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Master in Scoring for Film, Television, and Video Games

Introduction

They call it film scoring, but today, it goes well beyond film. There are "movies" everywhere, from full-blown theatrical features to immersive interactive games and experimental web videos. And whether they appear on an IMAX screen or an iPod, whether you hear them in 7.1 surround sound or on a pair of ear buds, they are all accompanied by music that enhances the experience. The craft of creating this music has become one of the world’s most desirable careers.

As a composer for visual media, you’re committed to telling the story that images alone cannot, and we are committed to helping you do that. The Berklee in Valencia master’s degree in scoring for film, television, and video games gives you an advanced education that will sharpen your scoring skills and develop your personal voice. The program focuses on the art and craft ofcomposing, orchestrating, editing, and producing musicfor the screen. You’ll design an individualized course of study in collaboration with graduate advisors in a manner that best meets your career and artistic goals.

Additionally, Berklee in Valencia, unlike some competing programs, issues master of music degrees—which qualify graduates to teach at many institutions of higher education.

Who Are We Looking for?

We seek focused, motivated, innovative, and above all, passionately creative candidates with excellent academic and/or professional backgrounds who can contribute skills that will nourish the program.

Because sound compositional practice is the basis for all scoring, ideal candidates will hold degrees in composition or have equivalent professional experience. The ability to notate one’s ideas competently, follow an orchestral score, and conceive material in an orchestral context are required competencies, but extensive experience in working with live orchestras is not.

The use of technology is fundamental to the master’s program; therefore, the strongest candidates will have demonstrable skills in at least one digital audio workstation (DAW) and a working familiarity with ProTools or one of the other most commonly used music sequencing programs, such as Logic, Cubase or Digital Performer. Selected candidates who lack these skills will be required to take summer coursework at Berklee’s Boston campus or other approved facility to prepare them for full and comfortable participation in the master’s program.

Finally, all selected participants will enter the program with a passion for musical storytelling and a demonstrated aptitude for visual music. Because of the high degree of competitiveness in the field, the choice to study visual scoring should not be viewed as a “career option” or a “backup,” but as something you must do. For this reason, first-tier consideration will be given to those applicants whose portfolios evidence experience and skill in creating music to picture and possess an understanding of the basics of the art, craft, and business of film scoring, gained through either study or industry experience. Additional study and/or work experience in the following areas will be helpful but is not required: interactive scoring techniques, conducting to picture, basic music editing skills, and project collaboration.

Courses

Fall Semester 2013-2014

Advanced Scoring I: Narrative Analysis

In this course, students explore the conceptual and collaborative processes that result in the successful creation of music for visual media. Scoring for film, television, and video games is essentially musical storytelling, and the composer cannot hope to do this without the tools for narrative analysis. Through in-depth examination of script, style, finished scenes, and exemplary scores, students learn methodically the steps that successful composers take in preparation for scoring, as well as strategies for getting past the first blank page. The ability to conceive the shape of the score before a single note is written is critical, and this begins in: 1) collaboration with the filmmaking team; 2) analyzing dramatic intent; 3) spotting the film for music; 4) determining the function of music; 5) developing a music concept that supports directorial intent; and 6) determining the elements of the music itself, including style, instrumentation, and genre. Students analyze entire projects and explore a diverse range of eras, genres, dramatic ideas, musical vocabularies, forms, styles, and orchestrations.
Directed Studies in Linear and Interactive Scoring I

An advanced practicum that provides individual students mentoring in scoring a range of visual media projects and introduces them to the one-to-one filmmaker-composer collaborative model. With active support and critical appraisal from senior faculty and professional advisors, students are challenged to conceptualize and execute a plan for scoring a variety of projects, both narrative and non-narrative, linear and non-linear, that reflect the current diversity of global visual media. Drawing on both previously acquired music skills and scoring techniques learned in the co-requisite Advanced Scoring 1: Narrative Analysis, students will demonstrate the ability to convey creative intentions, respond to critical direction, and work intensively to meet deadlines set in tandem with their faculty advisor. Scoring assignments will be drawn from a balanced representation of linear and non-linear visual content selected by faculty in collaboration with the student, utilizing electronic scoring techniques and/or live-player scoring sessions with students functioning as composer/conductor, or composer/producer.
Advanced Dramatic Orchestration

