Quasi-Authentic References

Particularly with geographic references in film music, there often is a glaring difference between the music that is traditionally being played at that location and the music the general (western) audience THINKS is being played at that location. In film music, this term is called pseudo-authenticity and refers to film composers writing music that is not particularly authentic to that location but rather serves the function of evoking the proper association with the audience.

A rather popular example would be the scores by John Powell for the HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON series that geographically plays in Scandinavia, musically however incorporates instruments that are rather of Irish and Scottish origin. But as the general audience is not accustomed to actual Scandinavian instruments, Powell chose to rather go the associative path and connect viewer experiences gathered from movies like for instance BRAVEHEART (which from a landscape point of view are rather similar locations) to set the location.

Of course it is debatable how far to go down this road and how much to “educate” the audience. In a rather innocent setting like the movies mentioned above, it is usually perfectly fine to sacrifice authenticity for function. If it was a drama instead that maybe even is based on a true story and the location (or heritage) is a major plot point, proper research and a more authentic approach will usually be appropriate.

A great example here would be ROAD TO PERDITION by Thomas Newman who heavily interweaves the Irish heritage of the main characters into the music (in spite of the film taking place in the USA). Also, more recently Ludwig Göransson put quite a lot of effort to make the music from BLACK PANTHER rather authentic.

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