Words make you think a thought. Music makes you feel a feeling. A song makes you feel a thought. – E. Y. Harburg
The tools you have to apply the MMC principle in practice will change depending on what role you are playing in the production process. Let’s talk about how you might apply MMC in practice.
In day 5 we will give you some other powerful tools that will help you apply The Big 3 and MMC so stay tuned.
Start listening to the music paying attention to what is on your mental movie reel as it runs.
Identifying action music and generating options of what that music could be by following the process outlined in Day 1 and Day 2 means you have already done a good deal of the work. The goal is now to experiment to get the timing so it looks and feels natural.
Mozart, Puccini, Massenet, and other master composers tell you what they want you to do by what music they wrote in the score. Start first by trying to understand what action they might have been thinking of when they wrote the music they did.
Focus on identifying what music is your character’s music. If it is your character’s music then you need to make sure you are making music a consequence of your actions. If it is not your character’s music then you should be reacting to someone else who is making the music a consequence of their actions.
All the ideas above also apply to directors.
Performers primarily need to think about MMC in terms of what they are doing. Directors need to apply this to every aspect of the show (lighting, sets, costumes, movement, etc.).
If need be, clarify who’s music is who’s or some action music you need a particular character to use. My preference is to coach the singer to find what that music means to them rather than dictating it unless I have to use certain music to take care of logistical movement issues on stage.
If there isn’t music that you can make a consequence for a scene change, lighting cue, costume change, or other big visual changes in what the audience can see then you should rethink your decision.
The music isn’t always tied to just one character at a time or one action at a time. Realize though that if to people or a person and a light cue, or a light cue and a prop effect happen at the same time it can confuse the audience and weaken the power of the connection between music and action.
Less is often more. The temptation is often to pack so much action into the music that our audience doesn’t know where to look and the focus of the story is lost. Trust the magic of the music to allow moments to linger and have a complete arch of emotion, thought, and action.
One of the big differences between live theater and film is the ability to shift and limit the audience’s focus by what the camera is doing. It is like we can take more direct control over the audience’s eye to show them what we want them to look at. There are ways to do change and draw focus on the live stage but in live theater, each audience member is essentially watching the performance as a single unmoving camera with a fixed focal length where we can never fully block out the rest of what is going on stage.
So whether you are an editor, director, cameraman, or otherwise keep in mind that a shift in camera focus, a change in angle, or any other change in focus is best done with the idea that as the sound of the current frame ends you already starting to transition to the next focal point in preparation of the coming musical phrase.
This may sound limiting and formulaic but as you read Day 5 it will make much more sense and should liberate you. Remember, the goal is to get our audience to forget they are watching a movie and get them to feel like they are part of the story so following natural patterns of behavior are essential.
Start watching the movies with the best music scores. You will find that the scenes where they follow this principle work much better than those that don’t or those that try to cram too many focal points into one phrase of music.
Music doesn’t lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music. – Jimi Hendrix
The more sensitive you are to the music the better your designs will fit a production. Think of what cloth would move the way the music does. Think of the quality of light that would best reflect what is happening in the music. The music never lies and therefore should be the primary resource for inspiration on a performance that has music as a primary element of communication.