This course provides an advanced tutorial in the auxiliary skills of orchestration and conducting without which even the most talented composer cannot fully realize his or her work. Although at the top levels of the craft, these tasks are frequently assigned to specialists, at the beginning of a career, the ability to orchestrate and conduct one’s own work is a critical advantage. The technique of dramatic orchestration, as contrasted with concert orchestration of long-form pieces, is an art in itself, and will be thoroughly examined. Specifically, extended dramatic techniques for strings and percussion, effective use of the brass section, orchestrating for minimalism, and integration of non-orchestral, global, or electronic instruments in the score will be examined. Students explore differences in orchestration for television, film, and video games, orchestrating for small and unusual ensembles, and advanced overdubbing techniques combining sequence and live instruments. Eventually, complex pieces involving meter and tempo changes with picture will be introduced, along with clicks, streamers, and punches.
Technology Course

Advanced technology users take Dramatic Electronic Composition, new technology users take Compute Synthesis Applications.

Dramatic Electronic Composition
This course is an advanced tutorial in the use of new technologies for composing, recording, and notating music for visual media. It is recommended for all graduate scoring students who are not already thoroughly familiar with the use of sequencing software and professional sound libraries. Students will be introduced to the most widely used sequencers and to both orchestral and non-orchestral libraries, as well as to the compositional expectations that these tools have created. Over the last two decades a technological revolution has engendered a new musical and narrative language for making and using music in media. This revolution in the methods of music making has not only led to an enormously expanded palette of sounds and compositional techniques, but has fundamentally transformed the ways that music is used in storytelling. This course will focus on the new techniques (musical and technological) and aesthetics of contemporary dramatic composition. The use of synthesizers, advanced methods of sound design, advanced sequencing techniques, modern production techniques, electronic compositional methods, the use of non-traditional music in the scoring process, and the aesthetics of modern filmmaking narrative will all be investigated.

Computer Synthesis Applications for Film Scoring

Spring Semester 2013-2014

Advanced Scoring II: Genre and Form

In this course, students become familiar with the musical requirements and expectations of a wide range of cinematic categories and forms, from classic genre film to episodic television comedy and drama to documentary and opinion/propaganda pieces. The conventions of genre are now an established part of every composer’s vocabulary. They can be violated, subverted, or updated, but they must first be mastered. Areas of study include the following:

  • comedy, both feature and episodic, including comedic montage and timing
  • classic drama, including death of principal character, abandonment, and triumph
  • action and suspense, including the chase, natural catastrophe, cloak and dagger, and sports
  • period drama, including devices to establish time and place
  • romance, including development of the romantic theme, and technique for leading to the moment of the kiss
  • science fiction, fantasy, alien worlds, alternate realities, supernatural events
  • horror, stalking, assault and murder
  • reality TV, including the use of sound design and synthetic non-melodic patterns
  • classic TV and feature-length documentary, as well as persuasive or propagandistic

As a focused continuation of Advanced Scoring I, students further strengthen skills in scene analysis, character reading, psychological persuasion and enchantment (especially with respect to lowering the threshold of disbelief in sci-fi and fantasy). Genre scoring also allows composers to explore more deeply their own emotional and psychological processes in order to produce scores that support content in all varieties of visual media.

Directed Studies in Linear and Interactive Scoring II

The second semester continuation of the advanced practicum course that provides students individual supervision in scoring a range of visual media with attention to aesthetic, dramatic, and technical considerations. Taken in tandem with FS-520 Advanced Scoring 2: Genre and Form, projects will focus on genre and type-specific applications of visual scoring craft. Drawing on a full range of previously acquired music skills and scoring techniques, students will convey their creative intentions, respond to critical direction, and work intensively to meet periodic deadlines. Scoring assignments will be drawn from a balanced representation of linear and nonlinear visual content, utilizing electronic scoring techniques and/or real-time, live-player studio sessions with the students functioning as either composer/conductor or composer/producer.
Advanced Dramatic Orchestration

This course provides an advanced tutorial in the auxiliary skills of orchestration and conducting without which even the most talented composer cannot fully realize his or her work. Although at the top levels of the craft, these tasks are frequently assigned to specialists, at the beginning of a career, the ability to orchestrate and conduct one’s own work is a critical advantage. The technique of dramatic orchestration, as contrasted with concert orchestration of long-form pieces, is an art in itself, and will be thoroughly examined. Specifically, extended dramatic techniques for strings and percussion, effective use of the brass section, orchestrating for minimalism, and integration of non-orchestral, global, or electronic instruments in the score will be examined. Students explore differences in orchestration for television, film, and video games, orchestrating for small and unusual ensembles, and advanced overdubbing techniques combining sequence and live instruments. The conducting-to-picture unit will first familiarize the student with general baton technique and podium comportment, working with small ensembles until confidence develops. Eventually, complex pieces involving meter and tempo changes with picture will be introduced, along with clicks, streamers, and punches.

