SCORE COMPOSER Since 1994
Work closely with Filmmakers to compose music for Feature and Short Films. Scoring for Drama, Suspense and Thrillers.
Depressed (Short by Eddy Kara 2013)
Schemer (Feature by Eddy Kara 2011)
Sans Pran Souf (Feature by Jean Alix Holmand 2009)
The Power of Yoga, featuring Ravi Shankar (Short by John Hislop 2009)
L’Obsession (Feature by Jean Alix Holmand 2008)
Bataille (Feature by Hugo Levy Lalonde 1996)
Musac (Feature by Hugo Levy Lalonde 1995)
City Of Silence (Short by Hugo Levy Lalonde 1995)
Michael's passion is scoring for the screen. The moving picture fuels Michael's endless creativity that wants to rise from the inside and project on the outside through music. Being as adaptable as he his, there are no biases and he always gives the client what they want, quick and efficiently. "Michael Rien has the gift of giving me exactly what I want musically" - Eddy Kara (Filmmaker)
The Secret Source of Successful Scoring
By Michael Rien
July 1st, 2013
If you are a television producer, television director, or filmmaker who wants to add more life to the images you work so hard to produce, you need to choose the right composer—not just anyone, but someone who matches your needs because everyone is different.
How to Choose a Composer Who Will Do the Right Scoring for You
Are the skills there?
It is very important for a composer to capture the mood and create music that resonates with the target market the television producer, television director, or filmmaker is trying to reach. Every genre in television and film has its own composing style and traditions. For instance, sci-fi television will often have strange electronic timbres lurking in the distance; while period piece shows will only use traditional acoustic-based instruments, such as the ones used in Baroque style. Personally, I am more attracted to scoring modern-day police dramas and investigative shows. Scoring for a police show, for instance, usually includes creating music for dramatic interrogating scenes, as well as for action-oriented car chases. For the dramatic scenes, sustaining strings performed dynamically usually set the mood. Action-oriented scenes usually have percussive rhythms along with melodic ostinatos. When a police officer dies, the public funeral scene includes traditional bugle horn melodies that set the tragic mood. In addition, when scoring such a scene, I like to use French horns to help thicken out the texture in a tasteful way.
Composers must separate their egos and realize they are entering into a collaborative project with other likeminded people. Judging from personal experience, producers know what they want but don’t necessarily have the musical skills to achieve it. For example, while working on the last features and shorts I scored with producer Eddy Kara, he showed me numerous examples of music to help me understand the mood he wanted the music to create. He presented music from the movie Bourne Identity and also suggested I watch the television show 24, starring Kiefer Sutherland. I did just that; in fact, I watched an entire season. I couldn’t stop watching and wanted to see what would happen from one episode to the next. Though all the while, my ears were absorbing what music was being used to set the moods. I would start to question what composing techniques were being used. Were the scores orchestral or simple two- to three-part arrangements for the soft dramatic sequences? What type of percussion was being used for the action sequences? Why did the composer choose to use harp rather than piano, and did it really matter.
Be Prepared to Do Rewrites
Is the composer working with you or against you?
Communication is key when working with directors and producers, and it is very important to clearly understand what they want as soon as possible. Ask what movies and television shows have influenced them. Even though you may know a lot about the genre you are writing in, subtle differences in taste can exist. Think about the scope of instruments you would like to use when orchestrating. Your tempo for a sequence might not be the tempo the producer is thinking of; as a result, you might have to do a rewrite. I have experienced both minor and major rewrites in my career. At one point, while scoring Depressed, I felt like I was going to lose the contract because I didn’t give the producer what he wanted. In this case, I neglected to communicate with the producer properly because I had already flawlessly scored Schemer for him and thought we were “on the same page.” From what I recall, I believed he wanted to give me specific examples of what he was looking for, but I told him not to worry about it. I scored it my way; and, as a result of not taking his examples, he didn’t like my work at all. I was shocked, and his disappointment bruised my ego. For days after, I didn’t think I had it in me to be a composer anymore, and I became a victim.
I later realized that my over confidence shadowed my judgement, and I forgot that scoring is a collaborative project. I did score the movie in the same genre but not necessarily in the specific way he wanted it. In order to correct our miscommunication, I set aside my ego, asked for examples of what he was looking for, and rewrote the music. I am glad I got to continue working with Kara because, with the basic musical knowledge that he had, he was able to convey to me what he wanted for other sequences in the film. For a particular action scene, he initiated the tempo and even sang the string part to me. As a result, the scene turned out brilliantly.
