Film Scoring and Alfonso Cuaron’s, “Gravity”

How do you score a movie with little or no noise??

Last week, Alfonso Cuaron’s movie “Gravity” was released in theaters all over the United States. The movie takes place in space, hovering above earth, where two astronauts have been lost due to debris damaging their ship. Not only is the movie incredibly unique because of its two person cast (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney), the film score had to be captivating and had to capture the essence of space – silence.

The 36 year old composer for the movie, Steven Price, told Huffington Post in a recent article about his experience working on the movie, “With a lot of action scores, you’re competing with a lot of noise,” Price said. “Say there’s a big explosion: the music would conventionally have a lot of Hollywood-style percussion or brass, because that’s the only thing that will cut through. You’d hear stuff within their spacesuits,” Price said. “If they touched something, you’d hear the vibration that they’d hear, but you don’t hear any exterior noises. We kind of knew the music would be responsible for all the other things. I was asked to try and tonally represent things that would ordinarily be sound. You don’t hear an explosion in the film, but you might hear some pulsation in the music that reflects it. The score is doing the job of traditional sound, while the sound crew was able to do an interesting job on their own.”

To me, this concept is fascinating. As musicians, our ears are constantly listening and analyzing the things we hear, but how often do we take a step back and analyze or appreciate the silence? Can you imagine having to write an entire film score based on complete, isolated quiet? Or better yet, can you imagine being an astronaut going from a ridiculously noisy environment, to only hearing the singular sounds that you produce? Astonishing!

In another Huffington Post article, a former astronaut, Jerry L. Ross, recounts his experience on his multiple space-walks and how the silence only emphasized the beauty of the silent vacuum that he was observing.

If space is your thing, follow the links provided for both articles and be amazed at what you will read. And if you have the time, pop into your local movie theater and witness “Gravity” for yourself!

-Lizzie Wendt
NEC School of Continuing Education Work-Study Student

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