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Jacobs School of Music to expand music scoring for visual media program



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Professor Larry Groupé and his class watches a clip a student has worked  Feb. 7 in the East Studio Building. This class gives students the chance to practice creating a film scores for films.  Claire Livingston Buy Photos

This fall the Jacobs School of Music plans to add a master’s degree, undergraduate and doctoral minors and two certificate degrees to its Music Scoring for Visual Media program. 

The program was created from the ground up by visiting professor and composer Larry Groupé. 

“I’m designing it, and that in itself is really exciting,” Groupé said. “I like the opportunity to develop this idea here.”

Currently, the program consists of a series of classes designed to help students learn to score a movie and navigate their way in the film industry. Junior Ryn Jorgensen said they began taking these classes their freshman year, and they are now pursuing a composition major with a minor in scoring for visual media. 

Jorgensen took a composing for short form class last semester and is currently enrolled in composing for long form. Jorgensen said composing for longer films requires more extensive planning for musical themes within the film, whereas a short film would most likely only have one theme.  

“Over the course of a two-hour movie, you have to pace yourself so you don’t overshoot the feeling of the movie by escalating too quickly,” Jorgensen said. “You develop themes in a way that helps to guide viewers through the movie instead of just giving tone and mood.”

Groupé said the classes not only focus on the technical composing skills but deciding what the story arch and characters are emotionally. Conveying emotions, Groupé said, is the purpose of the music. 

“Writing the emotional content and the core of what the story’s about is the key to a really good score,” Groupé said. “That’s where we spend the majority of our time, trying to understand things as the filmmaker before we apply our musical ideas.” 

Jorgensen said composers begin their process by watching the film they are composing for, often more than once if it is long-form. They then come up with thematic musical ideas that help capture the film’s mood and feeling. 

The director of the film then tells the composer where music is needed, a process called spotting. Recording the music and making final revisions and edits completes the composing process. 

In addition to learning about the composing process, Jorgensen said students learn a great deal about the film industry, which has been beneficial. 

“I wasn’t expecting to learn anything about the business side, because that’s not in any of the class descriptions, but it just comes up all the time,” Jorgensen said. “It’s something that’s ingrained in the industry in such a way that you can’t get away from it.”

Groupé said resources at IU, such as the numerous Jacobs students who can help composers record pieces, give the university an edge in the film scoring world.

“Here in the Midwest, we’re going to be that alternative choice for people that want to go into serious film and media scoring,” Groupé said. “That makes it special for us, and we’re now competing against the top schools in the country.” 

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