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Why Get a New Score If a Used One Will Do?

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The credits for “Scream 2" say “music by Marco Beltrami.” But every time David Arquette’s character, Dewey Riley, shows up, the music on the soundtrack is from the John Travolta thriller “Broken Arrow,” composed by Hans Zimmer.

What gives?

The answer involves two words that have become the bane of many composers’ existence: “temp track.” The term refers to the temporary music soundtrack that accompanies rough cuts of movies for early screenings for studio executives, preview audiences or both. This “temp” music is often drawn from earlier film scores and, like the final score, is used to provide pace, create suspense or otherwise evoke an emotional response.

Musical cues from Zimmer’s “Broken Arrow” score, composed for the 1996 Fox film, were used in the temp track for “Scream 2" before composer Beltrami began work on his original music for the Dimension/Miramax film. Beltrami was also the composer on the original “Scream.”

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The producers “were much more conservative on this picture and they wanted to do things that were proven to work,” says Beltrami. “It was right for the scene, that western-type, almost [Ennio] Morricone-ish feel for Dewey. So they had already decided, even before the scoring session, that that’s what they were going to do.”

Despite the apparent determination to license the “Broken Arrow” cues, Beltrami wrote original music for the scenes anyway. “I think that although this works,” Beltrami said he told the producers, “it could be improved upon. No. 1, it’s not written for the scene, and No. 2, I can do it a little more tongue-in-cheek than what’s there, to make it more effective.”

Director Wes Craven “loved” the new music, Beltrami says, but the composer discovered at the movie’s premiere that the “Broken Arrow” music was still in the film. The remainder of his original score--more than 90 minutes of music--was intact, however.

The use of temp music in final release prints is unusual but by no means unheard of. The most famous case is probably Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” where Kubrick hired legendary composer Alex North to write 40 minutes of original music but eventually rejected it all, preferring instead his temp track of classical music by Richard Strauss, Aram Khachaturian, Gyorgi Ligeti and other composers.

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The most talked-about examples in recent years were the original 1979 “Alien,” which contained music from 1962’s “Freud” (both by Jerry Goldsmith), and 1988’s “Die Hard,” a Michael Kamen score interrupted by music from 1986’s “Aliens” (by James Horner) and 1987’s “Man on Fire” (by John Scott).

The musical borrowings by “Scream 2" are especially apparent because they involve a major theme from a hit movie performed by an artist with a familiar sound. Twangy-guitar specialist Duane Eddy played on the “Broken Arrow” score, and is even credited in the end titles of “Scream 2.”

“It’s very blatant, particularly because it’s such a distinctive device,” says Jeff Bond, editor at large of Film Score Monthly, a magazine devoted to film and TV music. “When you hear a snatch of orchestral score lifted, it’s not as obvious to the average person. Since this is a guitar motif, it really sticks out. It’s also very repetitive; it’s always used in exactly the same way, at least five times in the film.”

Says “Broken Arrow” composer Zimmer: “I remember that little riff took me forever to write. It’s so simple [but] it took me about two weeks to come up with something. I find it very odd that suddenly it appears in another movie.”

Zimmer says he “only just found out” about his music in “Scream 2.” In fact, the owners of the music--20th Century Fox’s music publishing arm--aren’t obligated to inform the composer when such things happen.

Explains Steve Winogradsky, an attorney who specializes in music for film and TV: “Whether it’s a score or a pop tune, the process is the same. You have to determine who the copyright owners of the material are, and then negotiate with them for both permission and a fee.” On average, such fees run from $25,000 to $50,000 per cue, making it considerably less expensive to use original music than to license old music for a new film.

Craven and the producers of “Scream 2" were unavailable for comment, as were licensing and music publishing officials at Fox.

Beltrami would prefer that people notice the music that is there: the orchestral, choral and synthesizer sounds that worked so effectively in both “Scream” movies to heighten the tension. Says the 31-year-old composer: “Overall, Wes was extremely pleased with the score the way it turned out. [The missing music] is something that I feel bad about, but the movie’s doing so well and it’s not something I’m going to harp on.”

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Zimmer, an Oscar winner for “The Lion King,” recalls facing a similar situation seven years ago. “In ‘Green Card,’ [director] Peter Weir had put in the second movement of the Mozart clarinet concerto, and I just said to him, ‘Peter, I’m not even going to try to rewrite this one. Can we please buy it?’

“That was impossible to beat. That’s really what it comes down to, you know. You have the temp music and then you’re supposed to beat it. How do you beat the Mozart clarinet concerto? It’s a perfect tune, and it worked perfectly for that character.”

The Mozart stayed in the film.


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