Summer Semester 2013-2014

Culminating Experience

Scoring for film, television, and video games students are required to complete a culminating experience/thesis that serves as both a practicum and a bridge to the professional world. The tangible end product of this experience is a master’s thesis, which may take the form of an original score, scholarly paper and/or research project, or other enterprise that offers an original solution to the “problem” of marrying music to visual media, specifically, film, television, and video games. The thesis will be conceived and developed as part of directed study course work, and will be realized in the final semester. The student works in consultation with his/her faculty advisor and/or the program director to develop his/her unique project, the goal of which is a professional outcome. A thesis committee evaluates the final project that results from the culminating experience.

Electives 2013-2014

Dramatic Electronic Composition

(New technology users take Compute Synthesis Applications)
This course is an advanced tutorial in the use of new technologies for composing and producing music for visual media. It is recommended for graduate scoring students who are already thoroughly familiar with the use of at least one DAW and professional sound library. Over the last two decades a technological revolution has created powerful new tools—and a new musical and narrative language—for making and using music in media. This revolution in the methods of music making has not only led to an enormous new palette of sounds and compositional techniques, but it has also fundamentally transformed the ways that music is used in storytelling and has created a whole new set of expectations for music in media. This course will focus on the new techniques (musical and technological) and aesthetics of contemporary dramatic electronic composition. The use of synthesizers, advanced methods of sound design, modern production techniques, electronic compositional methods, the use of nontraditional music in the scoring process, and the aesthetics of modern dramatic media will all be investigated.
Advanced Video Game Scoring

In this course, students explore complex interactive scoring techniques and direct application of middleware technologies. Students focus on advanced interactive composition techniques, including designing and composing thematic elements and motifs that work across multiple cues. Students also explore advanced recording techniques and session flow for video game music. Students experience advanced game music creation workflow using version control technologies, sound design and editing, batch file conversions, and modern approaches to scoring to video games. Additionally, students explore advanced topics in the video game and interactive industries, including contracts, licensing, tool sets, and job opportunities.
Global Music Traditions

This course is an introduction to the tonal vocabulary and instruments of selected world folk and art music traditions. It presents students with the challenge of writing pieces that combine indigenous and Western orchestral traditions in a visual and dramatic context. The musical palette of the composer of music for the screen is no longer limited to the colors of 19th-century romantic or 20th-century modernist concert music. The approach of contemporary artists owes much to their embrace of folk traditions, ranging from African ceremonial music and Indonesian gamelan to Pakistani qawwali, Al-Andalus, and other Mediterranean and Middle Eastern forms. As the language of cinematic expression becomes more universal, the music that supports it must strive to escape the confines of convention and stereotype and aim for a multimodal language. This course seeks to outfit composers with the tools to move beyond those limits and set out on the path of global artistry.

*Course content is subject to change.

Program Purposes and Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the program students will be able to:

  1. Synthesize the language of visual media
  2. Evaluate and apply leadership models as tools for ethical and culturally influenced decision-making
  3. Interpret and apply musically artistic aesthetics to visual media projects in different styles
  4. Analyze and research techniques of leading masters of music composition, orchestration, and arranging
  5. Synthesize intellectual property laws, with particular attention to artistic contracts
  6. Design project management plans for emerging new media scoring models
  7. Assess financial considerations in the commerce of music within the entertainment economy
  8. Exhibit expertise in the technology applications appearing in media scoring and sound environments

Download the 2013/2014 Graduate Studies Bulletin

Academic Calendar

The master's program runs from September to August. To see the academic calendar for the current academic year, click here.

Career Paths

Graduates of this unique program will be prepared to begin work immediately in the film, television, or video game music industry in one or more of the following specialties: composing, orchestrating, conducting, music editing, music supervising, copying, programming, and producing mock-ups. The program has been conceived as a portal to the professions and is thoroughly networked with the professional community. The International Career Center will assist your transition to the professional sphere.

Learn more about careers in Scoring for Film, Television, and Video Games.