Score The World submission - Son of Saul

I finally completed my submission for the Score The World contest. I submitted it tonight, so I’d love to hear any feedback from you guys.

The composing/recording actually went really fast, but I sat on this for a long time not really sure which direction it should go. This scene is such a strange balance between minimal visuals, really well done ambient audio, and a strong emotional undercurrent. But once it all coalesced in my head it went pretty fast.

The film is a WW2 story about a prisoner/worker at a concentration camp. So… dark, but very grounded.

Creative Vision for the Track:
Musically I wanted to keep it minimal, so no big themes or full orchestras. Conceptually, I wanted to do a kind of broken Hungarian folk tune. The main character is Hungarian, so I imagined what kind of theme I’d write if I were scoring the whole movie and that’s what I came up with.

Composition Details (Tempo, Key, Main Chords etc):
The tempo is about 107, but the main emotional swell is kind of tempo rubato. The root is D, but using a double harmonic scale which has the Hungarian gypsy scale as one of its modes. So main chords are D, sometimes Dsus4, Eb, and Gm.

Main Instruments used:
For instruments I kept mostly away from classical orchestral instruments. I wanted to sound like the instruments all had something wrong with them. Like they were maybe cobbled together or not quite in tune or slightly broken.

I used a violin and cello from BBCSO, and used Big Bang Orchestra to fill out the main swell.

The main piano is Christian Henson’s Binaural Family Grand.

I used a Slinky Violin and Box Violin from Decent Sampler. I love the Slinky Violin a lot. Used it on its own and to double violin and cello.

Mandolin is from Spitfire. So is a slightly overdriven Lap Steel.

And I used Winter Voices from Pianobook as a nice, thick background texture.

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Real good work Mike. I’ve never attempted to score to picture before so I can imagine it’s not at all easy, so great job, I think it fits well! My only bit of critique would be that, while I really liked the light melody/theme between the piano and strings, it may have been better to keep it all more underscore as it felt like the music was drawing too much attention to itself.

Good ideas overall–I liked the use of the mandolin and the Gypsy scale; they added the right color for me. Maybe when I learn to write music, I’ll attempt something like this :smiley:

Great Job!

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Thanks, Matt! Some scenes are easy to feel what should be done. This was was really hard for me to figure out. At first I thought it needed more of a sound design, atmospheric approach-- very minimal. But that’s not really my thing. I like melodies and themes. So this one was hard for me. I just had to focus on doing what I do in a way that felt right.

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Yeah, same here. I’m always melody first everything else second, so trying to do film underscore is really challenging—unless there’s no dialog! :grinning: Still better than I could have done.


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Thanks so much for sharing your entry Mike. I submitted as well, so really interesting to hear yours! :wink:

In many ways they could hardly be more different - which is good, I think…! :wink:
I liked your very much Mike, but I’m finding it a little hard to comment on as my head is so filled with my version! At this point I’m mostly noticing the different approaches. I like the intimacy you get from your instrumentation. You don’t get that with mine! :wink: I will try and come back with more considered comments in a bit.

I went for a full orchestral approach, using BBCSO Pro. Although in earlier versions I did experiment with some additional non-orchestral instruments, in the end I ditched them and well full standard orchestra.

This was my first attempt at scoring to film and I was a great learning experience for me.

I through improved about 80% of what you hear now almost after just watching the video a couple of times. Orchestrating and performing took much, much longer! But there were a couple of sections I wasn’t happy with and re-wrote those. I think the overriding thought I had was to try to convey the emotionally tragic events, and the suspense of the scenes.

I then wasn’t sure that was the best I could do, and made several failed attempts to have a completely new go from scratch. Got absolutely nowhere with this, so gave up, went back to my original concept, and just tried to make it as good as I could. I have some concerns with it, but don’t want to spell them out in case I put ideas in any listeners head :wink: would be interesting to hear if anyone comments with the same concerns.

In the end I put quite a bit of effort into this, so very interested to hear others’ versions, and what the judges think. Please let me know any feedback you have for me.

Here’s mine:

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