A film is nearly finished and ready to make its way into theaters, when one or more of its prime movers—producer, director, studio brass—decides that it just doesn’t ‘feel” right and hits the brakes. What can be done quickly to alter the movie’s complexion? The most obvious option is to change the last element added to the film—its music! So, often regardless of whether the film actually needs a new score, a new composer is hired at the last minute to replace the previous composer’s heartfelt work.
Film scores are rejected and replaced for every conceivable reason—style, quality, a test-audience’s reaction, a composer’s name recognition, the picture’s re-editing. Sometimes the change improves a film; often it doesn’t. Either way, such replacements are more common than most moviegoers imagine, and no composer, from the novice to the most famous and respected, is immune.
In Torn Music (which takes its title from the film Torn Curtain, whose famous score replacement put an end to the long and fruitful collaboration between director Alfred Hitchcock and composer Bernard Herrmann), film historian Gergely Hubai recounts the often strange and surprising stories behind 300 rejected and replaced scores dating from the 1930s through the 2000s. In these behind-the-scenes tales, dedication collides with miscommunication, musical geniuses clash with the tone-deaf, commercialism brawls with artistic purity, and a lot of hard work goes unrewarded. The movies discussed in Torn Music range from the most popular to the all-but-forgotten, and from high art to lowbrow fare; they even include a handful of TV shows and a videogame.
“Hubai’s book is an amazing piece of film music scholarship that deserves a place in every music library and on every film music fan’s shelf.…Torn Music is an armchair book with a readability that makes even some of the more obscure choices accessible to most. As the reader discovers a new film, or learns about its music, there is a great urge to want to see these movies and hear the scores, and that is the mark of a writer who loves his subject and has communicated well that enthusiasm…. This is a must-have resource for film music fans and an important document of the film industry at the start of the new century.
—Steven A. Kennedy, Film Score Monthly
“An ace idea for a book that shows how movies need themes and how the people who write them need rhino-thick skin.”
—George Bass, Total Film magazine
“[An] incredible and unique book…thoroughly researched and incredibly well written.”
“Torn Music examines a much-discussed but seldom-examined aspect of the filmmaking agony: the replacement score. Every composer dreads the specter of having his score rejected, and eventually replaced, often by a colleague or friend. Speaking from experience on both ends of this process, I can say with honesty that this book is exhaustive, informative, important, at times funny, at other times painful. It is absolutely essential reading for anyone studying the business and art of film scoring.”
—Paul Chihara, composer and Chair of Composition for Visual Media, UCLA
“Here is a wealth of arresting and occasionally frightening stories that in some strange way may help define the psyche of the film composer. This is more than a must-have reference for all film fans and film music fans, it’s a great read to curl up with.”
—Michael Schelle, author of The Score
“I couldn’t put the book down; it provides a wonderful behind-the-scenes look at filmmaking from an often overlooked point of view…. Hubai does a fine job of teasing out whether the replacements were done for aesthetic or political reasons.”
—Gino Robair, Mix magazine