Fortunately for me, rewrites don’t happen too often. However, as a composer, I am always prepared for the unexpected. I got a taste of minor rewrites earlier in my career with French director Hugo Lalonde and feel this experience helped me deal with Kara’s situation better. When I was scoring Hugo’s silent film City of Silence, I chose to use brass for a quick-paced mood; however, when he heard it, he immediately informed me that it needed a change of tone, so I replaced the brass with pizzicato strings. Art is a science, but it is subjective as well, and one must realize that there can be many correct ways of doing things. When working with others, one must embrace compromise.
Virtual Studio Technology and Synth Sounds versus a Real Orchestra
Personally, I prefer to score in the comfort of my own home and am not much of a stickler when listening to recordings performed by a real orchestra versus those recorded with virtual studio technology (VST). Indeed, the fact that a client is pleased with what I’ve done on my own using VST is thrilling to me. Personally, my focus has always been on scoring for dramatic television, and I have realized that a composer is not nor solely bound to using a real orchestra when scoring. Technology has evolved since the 1970s, giving the composer the option to do electronic scoring. Examples of electronic scoring include the TV cop drama Miami Vice (1984–1990), scored with a synthesizer by Yan Hammer, and the film cop drama Beverly Hills Cop (1984), scored with a synthesizer and where theAxel F theme got its debut. The new generation knows that musical theme as Crazy Frog, which is a remix using only a fragment of theAxel F theme.
Because I am an electronic composer, I am thankful that VST sounds exist today. I grew up sequencing using the Korg 01/W synthesizer workstation. I had sixteen tracks to write with, which was pretty exciting because I had the option to create music with sixteen different instruments instantaneously. In fact, I used the Korg 01/W to score my first film City of Silence, and the rewrite hardly took any time at all. Although I have been trained to notate music and have had the pleasure of hearing a string quartet perform my compositions, I still feel more comfortable performing my parts on a keyboard rather than writing notations. I guess this preference is because I started playing piano at an early age and have grown accustomed to that process. Technology is an amazing thing; however, one should still consider that even though VST and Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) sounds can be changed on the spot, sometimes instrumental parts should be performed over again for authenticity. If a solo violin was replaced by a solo horn instrument, for example, a musician would perform both instruments differently with difference nuances.
Scoring for the Traditional Documentary
Traditional documentary scoring requires more music, so be prepared to work. More music is needed because a traditional documentary usually consists of a narrative that requires underlying music throughout. In other words, a traditional documentary usually contains fewer dramatic sequences between actors that have only dialogue. If you are a composer who really wants your music to shine, scoring for documentaries might be the route for you. Again, be clear with the producer as to what format to record the music in, VST or by using a live orchestra.
Trends and Styles
Keep your "ear to the ground" regarding ongoing trends when scoring current projects. Be prepared for producers to come to you with a hit song that includes dubstep, reggaton, or glitch hop elements. Trends and styles come and go quickly. As a modern composer, you must be aware of them. Although it is important to be aware of the trends and learn the ingredients that go into producing them, I wouldn’t worry about staying on top of the newest styles too much because the bulk of your compositions will usually be inspired by certain standards composers have followed since the birth of this craft.
Choose your composer wisely. Your choice is like a marriage; it’s a long process, and personalities have to match one another to successfully complete the task at hand.
About Michael Rien
Michael Rien is an award-winning composer. He helps make producers’, filmmakers’, and videographers’ projects become hits. Before learning how to compose in school, Rien began piano lessons at age six, got really intrigued with drums at ten, and then started composing and sequencing at age 12. In fact, before entering college, Rien scored his first short film entitled City of Silence, by French director Hugo Lalonde, using the Korg 01/W Wavestation synthesizer. Rien continues to strive at his craft both as a screen composer and as a performing musician.
A Few Words from the Composer:
I believe that by having a good music score, it helps make a good film or television show stand out even more and come alive! Music is essential to describing emotion and sets the mood. I live and breathe music and get inspired by new projects, new dramas, and thrillers that include suspense, crime solving, romance, heroism, action and great cinematography.
Being a score composer takes dedication, persistence, patience and drive. It is also an asset to have a strong uderstanding of music theory while keepng up with the latest trends.
Above all, one should have a deep passion for the craft. Growing up, I admired composers such as Mike Post, Mark Snow, Yan Hammer, John Williams, Hans Zimmer, James Horner, Danny Elfman, Vangelis and Philip Glass. They had a huge influence on my desire to become a composer enabling me to fill my life and other peoples lives with music through screen media.
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