Demo Love: Do you trust your composer?

It’s often the case when briefed by a director or producer that we are presented with a video containing a musical temp-track. In use ever since sound was first synchronised to visuals in the late 20’s and comprised entirely of pre-existing musical content, temp-tracks serve as a provisional film score until an original one has been composed and recorded.

For a director this is great, it not only allows them to instantly and audibly express the style of music they desire for their film, it also provides them with a closer-to-finished product for use at private screenings with producers and distribution companies.

For us composers however this can be somewhat of a hindrance and a potential disaster for the scoring process. Not only can temp-tracks influence creative decisions and unnaturally steer us in the wrong direction, they have a tendency to impose a nasty case of demo love on the filmmaker – preventing he or she from imagining any other form of music in place of the pre-existing material.

In the following short excerpt, Dan Carlin, an Emmy award winning musical editor, explains some of the problems that may occur from using temp-tracks in the film scoring process.

"The danger with temp music is that a filmmaker frequently falls in love with the temp track. He or she might hear the temp music several times before the composer comes in, so the composer has a difficult time writing original music that will please the director.
We recently made a temp track for THE BLACK STALLION RETURNS using existing music by Jerry Goldsmith, Maurice Jarre, Philippe Sarde, Georges Delerue and a little Bernard Herrmann. So, now Georges Delerue, who is going to compose the score for the film, must in essence compete with the score we’ve designed. It puts him in an awkward position."

With digital sample libraries sounding almost as good as the real thing, it is now quicker and easier than ever for composers to create their own digital temp-tracks, uninfluenced and completely original. So when you’re cutting video for your next film or advertising campaign and you discover what you believe to be the perfect piece of music to use temporarily, HOLD FIRE! Add it to a playlist, burn it to CD and trust your composer to translate your influences into a fresh and original piece of work. The moment you insert that temp-track into your timeline, you might just start showing symptoms of demo love.