “the director and composer will create the perfect synergy between images and music.” Synergy is defined as “the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate parts” (Google, 2020). We need to understand the elements that comprise the interaction of film and music. However, because of the vast nature of the fabric of both film and music, we will only discuss some of these elements. And we can address the aspects conjointly. A partial list of these elements which are inherent to both film and music are as follows: rhythm, movement, form, context, psychology, color, texture, and referential meaning.

The uniqueness of a film derives from its script which encompasses the visual element and literary element. The “storytelling” becomes an outgrowth of these elements. Therefore the music that is appropriate for a film’s uniqueness must be inspired by the creative filter of the composer and director by using sound to represent what is seen in the motion picture and what is heard in the contextual dialogue of the characters if there are character actors in the film. All of the film’s elements are translated in sound of the film score. Therefore, the idea that a director will use preconceived music that was conceived not from the specific film but from a general ideological description using generic terms as “horror, funny, romantic, epic, suspenseful etc. contrary to creating the “synergy” that Mr. Pacheco is promulgating.

However, we still need to determine that vision of the director and how the director wants to use music in his films; in order words, how does music function in his film? There are many answers to functionality of music in film all of which can be administered in either a pseudo-music or in an authentic specifically created music for the film in question. I consider the decision and use of music library music as pseudo-music because it was created apart from the destination film. And when it is “pasted” on to the film, it represents the lowest level of musical abstraction that manifests itself on a motion picture that demonstrates a “horror” or any other genre terms. This music library music is completely counter-intuitive to the nature of the film. Library music manifests a contradiction of the deep level contextual sonic and auditory level of the story. The famous saying in the United States is, “you get what you pay for.” When the director chooses to use music in a synergetic function, music library music fails to be an authentic referential representation of the film. We will not, in this essay, discuss the use of music in its function to portray images with the use of songs as heard in the film Pulp Fiction by director such as Quentin Tarantino and many others.

When the director chooses to have music composed specifically for his film then the we find an authenticity and synchronicity created by this symbiotic relationship. This synchronicity, which is created by a multiplicity of sonic and visual events of which this paper does not intend to address. My next essay will address what happens when the director hires a composer and creates an original score.


Pacheco, Enrique. “Why You Should Hire A Composer.” www.enrique.com/why-you-should-hire-a-composer/. Accessed 18 February 2020.

Google. Definition of Synergy. https://www.google.com/search?q=definition+of+synergy&oq=definition+of+synergy&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l7.4207j1j8&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8. Accessed February 22, 2020.

Copyright © 2020 Helmut C. Calabrese. All Rights Reserved.


Copyright © Helmut C. Calabrese