Film Scoring: The UCLA Lectures† Edited and annotated by Mark Brill.
Journal: Journal of Film Music
Subject Areas: Popular Music
Between 1960 and 1965 Leith Stevens taught
“Film Scoring,” a two-unit course at the University of California at Los Angeles Extension School, advertised as “the first offering of a professional level course in this area.” The impetus for the course was Stevens’ increasing dissatisfaction with contemporary composers and arrangers, a sentiment that can be traced in many of Stevens’ writings and pronouncements over the years.
The course was open to “the professional musician
and the interested auditor” but in practice was limited
to graduate students and practicing composers. There were fifteen two-hour lectures and on his syllabus Stevens stipulated that “except in the case of observers, it is assumed the members of this class will have a well-rounded knowledge of the materials used in composition and orchestration.” As part of the requirements for the course, students were required to view films and television programs with dialogue and sound effects, but without music. They were then asked to determine where music should be used in the film, time the selected sections, write the music and orchestrate it. They were also invited to visit film studios in Hollywood.
The text provides Stevens’ view of the principles of film scoring and his compositional process. In presenting the material I chose not to follow the chronological order in Stevens’ course syllabus. From the recorded lectures it is evident Stevens did not strictly adhere to the syllabus and often jumped around from subject to subject, expounding on completely different topics within the same lecture. The material is presented instead in thematic progression, first providing Stevens’ philosophical views on film scoring before moving on to his consideration of the score as a whole, then to specific practical techniques such as timing and synchronization, before finishing with a discussion of various practical challenges that film and television composers faced in the mid-1960s.
Author: Leith Stevens †