Composition for Film (1) Melody Writing – Main Titles (2) Techniques for Scoring Horror-Thriller-Suspense Genres

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Course Number(s): MUCP110 – MUCP210
Course Instructor: Christopher Young
Guest Artists: Directors from Chris’ feature film projects


Composer Christopher Young was born on April 28, 1957 in Red Bank, New Jersey. After graduating from Hampshire College in Massachusetts with a Bachelor of Arts degree in music, Young went on to pursue his post-graduate studies at North Texas State University. Christopher moved to Los Angeles, California in 1980. He was originally a jazz drummer, but decided to become a film composer instead after listening to some of Bernard Herrmann’s work. Moreover, Young not only has studied with noted composer David Raksin at UCLA Film School, but also teaches at the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California. Christopher was honored with the prestigious Richard Kirk Award at the 2008 BMI Film and TV Awards.

Learn more about the instructor Christopher Young

Course Description(s)

Please note: This LMS applies to both of Christopher Young’s courses in composition for film; (1) Melody Writing – Main Titles Sequences and (2) Techniques for Scoring H-T-S Genres (special project; students to re-score, “Sinister”)

(1) Melody Writing – Main Title Sequences  (MUCP110)  5 weeks, dates are TBD

It is my suspicion that the reason you got into film music is because you fell in love with a tune you heard in a movie that you could not get out of your head. My goal, over the coming weeks, is to improve your skills as a melody writer. For now, we will talk about the importance of using melody and how to craft singable, memorable melodies, and later we will discuss ways to develop multiple melodies during the course of a feature film score. Assignments will include listening, analysis and melodies in song form, and how this all applies to you creating your own music for a Main Title sequence. Some of the films for study and review include; Spiderman 3, Murder in the First, The Hurricane, Drag Me To Hell, The Vagrant, Deliver Us From Evil, and Bless The Child.

(2) Techniques for Scoring the H-T-S Genres (MUCP210) 5 weeks, dates are TBD

This 5-week course focuses on how scenes from an H-T-S film can be broken down into 1 of 10 categories. Each category will be broken down and analyzed, discussing useful techniques to successfully score these types of scenes. Clips will be drawn from Chris’ body of work and analyzed for applicable musical and structural features.

Special Project: Scoring the feature film, “Sinister”

As we discuss how different categories are discussed, “Sinister” will be examined as a whole. Topics discussed will include the process from initial concepts to execution, organization techniques, and presentation tips. Examples will show the composer director interaction from spotting sessions and show and tells. Following these lessons, students will spot the film, submit thematic material; melodic, textural or atmospheric in nature. Then, through a voting process, the music material selected will become part of the primary palette for the new score. Chris will review and critique all of the student’s work.


Course Content

Lessons Status

Lesson 1 - Composition for Film Horror/ Thriller/ Suspense - Course Overview


Lesson 2 - Composition for Film (HTS) - Unit 1: Melody


Lesson 3 - Composition for Film (HTS) - Main Title Assignment


Lesson 4 - Composition for Film (HTS) Improv Exercise


Lesson 5 - Composition for Film (HTS) Drag Me To Hell Process


Lesson 6 - Composition for Film (HTS) - Overview of Musical Approaches


Lesson 7 - Composition for Film (HTS) - Mystery


Lesson 8 - Composition for Film (HTS) - Explosive Dramatic


Lesson 9 - Composition for Film (HTS) - Suspense


Lesson 10 - Composition for Film (HTS) - Continuous Action


Lesson 11 Composition for Film (HTS) - Passage of Time


Lesson 12 Composition for Film (HTS) - Cross Cutting


Lesson 13 Composition for Film (HTS) - Dramatic Atmosphere