Classical Counterpoint in Film Scoring

To have a thorough knowledge of classical counterpoint writing is definitley benefitial to sharpen your musical understanding but the strict classic rules hardly have any application in modern (film) writing.

The term “contrapuntal” now rather refers to a more side-line orientated, horizontal writing style and while many of the classical rules are a good general guideline (e.g. parallel movements etc.) they are by far no strict rules anymore that make musical quality. Also, strict forms of contrapuntal writing like the fugue etc. have rarely any practical use in film writing anymore. One of these very rare cases where a fugal episode appears in film scoring is the SETTING THE TRAP sequence from HOME ALONE by John Williams (starting at 2:50), probably as an emotional reference to baroque christmas music.

The pure forms of actual several horizontal lines standing “punctum contra punctum” is also rarely seen in film scoring. One example is the CYBERTRONICS sequence from AI -ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, again by John Williams. Note the free tonal approach where both lines keep forming small “islands of tonality” for a few moments just to move away from them again.

Nevertheless, I can not recommend enough to study classical contrapuntal writing and try some exercises following the rules strictly to sharpen your own musical understanding and level of control.


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