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🤔 The Hunt for the Adjective

💬 communication Oct 31, 2023

Collaborators and clients don’t always say what they mean.

One of the most important phases for a composer is the “spotting” session, when the composer and director discuss where music should and shouldn’t be, and any overarching moods, themes, or styles.

Spotting sessions can happen synchronously either in-person or via a call, but in my experience often happen asynchronously through emails or instant messenger.

But the problem with asynchronous communication is that a lot gets lost in translation. Words can be misused, intent isn’t emoted, and, as the saying goes, “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”

As a result, many composers spend the bulk of their time in the scoring process writing music that doesn’t work. They invest their precious time and artistic energy pursuing what they thought the director wanted, only to find that they didn’t really mean what they said at all.

So what’s the fix?

Spend more time asking questions earlier in the process. 💬

When a director says the music should sound “sad”, throw adjectives back at them until it resonates.

“Sad like hopeless? Or maybe just a touch of sadness?”

When a director wants something heroic, ask:

“Something superhero-y? Or maybe just celebratory?”

The hunt for the adjective is the most effective use of your time communicating with your director. It saves you countless hours of revisions (and pain), and shows to them that you care about the success of their project.

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